The Problem With How Courts Decide Whether Someone Can Be Executed

The criminal justice system is unequipped to grapple with the complexity of mental illness.

In this reporting by Maria Armstrong-Lopez, I learned that the 2007 Supreme Court case Panetti v. Quarterman set the standard for when the government can execute someone with severe mental illness. I also learned that, fifteen years later, the state of Texas governor Greg Abbott is still trying to execute the petitioner in that case, Scott Panetti. Panetti has 40 years of medical documentation of severe, chronic schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder, and they are still trying to take his life without consent.

“Even the few safeties we have in place to—theoretically—protect people with serious mental illness from cruel and unusual punishment,” she claims, “are failing.”

For more on Scott Panetti and the legal details of how the death penalty is enforced against people with psychiatric disability, read the full article here.

The Death Penalty Information Center has an information page for his case here.