The United Nations is making a last-minute plea to Texas officials to delay the execution of Scott Panetti, a prisoner who is said to have mental disabilities that should have made him ineligible for the death penalty, Al-Jazeera reports.
“There is no doubt that it is inherently cruel and unworthy of civilized societies to execute persons with mental disabilities,” Juan E. Méndez, the U.N. special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, said in a press statement Tuesday.
Panetti received a death sentence in 1995 for murdering his wife’s parents. Even then, his defense attorneys argued that a “debilitating mental illness” had caused him to commit the crime and that he should not be a candidate for capital punishment.
The case made its way to the Supreme Court, where justices found that “Panetti could only be killed if he was found to possess a ‘reasonable understanding’ of the reasons for his execution,” Al-Jazeera explains.
Panetti’s attorneys say that Panetti “reportedly believes he will be killed because the state is conspiring to stop him from preaching the Gospel to his fellow inmates,” the news site reports.
The U.N. is not the only organization that has weighed in on the matter and is lobbying Texas officials, the White House and the Supreme Court to issue a stay.
“Such disparate voices as Ron Paul, the American Bar Association and the National Alliance on Mental Illness have all spoken out in opposition to the execution. Panetti’s defense attorneys have asked both Texas Gov. Rick Perry and the United States Supreme Court to delay the execution, though neither has responded to the request as of yet,” Al-Jazeera reports.
William C. Hubbard, president of the American Bar Association, wrote a letter to Perry arguing that Panetti’s mental state should be re-evaluated and assessed by a judge. “We believe that justice requires that Mr. Panetti’s execution be stayed until complete and current information about his mental health has been thoroughly considered by a judge to determine whether Mr. Panetti is competent to be executed,” Hubbard wrote.