Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Mentally Ill Person Executed after Perry Denies Request for Stay

Schizophrenic killer executed after Perry denies request for stay

HUNTSVILLE - Prison officials executed a mentally ill convicted killer this evening as Gov. Rick Perry rejected a parole board recommendation to commute the sentence to life in prison or delay the lethal injection. 

The U.S. Supreme Court also denied a stay for Kelsey Patterson, 50, whose lawyers challenged lower courts' rejected claims that Patterson was mentally incompetent to be executed. 

Patterson, a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, was condemned for a double slaying in Palestine in East Texas almost 12 years ago. 

In a 5-1 vote, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles endorsed a petition from Patterson's lawyers and supporters that he be spared. Texas resumed carrying out executions in 1982, and Monday's board action marked the first time at this late stage in a condemned inmate's case the panel recommended the governor commute a death sentence. 

"State and federal courts have reviewed this case no fewer than 10 times, examining his claims of mental illness and competency, as well as various other legal issues," Perry said in a statement less than an hour before Patterson's scheduled execution time. "In each instance the courts have determined there is no legal bar to his execution. 

"This defendant is a very violent individual. Texas has no life without parole sentencing option, and no one can guarantee this defendant would never be freed to commit other crimes were his sentence commuted. In the interests of justice and public safety, I am denying the defendants request for clemency and a stay." 

Patterson arrived at the death house early this afternoon. 

"Mr. Patterson seemed even tempered although he kept insisting to the wardens that he had amnesty," said Michelle Lyons, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Huntsville, where executions are carried out. "He seemed particularly concerned about whether or not he'd be allowed to see his legal materials, which he was." 

Although Patterson made no meal request, a tray of sandwiches and cookies was available to him, and he was offered and accepted a candy bar and a soft drink. He earlier had refused to complete paperwork associated with an execution, like picking a last meal or selecting witnesses. 

"He denied to the warden that he's ever going to be executed," said J. Gary Hart, Patterson's lawyer. 

Hart had cited Patterson's actions as another reason why the prisoner was mentally incompetent and should not be put to death.

Patterson was condemned for the 1992 shootings of Dorthy Harris, 41, a secretary at an oil company office in Palestine, and her boss, Louis Oates, 63. 

Throughout his trial, outbursts earned Patterson repeated expulsions from the courtroom. He frequently talked about "remote control devices" and "implants" that controlled him. 

While on death row, he told people and wrote nearly incomprehensible letters to courts about having amnesty and a permanent stay of execution. 

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled it's unconstitutional to execute someone who is mentally retarded, but has not extended the same protection to those claiming mental illness. However, the high court in a 1986 ruling regarding insanity and the death penalty said an inmate may not be executed if he doesn't know why he's on death row and the punishment he faces. 

Lawyers from the Texas attorney general's office, opposing appeals by Patterson's attorneys to halt the punishment, cited Patterson's references to stays of execution as indicating the prisoner had an awareness of his punishment. 

Evidence showed Patterson left his home in Palestine, about 100 miles southeast of Dallas, and walked about a block to where Oates was standing on a loading dock at his business. Patterson walked up behind him, shot him in the head with a .38-caliber pistol and started walking away. When Harris saw the scene and began screaming, Patterson grabbed her and shot her in the head. 

Then he went home, took off his clothes except for socks, and was arrested walking on the street in front of his home. 

In 1980 in Dallas and in 1983 in Palestine, Patterson was ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial on charges related to nonfatal shootings. 

In March, Perry for the first time since taking office in 2000 commuted the death sentence of a prisoner. The inmate is mentally retarded and was not within hours of a scheduled execution. 

In 1998, four days before former self-confessed serial killer Henry Lee Lucas was to die, then-Gov. George W. Bush commuted Lucas after questions were raised about his conviction. It was the only death sentence commuted by Bush in his six years in office when 152 executions were carried out. 

May 18, 2004, 6:29PM
Houston Chronicle

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