Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels on Monday spared the life of convicted killer Arthur P. Baird II, adding fuel to a national debate over whether people with severe mental illnesses are fit to be executed. “This appropriateness of executing the mentally ill is the issue of the moment,” said Larry Landis, executive director of the Indiana Public Defender Council.
Baird was to be executed Wednesday for the Sept. 6, 1985, stabbing deaths of his parents, Kathryn and Arthur Baird. He also was sentenced to 60 years in prison for strangling his pregnant wife, Nadine, and eight years for killing his unborn child the day before his parents’ slayings. Baird, who had never before been in legal trouble, has maintained that a “big, burly man” controlled his actions during the slayings. Mental health professionals who examined him recently agreed he was psychotic, or out of touch with reality. Landis said his group, which helps coordinate death penalty appeals, is preparing legislation for the 2006 session that would make it illegal to execute severely mentally ill inmates. The difficulty, Landis said, will be determining where to draw the line.