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. On a related note, I offered the ICLU my cases against the BLE repeatedly, and sought their amici aid repeatedly as well. Crickets. Usually not even a response. I am guessing they do not do allegations of anti-Christian bias? No matter how glaring? I have posted on other links the amicus brief that did get filed (search this ezine, e.g., Kansas attorney), read the Thomas More Society brief to note what the ACLU ran from like vampires from garlic. An Examiner pledged to advance diversity and inclusion came right out on the record and demanded that I choose Man's law or God's law. I wonder, had I been asked to swear off Allah ... what result then, ICLU? Had I been found of bad character and fitness for advocating sexual deviance, what result then ICLU? Had I been lifetime banned for posting left of center statements denigrating the US Constitution, what result ICLU? Hey, we all know don't we? Rather Biased.

  2. It was mentioned in the article that there have been numerous CLE events to train attorneys on e-filing. I would like someone to provide a list of those events, because I have not seen any such events in east central Indiana, and since Hamilton County is one of the counties where e-filing is mandatory, one would expect some instruction in this area. Come on, people, give some instruction, not just applause!

  3. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  4. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  5. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

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