MO Inmate Executed Despite Diminished Mental Capacity Claims


Missouri's oldest death row inmate was executed for the 1996 shooting death of a sheriff's deputy after the U.S. Supreme Court and the governor declined to spare the killer, whose attorneys said had a diminished mental capacity because of a 1972 sawmill accident, the Associated Press reports. Cecil Clayton, 74, was put to death by injection after Gov. Jay Nixon denied a clemency request and the high court turned aside appeals claiming Clayton was mentally incompetent. The Missouri Supreme Court, in a 4-3 ruling, had declined to intervene, with the court's majority concluding there was no evidence that Clayton was incapable of understanding his circumstances.

The U.S. Supreme Court was also divided, with four judges saying they would have granted a stay. The claim of diminished mental capacity stemmed from a sawmill accident that Clayton's attorneys argued cost him 8 percent of his brain, including one-fifth of the frontal lobe portion governing impulse control and judgment. Combined with his reported IQ of 71 and reading skills of a fourth-grader, Clayton's attorneys insisted psychiatric evaluations concluded that he didn't understand the significance of his scheduled execution or the reasons for it, making him ineligible to be put to death.

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