Texas execution case is only latest with mental illness concerns

The gurney used to restrain condemned prisoners during the lethal injection process (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Before the case of Scott Panetti, the man who was set to be executed before a stay, Texas executed other convicted criminals who their attorneys say suffered from mental illness.

In 2004, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recommended clemency for convicted killer Kelsey Patterson, 50, who was set for execution. Texas Governor Rick Perry said no.

“The fact of the matter is this was a very, very dangerous individual,” said Perry in 2004. “I think that there was a clear reasoning that even in the prison population, he would try to kill again.”

Patterson’s lawyer says Patterson was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

“Texas has a long, sordid history of putting individuals to death in spite of significant evidence of their severe mental illness,” said Kristin Houlé, executive director of Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

Houlé started following the issue years ago. Houlé also calls the move to recommend clemency by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles a rare one.

“This is a board that has recommended clemency four times since 1982 in cases of an individual facing imminent execution — four times out of 518 executions,” she said.

Houlé says she has documented 26 cases of Texas executions involving individuals with severe mental illness since 1982 when Texas resumed executions.


This script corrects an earlier version that incorrectly quoted a common phrase used by Houlé.

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