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April 12, 2007

The legal spaghetti in Panetti

Images I have had a chance to chat with a few reporters about the Supreme Court's upcoming argument in Panetti v. Quarterman, No. 06-6407, the capital case that was supposed to assess the standards for deciding if an inmate is mentally competent to be executed. When cert was granted, I suggested here that, because the facts in Panetti seem somewhat quirky, perhaps the cert grant was designed to allow the Supreme Court to explore generally the issue of applying the death penalty to persons with mental illnesses.  When talking to reporters, though, I came to appreciate again that, by definition, any litigation over whether a properly convicted murderer is mentally competent to be executed necessarily going to involve quirky facts.

And the story of Panetti took on an added dimension when the Supreme Court, sua sponte, called for briefing on the question of whether the defendant's habeas petition was "successive" within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. ยง 2244.   Those briefs have now been filed, and the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation has helpfully assembled all the Panetti briefs here.  A quick scan of all the briefs confirms my sense that there are lots of different strands lumped together in Panetti,  (This point is also born out by the issues covered on this webpage discussing Panetti and this ACS briefing and blog post about the case.)  It will be interesting to see if next week's oral argument will show which of the various possible strands that the Justices are most eager to chew on.

UPDATE:  This ABA Journal article provides effective coverage of Panetti, and the article nicely summarizes the dilemma facing the Justices:

Experts say the case could help clarify the criteria to be used for assessing whether a mentally ill death row inmate is competent for execution.  But observers on either side of the issue say it also raises the possibility that the court could go too far in one direction.

If the court holds that a defendant need only be aware that he or she is about to be executed and why the state says it wants the execution, even a profoundly mentally ill death row inmate might not be spared the ultimate punishment.  On the other hand, if the court holds that any defendant who could be classified as mentally ill should never be put to death, hardly anybody on death row would qualify for execution.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog now has this thoughtful discussion of the supplemental briefing issue and arguments in Panetti.

April 12, 2007 at 07:08 PM | Permalink


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» Round-Up from SCOTUSblog
Nahal Toosi of the Associated Press reports here on Long Island Care at Home v. Coke (No. 06-593), which is scheduled for argument on Monday. At Sentencing Law & Policy, Doug Berman has this post on Pannetti v. Quarterman (No.... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 13, 2007 3:59:38 PM

» Oral Argument in Panetti v. Quarterman from SCOTUSblog
The Court will hear oral argument tomorrow in No. 06-6407, Panetti v. Quarterman. In addition to Lyle Denniston's preview of the case (available here), other summaries and analyses include: This post from Doug Berman at Sentencing Law and Policy discus... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 17, 2007 11:09:51 PM


One thing the Court absolutely should consider is the increased litigation and delays that will attend its ruling.

James Clark had his execution delayed three additional years to resolve his bogus Atkins claim (and given the bogusness of Atkins, is that bogus squared?). Every single death row inmate in the country will argue that a newly decided Panetti standard applies to his case. The Supreme Court cannot seem to resist tinkering with the rules, and that makes this death penalty thing a lot harder.

Posted by: federalist | Apr 13, 2007 2:30:58 PM

I am usually in the 'let god sort them out' camp, but fitness to be executed shouldn't be taken lightly. He is severely impaired and is one of the few who should legitimately be committed and not killed, but I fear the piggyback cases that will inevitably come (ref. by federalist). The appeal costs are already out of control, and I think any extension of that is irresponsible, but killing people who are unfit is just as irresponsible. I don't have any answers, but I'm trying to make some sense of it all. -T

(clinical psych grad)

Posted by: Tim | Apr 18, 2007 5:05:18 PM

good day!
can you give me the latest issue of the spaghetti news and issues this day because we are having an investigatory project about spaghetti and its causes to lead people who eats it to death...........pls...

godspeed hanie vessa

Posted by: hanie vessa eguia | Sep 5, 2007 4:06:03 AM

For me, execution is not the answer if you are mentally ill.. why you would kill someone who is mentally ill, why don't give him/her a chance to live and a lot of mental hospitals are there to take care of them..


Posted by: carisoprodol | Oct 12, 2009 11:50:41 PM

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