A Texas judge who stopped the execution of a mentally ill man from Denver has ruled the inmate should be forced to take anti-psychotic medication that would make him well enough to be executed, reports the Denver Post. The ruling came in the case of Steven Staley, 43, who in 1989 ran away from a Denver halfway house and ended up on Texas’ death row after killing a restaurant manager in front of police. Staley’s actions resulted in a million-dollar lawsuit against the halfway house; the issue of his sanity has touched off a debate about the ethics of executing the mentally ill that could ultimately be considered by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Putting doctors in the position of treating inmates for the sole purpose of getting them executed should not be permitted, said New York attorney Ron Tabak, who chaired a task force about seriously mentally ill people and the death penalty. Prosecutor Jim Gibson of Tarrant County, Tx., disagrees, saying medication shouldn’t be withheld just because someone is on death row. “We have an interest in making sure that our prisoners aren’t lying around in their own urine and hitting themselves in the face,” Gibson said. “Our interest is in seeing that the judgment of the court and jury is carried out. Part of that might be getting (Staley) well enough.” The judge’s order will be stayed until May 5 to give Staley’s defense attorney time to consider his next legal move.