FREDERICKSBURG, Texas (KXAN/AP) — The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a stay of execution for a Fredericksburg man scheduled to be executed Wednesday.
Scott Panetti was convicted of a double murder more than 20 years ago for killing his mother and father-in-law back in 1992 in front of his estranged wife and 3-year-old daughter. The reprieve came less than eight hours before Panetti was set to receive a lethal injection.
“We STAY the execution pending further order of the court to allow us to fully consider the late arriving and complex legal questions at issue in this matter,” read the court’s decision. “An order setting a briefing schedule and oral argument will follow.”
The case has drawn international attention because Panetti suffers from schizophrenia, renewing the debate over capital punishment and mental illness. Panetti’s lawyers contend he is too mentally ill to qualify for capital punishment, and they sought a delay for new competency tests. His attorneys also had appeals before the U.S. Supreme Court, which has said mentally ill people cannot be executed if they don’t have a factual and rational understanding of why they’re being punished.
“This is clearly a very seriously ill man, and we need to stop criminalizing mental illnesses and make sure people are getting the treatment they need,” said Karen Ranus with the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Panetti was diagnosed with Schizophrenia years before the murders. Ranus says says executing him sends the wrong message, but the state has maintained the fact Panetti is not so mentally ill that he didn’t know what he was doing.
“If you’re truly mentally ill, then of course, I don’t expect you to be executed,” Angela Alvarado, the victim’s niece, said in a 2004 interview with KXAN. “But he’s led a normal life most of his life.”
Gov. Rick Perry has received several pleas to stop the Panetti execution, including anti-death penalty groups and the United Nations. But some conservative leaders, including former presidential candidate Ron Paul, have also come out against the execution.