may 14, 2012 Source : http://www.nydailynews.com
Prosecutors argue Steven Staley is competent to be executed
HUNTSVILLE, Texas — The outcome of legal wrangling about condemned killer Steven Staley’s mental health is likely to determine if the former laborer is put to death this week in Texas for a slaying almost a quarter-century ago in Fort Worth.
Prosecutors contend he’s competent to be executed. His lawyer says Staley is severely mentally ill, suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, and has been observed catatonic or lying on the floor of his jail cell covered in urine.
Staley, 49, faces lethal injection Wednesday evening for the fatal shooting of a Steak and Ale restaurant manager who was taken hostage during a botched robbery in October 1989. The arrest of Staley and two accomplices after a wild 20-mile car and foot chase ended a series of robberies, assaults and at least one other killing as the trio wreaked havoc in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.
In a written statement, Staley implicated himself in the slaying of 35-year-old Bob Read. And since he arrived on death row in 1991, his mental competence became an issue as his punishment neared.
Prosecutors say he’s legally competent, and state District Court Judge Wayne Salvant has ordered him to be medicated, by force if needed.
“If he was found not to be competent, the trial judge would just withdraw the (execution) date,” said Jim Gibson, an assistant district attorney in Tarrant County, where Staley was tried and convicted.
Staley also has been examined by psychologists, who determined the prisoner was competent.
“Everybody agrees he’s competent,” Gibson said. “… I think the issue is going to be why he’s competent.”
Staley’s lawyer, John Stickels, calls the competency artificial.
“The state has given him enough psychotropic drugs that the judge found he met the definition to be competent to be executed,” said Stickels, who is asking the courts to halt the execution. “The whole reason he’s been medicated is to make him competent to be executed.”
Staley’s previous attorney called him “too nuts to be executed” when the courts stopped a scheduled execution in 2005. And Stickles said Staley’s severe mental illness has existed for several years and has been exacerbated by the forced drug regimen Stickles argues was illegally ordered by Salvant.
If lower courts refuse to stay the execution, Stickles said he’ll take his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which he said has not addressed the question of involuntary medication for the purposes of execution. When administered, the drugs leave Staley “with extreme sedation and zombie-like effects,” Stickles said in an appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
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