NAMI Praises Supreme Court Decision: Mental Illness & Death Penalty

Jun 28, 2007, 01:00 ET from National Alliance on Mental Illness

    ARLINGTON, Va., June 28 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National
 Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has praised today's decision by the U.S.
 Supreme Court blocking the execution of a Texas man who suffers from severe
 mental illness.
     In Panetti v. Quarterman, the court held that an individual's
 understanding of the reasons why he or she is to be executed must be
 considered in determining whether application of the death penalty is
 constitutional -- rather than merely understanding the link between
 execution and death.
     "For once, law has caught up with medical science," said NAMI Director
 of Policy and Legal Affairs Ronald S. Honberg. "The circumstances of this
 case are tragic and no one minimizes the gravity of the crime or the
 suffering of the victims. However, execution of someone who is profoundly
 ill would only compound the original tragedy and represent a profound
 injustice for us all."
     "Severe delusions mean severe illness. Rational understanding and
 judgment are severely compromised. Application of the death penalty becomes
 meaningless."
     NAMI previously filed an amicus curiae ("friend of the court") brief in
 the case with the American Psychological Association and the American
 Psychiatric Association.
     The Supreme Court's decision can be found at
 http://scotusblog.files.wordpress.com/2007/06/06-6407.pdf. The NAMI amicus
 brief is at http://www.nami.org/policy/panetti.
     Despite a long history of schizophrenia, Scott Panetti was allowed to
 represent himself at his trial on charges of murdering his parents-in-law
 15 years ago. He frequently spoke irrationally and issued subpoenas to John
 F. Kennedy, Jesus Christ, and Pope John Paul II before being sentenced to
 death.
     Continuing to experience delusions and other symptoms of severe mental
 illness throughout incarceration on death row, Panetti believed his planned
 execution was part of an evil conspiracy between Texas and demonic forces
 to stop him from preaching the gospel.
 
 

SOURCE National Alliance on Mental Illness