In an unusual action, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted 5-1 yesterday to commute the death sentence of mentally ill inmate Kelsey Patterson, who is scheduled for execution tonight, reports the Houston Chronicle. The board’s recommendation of a life sentence goes to Gov. Rick Perry. “I can still hardly believe it, but I’ll take it,” said Patterson’s attorney, Gary Hart.
Patterson has a long history of schizophrenia and three previous aggravated assaults that were never prosecuted because of his delusional state at the time they occurred. When he shot to death a businessman and his secretary in his hometown of Palestine in 1992, he was sent to death row despite the absence of motive. Hart claims Patterson, 50, is delusional and not competent for execution. Last-minute appeals are still pending with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Board recommendations for commutation are exceedingly rare in capital cases. Commutation on humanitarian grounds is all but unheard of.