U.S. District Judge Thomas Phillips, ruling from the bench this afternoon, declared that Daryl Holton is competent to waive his appeals, thus clearing the way for Holton to be executed in less than two weeks. In doing so, the judge ignored clear evidence that Holton has suffered from major depression and psychosis for more than twenty years, that Holton was suffering from these conditions at the time of the crime, and that Holton has a long series of suicidal impulses which may now be guiding his behavior, especially when we take into account his recent decision to die by electrocution rather than lethal injection.
The sad fact is, of course, that under the ludicrously narrow definition of competence set up by state law, the judge may be, in a strictly legalistic sense, right. Our legal definitions of incompetence have not evolved in 100 years, while our medical understanding of mental illness has increased exponentially. Thus, a man with clearly diagnosed mental illness directing his actions both currently and at the time of the crime is set to be murdered by the state of Tennessee only fourteen days from now.
The one ray of hope escaping from the court proceedings today is that the judge has agreed to issue a Certificate of Appealability. This document would say that reasonable jurors could disagree over the findings and might help convince the Sixth Circuit to grant a stay. However, there is certainly no guarantee, so we at TCASK will continue our plans for clemency and vigiling.
Download a Daryl Holton flyer to post in your school, workplace, church etc.
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