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Death penalty

Appeals Court Halts Texas Execution

Dec 3, 2014

A federal appeals court has halted the scheduled execution of a Texas prisoner whose attorneys say is too delusional to be put to death.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a reprieve late Wednesday morning, less than eight hours before condemned killer Scott Panetti was set to receive a lethal injection.

Panetti was sentenced to death for fatally shooting his estranged wife’s parents 22 years ago.

Panetti’s lawyers are he’s too mentally ill to qualify for capital punishment, and they sought a delay for new competency tests.

A federal appeals court has halted the execution of Scott Panetti, a Texas prisoner convicted in the 1992 murder of his in-laws.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a reprieve just hours before the 56-year-old inmate was scheduled to be killed via lethal injection. The court said it needed more time to "consider the late arriving and complex legal questions at issue in this matter."

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The legal process is scheduled to end in Texas today for Scott Panetti. He's a convicted killer set for execution. He's drawn worldwide attention because he has a 36-year history of chronic schizophrenia. From Dallas, NPR's Wade Goodwyn reports.

On Dec. 3, Texas is scheduled to execute Scott Panetti for murdering his in-laws in 1992. There is no doubt he committed the crime, and there is also no doubt that Panetti is mentally ill. But he was deemed fit to stand trial, and he was allowed to defend himself, dressing in a cowboy costume in court, insisting he was a character from a John Wayne movie.

Over the course of the last two decades — and many appeals — his case has gained national attention, and it has shone a spotlight on capital punishment and mental illness.

A Diagnosis

Scott Panetti thinks Satan will kill him on Dec. 3, and he’s partly right. He’s scheduled to be executed that day by the state of Texas.

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Yesterday, the retrial of Ed Graf got underway in Waco. Imprisoned for 25 years, Ed Graf was convicted in 1988 of setting the fire that killed his two stepsons. A change in the forensic science of arson has shown that the chances the fire was intentionally set are slim. 

Kevin Cooper was convicted of murdering a married couple and two children, and was sentenced to die.

That was back in 1985. Cooper is still awaiting execution on California's death row.

San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos, who is handling the case, blames the long delay on Cooper's multiple appeals in state and federal courts.

"This is all a big strategic plan to really manipulate the system to attack capital punishment, not just in California, but in the United States," Ramos says.

Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, says the execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood, which took nearly two hours, amounted to torture.

Politico reports:

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The history of executions in America seems to be a string of one botched form to another. In a reaction to a botched execution in April and the supply of lethal drugs drying up, states like Tennessee have announced the return of the electric chair.

Dr. Deborah Denno, who teaches law that Fordham University in New York and is considered an expert on the topic of executions, said it was botched executions that led states to consider the electric chair in the early 1900s.

A Texan man on death row who was scheduled to be the nation’s first execution since the botched lethal injection in Oklahoma has been granted a stay. The US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals halted Robert James Campbell’s execution based on an IQ score taken in 1982.

Campbell came within hours of being executed, but the U5th Circuit believed there was sufficient evidence to prove Campbell would’ve been labeled intellectually disabled  if certain pieces of evidence hadn’t been withheld during his original trial.

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