Conservatives Oppose Executing Mentally Ill Texas Man, For Good Of Death Penalty
Here's a story for your "Wait, conservative Christians said what?" files. Back in October, we mentioned the case of Scott Pannetti, a Texas inmate who is severely schizophrenic and believes he had to kill his in-laws as part of his ongoing battle against Satan. Texas authorities believe he has been faking mental illness -- not just at the time of the 1992 murders, but all his life, apparently. The case is a typical Texas fuck-tussle of injustice, complete with a "mental health evaluation" by a state-paid psychiatrist who never used a single psychiatric test to assess Panetti before determining that he was definitely faking. Go read Stephanie Mencimer's excellent piece in Mother Jones if you'd like a refresher course in why no one should ever trust death penalty verdicts in Texas.
Now, here's where we get to the weird thing:
A group of conservative leaders is mounting a last-minute effort to stop Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) from executing inmate Scott Panetti, arguing that killing "one of the most seriously mentally ill prisoners on death row in the United States" would "undermine the public's faith in a fair and moral justice system."
Yep, you read that right: a group of conservative thought leaders is calling on Rick Perry to delay Panetti's execution. Not merely because executing a man who has no idea what reality is would be an abortion of justice -- really, they insist they are very concerned about that -- but mostly because if people start thinking that maybe, just maybe, the death penalty is applied arbitrarily and unfairly, the public might stop supporting the death penalty.
In a letter to Perry, 21 conservatives -- including former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cucinelli, anti-marriage-equality activist Maggie Gallagher, direct-mail guru Richard Viguerie, and rightwing moral scold Brent Bozell (who worries about the pernicious influence of TV shows what have cussing and fictional crimes and is also concerned about the left's slander of Joe McCarthy) -- urged Perry to commute Pannetti's sentence to life in prison without parole, because some executions are even too icky for rightwing death-penalty junkies, we guess:
Each of us has been active at the national level of the conservative movement for many years, and no one could accuse us of being soft on crime. Among conservatives there is much debate about the effectiveness and the morality of the death penalty. Some crimes are so terrible, and committed with such clear malice, that some believe that execution seems the only appropriate and proportional response. But Scott Panetti’s is no such case. [...]
The authority to take a man’s life is the most draconian penalty that we allow our government to exercise. As conservatives, we must be on guard that such an extraordinary government sanction not be used against a person who is mentally incapable of rational thought. It would be immoral for the government to take this man’s life. Should the Board recommend it, we respectfully urge you to reduce Mr. Panetti’s death sentence to life in prison.
Weird, huh? Even Ron Paul is against this execution.
Only one small problem. Under the Texas Constitution, which doesn't trust governors with much power, Rick Perry doesn't have the ability to commute a death sentence unless the state Board of Pardons and Paroles recommends it. And they voted unanimously Monday that Panetti is perfectly sane, or at least sane enough to get the needle. The most Perry could do is grant a 30-day stay of execution so Panetti's lawyers can file further appeals at the federal level.
Oh, funny thing there, too: Panetti's attorneys say they would have requested that delay sooner, but no one in the state government bothered to inform them that Panetti's execution date had been set for Wednesday of this week. They read about it in the papers. Thank goodness for a vigorous free press, huh? Panetti hasn't had a mental health evaluation since 2007, not that it would make a lot of difference in Texas.
So far, Rick Perry has said absolutely nothing about the call for a stay, because he sincerely believes in putting criminals to death, and more to the point, he's got a bunch of presidential primaries to worry about. We aren't sure Mr. Panetti is able to comprehend what's about to be done to him, but maybe he's well enough to understand "Oops."
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.