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High Court to Hear Arguments in Insanity Case

Posted Apr 16, 2007 1:29 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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On Wednesday, the lawyer for a Texas death-row inmate will argue before the U.S. Supreme Court that his client should not be executed because he cannot understand the link between his punishment and the murders he committed.

Scott Panetti was sentenced to death for the 1992 murder of his in-laws after he represented himself at trial, according to a Houston Chronicle article about the appeal. He tried to subpoena Jesus Christ and wore a purple cowboy outfit at trial.

He acknowledges the state says it wants to execute him for the crime. But he contends the real reason for his sentence is the state’s collusion with the devil to silence him from preaching to fellow inmates.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment bars the execution of the mentally ill, but it has not precisely defined mental illness.

See the preview story from April's ABA Journal.

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