ILNews

Courts weighing execution, mental illness

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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Execution and the mentally ill continue to be topics before the courts.

The Supreme Court of the United States will hear arguments Wednesday in Panetti v. Quarterman, No. 06-640, a Texas case that asks whether it violates a constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment to execute a delusional inmate who does not understand why he is being put to death.

That case is one that Indiana Supreme Court justices are closely watching to decide how they ;ll handle a condemned man ;s mental illness claims here.

Arguments are set for 1 p.m. but could be moved to the morning because another case is being dismissed.

In Panetti, the justices are considering the legal definition of "insanity" or "mental illness" as it applies to death row inmates having a factual awareness for the reason they are being executed. However, the justices might be changing how they look at the case, issuing an order this month for additional briefs on the question: "Must petitioner ;s habeas application be dismissed as ‘second or successive ; pursuant to 28 U.S. C. §§2244?"

As the case could change how the mentally ill are executed, Indiana justices decided in January to postpone the execution of Norman Timberlake – convicted in the 1993 shooting death of a state trooper – to see how the higher court rules. A decision is expected this summer.

But there ;s no need to wait. The Indiana Supreme Court heard arguments this morning in State v. McManus, 82S00-0503-PD-78, which involves death row inmate Paul McManus from Evansville. His attorney, Joanna Green, argued that he is ineligible for execution because he was mentally retarded when he killed his wife and two young daughters in 2001. Last spring, Vanderburgh Senior Judge William Brune decided that McManus should spend life in prison instead of being executed.

Now, the state is asking the Supreme Court to reinstate the death penalty.

Judge Brune's decision agreed with the defense on one point: finding McManus fit the legal definition of mental retardation – and the law forbids executing the retarded. Though McManus had a below-average IQ, the prosecutor and the defendant ;s original defense attorney questioned whether McManus met the legal criteria in Indiana for mental retardation. His defense did not claim it in the original trial.

Justices grilled Green today about why at post-conviction she didn ;t raise claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel and what statues should apply to this case. A glimpse into Timberlake-thought and the larger issue surfaced at times, as when justices asked about how mental retardation is diagnosed and what it means for executions.

State attorney James Martin argued that applicable law at the time didn ;t allow another proceeding and that the trial counsel strategy was not flawed.
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  1. One can only wonder whether Mr. Kimmel was paid for his work by Mr. Burgh ... or whether that bill fell to the citizens of Indiana, many of whom cannot afford attorneys for important matters. It really doesn't take a judge(s) to know that "pavement" can be considered a deadly weapon. It only takes a brain and some education or thought. I'm glad to see the conviction was upheld although sorry to see that the asphalt could even be considered "an issue".

  2. In response to bryanjbrown: thank you for your comment. I am familiar with Paul Ogden (and applaud his assistance to Shirley Justice) and have read of Gary Welsh's (strange) death (and have visited his blog on many occasions). I am not familiar with you (yet). I lived in Kosciusko county, where the sheriff was just removed after pleading in what seems a very "sweetheart" deal. Unfortunately, something NEEDS to change since the attorneys won't (en masse) stand up for ethics (rather making a show to please the "rules" and apparently the judges). I read that many attorneys are underemployed. Seems wisdom would be to cull the herd and get rid of the rotting apples in practice and on the bench, for everyone's sake as well as justice. I'd like to file an attorney complaint, but I have little faith in anything (other than the most flagrant and obvious) resulting in action. My own belief is that if this was medicine, there'd be maimed and injured all over and the carnage caused by "the profession" would be difficult to hide. One can dream ... meanwhile, back to figuring out to file a pro se "motion to dismiss" as well as another court required paper that Indiana is so fond of providing NO resources for (unlike many other states, who don't automatically assume that citizens involved in the court process are scumbags) so that maybe I can get the family law attorney - whose work left me with no settlement, no possessions and resulted in the death of two pets (etc ad nauseum) - to stop abusing the proceedings supplemental and small claims rules and using it as a vehicle for harassment and apparently, amusement.

  3. Been on social security sense sept 2011 2massive strokes open heart surgery and serious ovarian cancer and a blood clot in my lung all in 14 months. Got a letter in may saying that i didn't qualify and it was in form like i just applied ,called social security she said it don't make sense and you are still geting a check in june and i did ,now i get a check from my part D asking for payment for july because there will be no money for my membership, call my prescription coverage part D and confirmed no check will be there.went to social security they didn't want to answer whats going on just said i should of never been on it .no one knows where this letter came from was California im in virginia and been here sense my strokes and vcu filed for my disability i was in the hospital when they did it .It's like it was a error . My ,mothers social security was being handled in that office in California my sister was dealing with it and it had my social security number because she died last year and this letter came out of the same office and it came at the same time i got the letter for my mother benefits for death and they had the same date of being typed just one was on the mail Saturday and one on Monday. . I think it's a mistake and it should been fixed instead there just getting rid of me .i never got a formal letter saying when i was being tsken off.

  4. Employers should not have racially discriminating mind set. It has huge impact on the society what the big players do or don't do in the industry. Background check is conducted just to verify whether information provided by the prospective employee is correct or not. It doesn't have any direct combination with the rejection of the employees. If there is rejection, there should be something effective and full-proof things on the table that may keep the company or the people associated with it in jeopardy.

  5. Unlike the federal judge who refused to protect me, the Virginia State Bar gave me a hearing. After the hearing, the Virginia State Bar refused to discipline me. VSB said that attacking me with the court ADA coordinator had, " all the grace and charm of a drive-by shooting." One does wonder why the VSB was able to have a hearing and come to that conclusion, but the federal judge in Indiana slammed the door of the courthouse in my face.

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