The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals [court website] on Friday ordered a stay of execution [order, PDF] for convicted killer Marcus Druery who had been scheduled for execution on August 1st. Druery has been diagnosed as schizophrenic by both prison and private doctors, and a county judge on Tuesday refused to order a psychiatric evaluation prior to his execution. Druery's lawyers claim that he does not understand the rational ramifications of his punishment and is incapable of understanding his legal situation. The appeals court order allows for more time to consider whether the 32 year-old is competent to be executed.
Noting that "although a severely mentally ill inmate on death row may have his execution delayed due to incompetency, once the individual has regained competence, he can be executed," JURIST guest columnist Olga Vlasova recently argued that the US Supreme Court should prohibit the death penalty for severely mentally ill offenders [JURIST op-ed]. Internationally, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] has called on all member states to abolish capital punishment entirely [JURIST report]. The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled in Atkins v. Virginia [opinion; Cornell LII backgrounder] that the execution of mentally retarded individuals is cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Eighth Amendment [text]. However, in 29 states, including Texas, Tennessee and New Jersey [JURIST reports], the defendant still carries the burden of proving mental retardation in death-penalty [JURIST news archive] cases to receive a lesser sentence.