Does the United States justice system find mental illness entertaining? Do officials over justice consider it funny to kill mentally disabled citizens? Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty shared a video exposing the trial of Scott Panetti, who was charged with murdering his in-laws on September 8, 1992. The court allowed this untreated man who suffered from severe paranoid schizophrenia to conduct his own defense wearing a cowboy outfit and be sentenced to death.
Panetti's father expressed a loss of faith in the justice system after watching his very sick son try to defend himself. He expected Judge Steven Ables to stop the trial when it was obvious how unprepared Panetti was, but Judge Ables allowed the trial to continue to the end. Perhaps Edith Jones is not the only judge in America who believes that a death sentence provides a public service by allowing an inmate to "make peace with God." See the video below and at YouTube link
December 3, 2014 UPDATE: The video is embedded below and now available on YouTube at the link,
Original text resumes: Panetti's appeals have been denied since he was sentenced to execution. Some judges have disdain for defendants who are mentally ill. The Austin Chronicle reports that Justice Edith Jones, who sits on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals – based in New Orleans, its jurisdiction includes Texas – made numerous offensive and biased comments during a February lecture at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, according to the complaint filed pursuant to the federal Judicial Conduct and Disability Act. She told law students and other attendees that she thought the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling outlawing the death penalty for the mentally retarded did intellectually disabled individuals a disservice, and that to create such an exemption from execution was a "slippery slope," reads the complaint.
"In describing … what Judge Jones said about these cases, I am not able to capture the complete outrage she expressed over the crimes or the disgust she evinced over the defense raised, particularly by the defendants who claimed to be mentally retarded," reads the declaration, filed with the complaint, of veteran Pennsylvania-based death penalty attorney Marc Bookman, who attended the lecture. "Judge Jones's disgust at how these defendants were 'using mental retardation' was very evident and very disconcerting," reads the complaint. Austin Chronicle Report on Judith Jones
An excerpt from Yahoo Voices described the Panetti trial: "Dressed in costume like one of the actors in an old Western Movie, with a big brimmed cowboy hat hanging on his shoulders by the strap, plaid shirt, bandanna, fancy cowboy boots, and spurs, Scott Panetti proceeded to defend himself, playing out the role of lawyer. The prevailing judge, Ables allowed his court to be turned into a three ring circus as jurors watched, stunned at what they were seeing and hearing, some fearing the man they watched before them."
An attorney who was called by Panetti as a witness shared his observations, stating: “The courtroom had the atmosphere of a circus. The judge just seemed to let Scott run free with his irrational questions and courtroom antics.”
Panetti's ex-wife, whose parents were killed, does not feel that Panetti should die for his crime that resulted from untreated mental illness. And obviously, nobody should defend himself in a capital murder case, especially not a paranoid schizophrenic man dressed as a cowboy. Panetti's trial was an outrageous exercise that has probably provided justice officials many laughs for over 20 years while Scott Panetti awaits the needle on death row in Texas.
Homelessness, prison and death must discontinue being America's answer to acute mental illness. Nobody deserves execution for having a health crisis.
UPDATE: Assistance to the Incarcerated Mentally Ill (AIMI) plans to take the wrongful execution of Scott Panetti (if he is killed) along with the wrongful internment of mentally ill Americans on death row in Texas (including Jeff Wood and Andre Thomas as well as Panetti) before the International Court in 2015. This is an outrage. Visit our website and join conversations on the first weekend of each month about protecting the human rights of mentally ill Americans in International Court at http://AIMI-HumanRights.blogspot.com
Two homeless men were shot to death in Atlanta by an unidentified killer while they slept during Thanksgiving week 2014. Three New Mexico teens were charged with beating homeless people to death in Albuquerque in July 2014. The homeless are not always mentally ill, but people with psychiatric conditions are over-represented among the chronically homeless. Americans should demand that our legal system not act like those sick killers.
This article was first published in the Davis-MacPhail Truth Committee blog at
You are URGED to fax, email, and tweet Gov. Rick Perry and object at @TexGov. He is a Christian, so please remind him about Psalm 102:19-20, Hebrews 13:3, Matthew 25:31-46, and Proverbs 31:8-9 (KJV).