Monday, May 14, 2012

Condemned Texas inmate: Artificially competent

Steven Staley faces lethal injection this Wednesday in Texas for the fatal shooting of a restaurant manager who was taken hostage during a robbery in1989. He has had his execution scheduled three other times.

His lawyer says Staley is severely mentally ill, suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, and has been observed catatonic or lying on the floor of his jail cell covered in urine.  He is being forced to take medication so that he is competent on execution day.

Prosecutors say he's legally competent, and state District Court Judge has ordered him to be medicated, by force if needed, reported the Houston Chronicle.

"If he was found not to be competent, the trial judge would just withdraw the (execution) date," said Jim Gibson, an assistant district attorney in Tarrant County, where Staley was tried and convicted.

Staley also has been examined by psychologists, who determined the prisoner was competent.

"Everybody agrees he's competent," Gibson told the Chronicle. "... I think the issue is going to be why he's competent."

Staley's lawyer, John Stickels, calls the competency artificial.

"The state has given him enough psychotropic drugs that the judge found he met the definition to be competent to be executed," said Stickels, who is asking the courts to halt the execution, reported the Chronicle. "The whole reason he's been medicated is to make him competent to be executed."

Staley's previous attorney called him "too nuts to be executed" when the courts stopped a scheduled execution in 2005. And Stickles said Staley's severe mental illness has existed for several years and has been exacerbated by the forced drug regimen Stickles argues was illegally ordered by Salvant.

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