Greg Thompson on 60 Minutes

Last night, 60 minutes did a story on Greg Thompson (read the story and view the video). Greg Thompson was convicted of the murder of Brenda Lane on January 1, 1985. Overall, the story was a good one and will serve to shed more light to the public on the troubling issues of mental illness and the death penalty. The 60 minutes correspondent, Lara Logan asked some questions that I thought were blunt and inopportune to the moment–however, she also did an excellent job in allowing the public to truly see Greg Thompson and to fully view his current delusional and psychotic thought process.

Ms. Logan asked Thompson what would happen if he were to discontinue his regimen of 10 pills a day and bi-monthly injections. “In a few days I would like lose my mind and it would be trying to explode on me,” he replied. “I got in a fight with the guards a lot of times, you know. Tried to kill a few.” Ms. Logan asked he if had ever tried to kill any of the guards. “No,” Thompson said. “But at the time they was turning into insects. And I wanted to kill them…Yeah, they were giant insects,” Thompson said. “They was acting just like the guards, but they were aliens. And I had to kill the aliens. They were attacking the world.”

While statements like these support the mental illness claims that Thompson’s attorneys Dana Chavis and Steve Kissinger are purporting, the 60 minutes story took us back further to the murder itself. Thompson is able to recount the murder in explicit detail. Also it was Thompson who gave clear directions to the investigating officer as to where to find the body. Ms. Logan asked Frankie Floied, the investigator of the murder, what was going through his head when having the phone conversation with Thompson to help find the body. “How calm he was,” the investigator remembered. “There was no remorse. There was no passion. It was just matter of fact. ‘If you’ll take, you take this road, this road, this road and this road.” He later remarked that Thompson was “Cold, impassioned. Just a cruel person.”

Mental illness is widely misunderstood. I don’t believe a sane person would behave the way Thompson did, giving explicit directions and indicating little remorse to what had transpired. Our legal understanding of mental illness has not kept pace with our medical knowledge. Thus, to be deemed “mentally competent” to face execution, a person is only required to know that they are going to be executed, and know why. Ms. Logan asked Dana Chavis a tough question following up on this point. “If he knew what he was doing at the time, and he was competent to be executed at the time that sentence was given, why shouldn’t he die for what he did?”

“I think the fact that Greg Thompson can remember things does not detract from the fact that at the time of the crime he was suffering delusions and he was hearing voices,” Chavis said.

“Never brought up at the trial,” Logan pointed out.

“That’s correct, never brought up at the trial because the trial attorneys did not consult with the proper people that would have seen those clear signs of Greg’s psychosis at the time, the clear signs of psychosis that everybody agrees about right now,” Chavis said.

Thompson’s current mental illness should not be under examination–the man is clearly mentally ill. However, the crux of this case is whether or not the state will retroactively look at his mental illness at the time of the murder for which he was convicted for. I find it tough to argue with this statement that Chavis made. “For over 20 years, prison doctors have administered very powerful anti-psychotic drugs to Greg Thompson. I don’t know of any doctor that would prescribe or force that type of medication upon a person unless they believed they were truly psychotic,” Chavis replied.

60 Minutes also interviewed the only surviving family member of Barbara Lane who feels that she and her family deserve justice and the execution of Thompson. What Thompson was convicted for was reprehensible but I hope that Ms. Lane saw the final statement that Thompson made in the interview and could find forgiveness, without an execution, for a very troubled human being.

“If you were executed what do you think would happen to you afterwards? What comes next?” Logan asked.

“Well, I know that the dead can speak,” Thompson said.

“The dead can speak? You think you would die?” Logan asked

“I think it’d be a horrible ending,” Thompson said. “Because if the dead can speak that means you got thought in the grave. You got thoughts going on in the grave. I don’t know about that.”

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