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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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