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Friday, May 28, 2004

Parole board votes to stop execution of mentally ill inmate Kelsey Patterson


May 18, 2004, 1:07AM

Parole board votes to stop execution
Perry to have last word on mentally ill killer's fate
By MIKE TOLSON
Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle

In the rarest of moves, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted 5-1 Monday to commute the death sentence of mentally ill inmate Kelsey Patterson, who is scheduled for execution this evening. 

The board's recommendation of a life sentence, or at minimum a 120-day reprieve, goes to Gov. Rick Perry for action. The recommendation is under review and a timely decision will be made today, a spokesman for the governor's office said. 

"I can still hardly believe it, but I'll take it," said Patterson's attorney, Gary Hart. "I'm delighted, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Governor Perry will continue to do the right thing and not just because of these issues of Kelsey's mental competency that we are currently litigating but all of Kelsey's issues. I believe the board was influenced by the totality of the picture." • • • • • 
"I believe the board was influenced by the totality of the picture." 

Gary Hart, 
Kelsey Patterson's attorney



• • • • • 
That picture includes a long history of schizophrenia and three previous aggravated assaults that were never prosecuted because of Patterson's delusional state at the time they occurred. However, when he shot to death a businessman and his secretary in his hometown of Palestine in 1992, he was prosecuted for capital murder and sent to death row despite the absence of motive. 

Hart claims Patterson, 50, is delusional and not competent for execution. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday rejected his request for a stay. Last-minute appeals are still pending with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Board recommendations for commutation are exceedingly rare in capital cases. The most common reasons are troubled prosecutions, evidence of innocence or changes in case law. In March, for instance, Robert Smith received a unanimous vote to commute when a Harris County court determined he was mentally retarded -- the only such recommendation presented to Perry regarding a capital defendant. The vote, like Perry's consent, was a foregone conclusion because the U.S. Supreme Court banned the execution of the retarded in 2001. 

Commutation on humanitarian grounds is all but unheard of. The overriding issue in Patterson's application to the board was his extreme mental condition, which has left him suffering from delusions for most of his adult life. 

"At the time that he killed Louis Oates and Kay Harris, Patterson was acting under the influence of a mental illness that rendered him incapable of conforming his conduct to the law," Hart wrote in Patterson's application. "It does not serve either the retributive or deterrence goals of capital punishment to put him to death for those acts. He is far less culpable, because of his mental illness, than the average murderer, and the prospect of the death penalty would not have quelled the delusions that fueled his criminal act." 

The board, as is its custom, issued no explanation for its recommendation. 

For many years Patterson has said the only reason he shot Oates and Harris was because local officials planted devices in his body to control his actions. They forced him to commit this crime, he insisted, as their way of doing away with him. 

Mental illness, even severe as in Patterson's case, is not a bar to execution. Texas has executed several mentally ill inmates. The law requires only that a condemned prisoner understand that his execution is imminent and the reason for it. 

Hart said death row warden James Jones approached Patterson on May 4 and asked him to complete paperwork directing the prison what to do with his remains and the leftover funds from his inmate trust account. Patterson refused, telling Jones he was not eligible to be executed because he has obtained amnesty. 

The defense attorney has tried without success to persuade various courts to grant a Patterson a stay, contending he is incompetent to be executed. In a letter to Perry requesting a 30-day reprieve, Hart pointed to recent visits to Patterson by a member of the Board of Pardons and Paroles and by a spiritual counselor from the Salvation Army. On both occasions, Patterson told his visitors that he would not be executed. 

Kathryn Honaker Cox, a Salvation Army major who visits regularly with death row inmates, reported numerous examples of delusional behavior and said in one instance Patterson stood in the day room where visits are conducted and for an entire hour held his arms outstretched as if he were flying. Cox also said Patterson's sisters tearfully related to her last April that he would not sit down to visit with them because he refused to believe they were really his sisters. He claimed they were spies sent to get information about him, Cox said in an affidavit. 

Patterson did meet with his sisters on Friday. They said he was seriously delusional and believed his plate of beans was talking to him. Patterson also told them that day he had been talking to a woman whom they knew had died three years ago. 

"This is not the first time Kelsey has talked to his beans or the dead," Hart said. 

Patterson was diagnosed with schizophrenia in early adulthood. When unmedicated and living on his own, he had a tendency to become explosively violent. On three separate occasions, he shot co-workers without provocation and hit another across the head with a two-by-four. He was sent to state psychiatric facilities after each of the assaults and never was formally prosecuted because of his delusional state at the time of the assaults. 

Patterson was seen last by mental health experts in 1999. A psychologist retained by Hart and a psychiatrist appointed by a federal judge agreed that Patterson was seriously ill and delusional, but neither could determine his competency for execution at the time because Patterson would not agree to a full evaluation. 

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Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Texas Gov. Rejects Death Row Reprieve Recommendation from Board of Pardons and Paroles

Texas Gov. Rejects Death Row Reprieve

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) - Gov. Rick Perry rejected a highly unusual parole board recommendation to commute a mentally ill killer's death sentence or delay Tuesday evening's scheduled lethal injection. 

The Supreme Court also denied a stay for Kelsey Patterson, 50, whose lawyers challenged lower court rulings rejecting claims that Patterson was mentally incompetent and should not be executed. 

Patterson, a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, was condemned for a double slaying almost 12 years ago. At least three mentally ill prisoners have been executed in Texas since the Supreme Court ruled two years ago that severely mentally retarded inmates should not be executed. 

The scheduled lethal injection renewed the legal quandary of whether it is proper to execute someone who is mentally ill when the U.S. Supreme Court says it is unconstitutional to execute someone who is mentally retarded. 

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.'' 

Wednesday May 19, 2004 12:01 AM
By MICHAEL GRACZYK 
Associated Press Writer 

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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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