A federal appeals court halted yesterday’s scheduled execution of Scott Panetti, a Texas killer whose attempt to call Jesus Christ, the pope and John F. Kennedy as witnesses in his 1995 trial and other behavior led his attorneys to argue he is too mentally ill for capital punishment, the Associated Press reports. The case has gained national attention as a test for issues surrounding the execution of the mentally ill. Panetti, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia 14 years before fatally shooting his estranged wife's parents in 1992, was granted the reprieve less than eight hours before he was set to receive a lethal injection.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it needs time to “fully consider the late arriving and complex legal questions at issue in this matter” and that it will schedule briefings and hearings to consider arguments. Panetti's lawyers described him as delusional and argued that he was too mentally ill to qualify for capital punishment. They sought the delay so Panetti could undergo new competency examinations.