A federal judge has granted an execution stay for a schizophrenic murderer, reopening the debate over how Texas treats mentally ill violent offenders, the Houston Chronicle reports. Scott Panetti received a 60-day stay a day before he was to be executed for the 1992 shooting deaths of his estranged wife’s parents.
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks granted the stay to allow time for a state trial court to determine whether Panetti, 45, is competent to be executed. Mental health advocates and death penalty opponents argue that he did not receive a fair trial. He was allowed to defend himself during a circus-like trial in 1995 during which he dressed in a cowboy costume and tried to subpoena Jesus Christ and John F. Kennedy as witnesses.
The case now turns on Panetti’s current state of mind. The U.S. Supreme Court standard for executing the mentally ill requires the defendant to understand that he is going to die for the crime for which he was convicted.