The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected a request to delay the looming execution of a schizophrenic death row inmate, the Texas Tribune reports. Voting 5 to 4, the court cited jurisdictional grounds in declining to stay Scott Louis Panetti's execution, scheduled for December 3. Panetti's attorneys argue he is to incompetent to be put to death. The Wisconsin native was sentenced to death for the 1992 shooting deaths of his in-laws. At the time, Panetti, who represented himself at trial and dressed up in a cowboy suit in court, was a diagnosed schizophrenic and collected federal disability checks because he could not work.
The 56-year-old's mental health is deteriorating, his attorneys say, and his recent paranoid delusions have included believing that someone is putting “Satanic graffiti” on his cell walls, and that state officials are watching him through pumpkin decorations. The appeals court ruled that it couldn't revisit a lower court's refusal to grant a stay because his attorneys had not filed a proper motion “on or after the 20th day” before the scheduled execution. Dissenting Judge Elsa Alcala disagreed with the majority's “overly formalistic interpretation.” “This court, at best, deprives appellant of a fair opportunity to litigate his claims,” she wrote. “At worst, this court's decision will result in the irreversible and constitutionally impermissible execution of a mentally incompetent person.”