Thursday, May 23, 2024

Texas Death Row Inmate Scott Panetti

Scott Panetti, Texas

Update: Friday, October 7, 2023

Sixty-five-year-old Texas death row inmate Scott Panetti has been ruled incompetent for execution by U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman in Austin.  Panetti has a documented history of mental illness and disorganized thoughts that prevent him from understanding why he is being executed.  The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that mentally incompetent individuals are barred from being executed.  Panetti was sentenced to death for the September 1992 slaying of 55-year-old Joe Alvarado and his wife 56-year-old Amanda.  Joe and Amanda were the parents of Panetti’s estranged wife.  The couple was murdered in their home in Fredericksburg, Texas.  Panetti was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1978 and was hospitalized over a dozen times to receive treatment.

Update: Thursday, December 4, 2014
Scott PanettiScott Louis Panetti was scheduled to be executed at 6 pm local time, on Wednesday, December 3, 2014, at the Walls Unit of the Huntsville State Penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. Less than 12 hours before his scheduled execution, he was granted a stay of execution.  Fifty-six-year-old Scott is convicted of murdering 55-year-old Joe Gaitan Alvardo, Jr., and his wife, 56-year-old Amanda Carrion Alvarado, the parents of his estranged wife, in their home on September 8, 1992, in Fredericksburg, Texas.  Scott has spent the last 19 years on Texas’ death row.

Scott was granted a stay of execution by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to allow time for the court to consider an appeal that was “late arriving” and the “complex legal question at issue in this matter.” Oral arguments will be scheduled soon.  Scott’s attorneys have argued that Scott is mentally incompetent, and thereby ineligible for the death penalty, according to a 2002 Supreme Court ruling.  They also claim that Scott is schizophrenic, and had been for years before the murders.  The Attorney General’s Office has announced that it will not fight the stay.
Scott was an all-star football player at his high school, before dropping out after the 10th grade.  He joined the United States Navy but was discharged for mental illness.  Scott was hospitalized several times throughout his life for schizophrenia.  Prior to his arrest, Scott worked as a blacksmith.  As an adult, Scott abused alcohol and had abusive behavior, causing his second wife, Sonja Alvarado, to leave him in August of 1992. Sonja also took the couple’s three-year-old daughter.
On the morning of September 8, 1992, Scott Panetti shaved his head, dressed in military fatigues, and drove to the home of his in-laws, where his wife and their daughter were staying.  Panetti broke in and shot Joe and Amanda, his wife’s parents.  Panetti then kidnapped Sonja and their daughter.  Panetti released them later that day and turned himself in to police, claiming his alter-ego “Sarge” controlled him at the time of the crime.
Panetti chose to represent himself at trial and included Jesus Christ, the Pope, and John F. Kennedy among his list of witnesses to be subpoenaed.  Witnesses described the trial as a “farce” and a “circus.”  Panetti would often ramble unintelligibly during his statements.

Scott Penetti was scheduled to be executed in 2004, however, he was granted a stay of execution to allow time for a mental competency examination.  Since then, a doctor has examined Scott and reported his findings to US District Judge Sam Sparks.  Judge Sparks concluded that although Scott more than likely “suffers from paranoid delusions of some type,” Scott has “both a factual and rational understanding that he committed those murders, was tried and convicted, and is sentenced to die for them.”  Those who support Scott’s execution claim that Scott was pretending to be insane, while those who oppose Scott’s execution point to his long record of psychiatric facility stays.  His lawyers are asking that Scott be re-examined for mental competency.
Scott has had his request for a stay of execution denied by State District Judge N. Keith Williams.  The stay was requested by Scott’s attorneys to give additional time for Scott’s mental competency to be reviewed.  Scott had also had a request for a stay of execution denied by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the Texas Board of Pardon and Paroles unanimously rejected a request for clemency and a request for a stay of execution.
A 2002 Supreme Court decision forbade the execution of a mentally incompetent individual, however, that does not mean that any inmate suffering from mental illness is automatically barred from execution.  The inmate can be executed so long as they have a rational understanding of why they are being executed.
Please pray for peace and healing for the family of Joe and Amanda Alvardo.  Please pray for strength for the family of Scott.  Please pray that Scott may come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

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