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Justices grant new avenue for relief for killer claiming insanity

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A man condemned for the 1997 rape and murder of an 18-year-old Franklin College student is entitled to a new avenue of post-conviction relief on his argument that he is not mentally competent to be executed, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

Michael Dean Overstreet’s death sentence remains in force for his conviction in the killing of Kelly Eckart after unsuccessful post-conviction relief pleadings in state and federal courts. Evidence of Overstreet’s competence, including a forensic psychiatrist’s evaluation, led justices to authorize further arguments in Johnson Superior Court that could modify his death sentence.

The psychiatrist, Dr. Rahn K. Bailey, opined that “Overstreet does not have, and does not have the ability to produce, a rational understanding of why the State of Indiana plans to execute him,” Justice Robert Rucker wrote in the order.

The unanimous order denied oral argument before the justices but authorized filing by Sept. 13 of a successive petition for post-conviction relief “for the purpose of presenting the claim that Overstreet is not currently competent to be executed.” A final judgment on the post-conviction petition must be entered by March 3, 2014, justices ordered.

The court relied on its earlier PCR proceeding, Overstreet v. State, 877 N.E.2d 144, 172 (Ind. 2007), as well as the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Panetti v. Quarterman, 551 U.S. 930, 127 S.Ct. 2842, 168 L.Ed.2d 662 (2007) for guidance in setting a new round of sentencing review.

Eckart’s parents, Dale and Connie Sutton, told IL in 2011 that they believe the death sentence was appropriate for Overstreet. He remains one of 13 inmates on death row at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, according to the Department of Correction.



 
 

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