Texas’ Slow, Tortuous Fight to Kill a Mentally Ill Man

by Ian Millhiser – The state’s fight to kill Scott Panetti is now in its third decade. Scott Panetti is very seriously mentally ill. He once buried his furniture in his backyard in the belief that this would purge the devil, who Panetti believed to have possessed his home. He was institutionalized about a dozen times, often involuntarily, for suicidal and homicidal behavior. Eventually, Panetti’s illness overcame him, and he murdered his estranged wife’s parents. At Panetti’s trial, he was inexplicably allowed to represent himself. With his life on the line, Panetii wore a purple bandana around his neck, a cowboy hat and suspenders. He tried to call the Pope, Jesus Christ, and John F. Kennedy to the witness stand. And he sometimes shifted into an alternate personality named “Sgt. Ranahan Ironhorse.” He was sentenced to die. Since then, Panetti’s been the center of a seemingly never-ending legal fight between lawyers trying to save...

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BREAKING: Federal Appeals Court Issues Stay For Panetti

by Terri Langford, The Texas Tribune – *Editor’s note: This story has been updated throughout. A federal appeals court on Wednesday halted the execution of a Texas death row inmate with a history of schizophrenia, just hours before he was to be put to death in Huntsville. A two-sentence stay was released by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, one of two courts considering appeals from Scott Louis Panetti’s defense team. “We STAY the execution pending further order of the court to allow us to fully consider the late arriving and complex legal questions at issue in this matter,” the appeals court order stated. “An order setting a briefing schedule and oral argument will follow.” Panetti, 56, was to be executed Wednesday night for the 1992 shooting deaths of his in-laws, Joe and Amanda Alvarado of Kerr County. “We are grateful that cooler legal minds have prevailed...

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Texas to Execute Severely Mentally Ill Man Tonight Despite Public Outcry

by Lauren Galik – Tonight at approximately 6 p.m. CST Texas is scheduled to execute Scott Panetti, a man who has suffered from schizophrenia and other mental illnesses for over 30 years. First diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1978, Panetti was hospitalized over a dozen times by 1992 and involuntarily committed to a mental hospital at least twice. On one such occasion in 1986, Panetti had buried his furniture in the backyard because he believed the devil was inside it. In 1992, shortly after Panetti stopped taking his medication, he shaved his head, dressed in army fatigues, and killed his in-laws with a hunting rifle in front of his wife and 3-year-old-daughter. He turned himself in shortly after, and told police officers that “Sarge” was responsible for the killings. After a jury found him competent to stand trial, a judge allowed him to represent himself in court. At his trial, Panetti wore...

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