Executions of Inmates with Mental Impairments Continue

Although Ford v. Wainwright and Atkins v. Virginia made it unconstitutional to execute the insane or those who suffer an intellectual disability, it is clear that states continue to do so. Yesterday, Texas executed Yokamon Hearn, despite the fact that he had brain damage since childhood and suffered from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome- mitigating evidence that trial attorneys failed to investigate and present in court.

Hearn was the first inmate to be put to death in Texas via a single dose of the sedative pentobarbital. Texas followed other states such as Ohio, Arizona, Idaho, and Washington in using this single-drug procedure. Execution states have been having a tough time acquiring the necessary drugs to maintain the traditional three-drug lethal injection as European drug manufacturers have banned their products from being used for execution and the FDA has been ordered to crack down on importation of unapproved drugs.

Georgia is the latest state to announce that they will also switch to the one-drug protocol starting with Warren Hill, who is now scheduled to be executed on Monday, July 23. Hill’s appeals have been denied and it looks as though the state will put him to death, even though a lower court judge ruled him to be intellectually disabled and many jurors have spoken out that they would not have sentenced him to death had they known of the history of his abuse and intellectual disability.

Texas has also set an execution date of August 1 for Marcus Druery even though lawyers and prison officials question his sanity. Texas Defender Service Kate Black explained that Druery is not competent and his execution would be unconstitutional. “The state’s own experts have diagnosed him as having paranoid and disorganized schizophrenia. He’s been housed in the psychiatric unit. So, they’re well aware of his irrationality, and yet have still sought an execution date in this case.” A preliminary hearing is scheduled for July 24 where a court will decide whether a full competency investigation is needed.

(Photo courtesy of Lethalinjection.org)

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