Criminal Justice

State can't forcibly medicate death row inmate so he's competent for execution

Steven Staley, a death row inmate with paranoid schizophrenia, can not be forcibly medicated so that he is competent for execution, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled Wednesday.

The opinion (PDF) found that a Tarrant County state district judge did not have the authority to order Staley medicated, the Texas Tribune reports. The judge made the ruling in 2006, and it was appealed by Staley’s lawyers.

Without medication, the appellate court found, Staley is not competent to be executed. Previously, state supreme courts in Louisiana and South Carolina have ruled that forcibly medicating a death row inmate for the purpose of execution violates their state constitutions.

Staley, who was sentenced to death for killing a restaurant manager during a robbery, had his execution stayed in 2006. The court found him incompetent for execution after he told a psychologist that he was found guilty of stealing a pickup truck worth $1.5 million.

Staley also told the psychologist that Oprah Winfrey paid off his jury, according to the Texas Tribune.

The opinion published Wednesday was 5-4, United Press International reports, and the Tarrant County prosecutor’s office said they may ask for a rehearing.

Staley needs to be medicated, the office told the Texas Tribune, and not just to be competent for execution.

Jail staff has found Staley covered in feces and urine, the article states. He has bruises from banging his head against the wall, and his head has a bald spot as a result of him laying down for long time periods in a catatonic state.

“We’ve always thought it was unfortunate that because of his actions he’s consigning himself into a descent into madness,” said Jim Gibson, an assistant criminal district attorney in Tarrant County.

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