The only activity as popular in Texas as football is executing convicted criminals. The state leads the rest of the nation by a wide margin in executions. Conservatives all over the country support their penchant for executing even the mentally impaired — most of the time.
When the state executed Marvin Wilson in August of 2012, there was no call from anyone on the right to commute his sentence for the 1992 murder of a police informant even though Wilson had an IQ of 61, well below the standard of 70 which is considered mentally retarded.
As Texas prepares to execute Scott Panetti, who murdered the parents of his estranged wife in their home as his wife and 3-year-old daughter watched in September 1992, a group of conservative politicians and activists have called on Governor Rick Perry to commute his sentence saying that it is cruel to execute a man who is mentally ill.
The difference between Wilson’s case and Panetti’s? Panetti is white, Wilson was black.
At his trial in 1995, Panetti represented himself saying that only an insane person could adequately represent an insane person. He never denied his guilt but blamed his in-laws saying that they brought out “Sarge,” one of his many personalities and said that it was this persona who committed the murders.
A group of 21 conservative leaders including former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, conservative activist Brent Bozell and former presidential candidate Gary Bauer have sent a letter to Governor Perry asking him to grant a stay of execution for Panetti saying in part:
“Each of us has been active at the national level of the conservative movement for many years, and no one could accuse us of being soft on crime. Among conservatives there is much debate about the effectiveness and the morality of the death penalty. Some crimes are so terrible, and committed with such clear malice, that some believe that execution seems the only appropriate and proportional response. But Scott Panetti’s is no such case.”
No one denies that Panetti is mentally ill, he was discharged after a very short stint in the Navy for mental illness and hospitalized 15 times over a 30 year period for treatment of severe schizophrenia and paranoia. He is clearly a man tortured by inner demons and who is not mentally competent. He should remain institutionalized for the rest of his life but not executed for a crime that he committed due to his illness, that is not in question.
What is a question that deserves an answer is where were these conservatives when a mentally retarded man was executed for the same crime?
In the video below form Texas Defenders Service, a group fighting for reform of the justice system in Texas several family members describe Panetti’s descent into a hell created by his own mind.