steven staley

TEXAS – Steven Staley – execution STAYED

May 14, 2012 Source :

HOUSTON (AP) — The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Monday stopped this week’s scheduled execution of a convicted killer whose mental health had become an issue in his appeals.

The state’s highest criminal court gave a reprieve to Steven Staley, 49, who was set for lethal injection Wednesday evening in Huntsville for the 1989 shooting death of a Fort Worth restaurant manager during a botched robbery.

“This is great,” said Staley’s attorney, John Stickels. “I’m very happy.”

Prosecutors contended Staley was competent for execution, but Stickels in his appeal to the court said that was accomplished only because a state judge in Fort Worth improperly ordered Staley be given drugs to make him competent so the state of Texas could kill him.

The appeals court spent much of the ruling’s three pages recounting Staley’s case in the courts and only in a final paragraph specifically addressed the appeal, saying the court had determined the execution should be halted “pending further order by this court.”

It gave no reason. Justice Lawrence Meyers dissented from his eight colleagues but issued no dissenting opinion.

“I don’t know what’s next,” Stickels said. “It just orders the execution stayed and doesn’t order anything else. I’m not going to do anything until they tell me.”

TEXAS – Texas death row inmate’s mental health questioned

FILE - This undated file photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, shows Texas death row inmate Steven Staley. The outcome of legal wrangling about Staleyís mental health is likely to determine if the former laborer from Denver is put to death this week in Texas for a slaying almost a quarter-century ago in Fort Worth while he was an escapee from a Colorado halfway house. Photo: Texas Department Of Criminal Justice / AP Steven Staley

may 14, 2012 Source :

Prosecutors argue Steven Staley is competent to be executed

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — The outcome of legal wrangling about condemned killer Steven Staley’s mental health is likely to determine if the former laborer is put to death this week in Texas for a slaying almost a quarter-century ago in Fort Worth.

Prosecutors contend he’s competent to be executed. His lawyer says Staley is severely mentally ill, suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, and has been observed catatonic or lying on the floor of his jail cell covered in urine.

Staley, 49, faces lethal injection Wednesday evening for the fatal shooting of a Steak and Ale restaurant manager who was taken hostage during a botched robbery in October 1989. The arrest of Staley and two accomplices after a wild 20-mile car and foot chase ended a series of robberies, assaults and at least one other killing as the trio wreaked havoc in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

In a written statement, Staley implicated himself in the slaying of 35-year-old Bob Read. And since he arrived on death row in 1991, his mental competence became an issue as his punishment neared.

Prosecutors say he’s legally competent, and state District Court Judge Wayne Salvant has ordered him to be medicated, by force if needed.

“If he was found not to be competent, the trial judge would just withdraw the (execution) date,” said Jim Gibson, an assistant district attorney in Tarrant County, where Staley was tried and convicted.

Staley also has been examined by psychologists, who determined the prisoner was competent.

“Everybody agrees he’s competent,” Gibson said. “… I think the issue is going to be why he’s competent.”

Staley’s lawyer, John Stickels, calls the competency artificial.

“The state has given him enough psychotropic drugs that the judge found he met the definition to be competent to be executed,” said Stickels, who is asking the courts to halt the execution. “The whole reason he’s been medicated is to make him competent to be executed.”

Staley’s previous attorney called him “too nuts to be executed” when the courts stopped a scheduled execution in 2005. And Stickles said Staley’s severe mental illness has existed for several years and has been exacerbated by the forced drug regimen Stickles argues was illegally ordered by Salvant.

If lower courts refuse to stay the execution, Stickles said he’ll take his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which he said has not addressed the question of involuntary medication for the purposes of execution. When administered, the drugs leave Staley “with extreme sedation and zombie-like effects,” Stickles said in an appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

Read more:

TEXAS -Texas Wants To Drug a Prisoner So They Can Kill Him – Steven Staley

may 11, 2012 source :

Can the state force a person to take drugs in order to execute him? That is the grisly question raised by the case of Steven Staley, a convicted murderer who believes polygraph machines are controlling and torturing him. Even though he’s psychotic, Staley is scheduled to be executed next week, based on a judge’s order requiring him to take medication he has refused. If Texas actually goes ahead with this deeply disturbing plan, it will be the first state, as far as I can tell, to drug someone in order to carry out a death sentence. That is a distinction that no one on the planet should want to have.

Here are the facts of Staley’s crime: In September 1989, he escaped from a Denver jail and went on an armed robbery spree, hitting up nine businesses in four states. The last one was the Steak and Ale Restaurant in Tarrant County, Texas. Just before closing, Staley and two friends came in, and Staley herded the employees into a kitchen storeroom and made manager Robert Read open the cash registers and the safe. He then took Read as a hostage, forced him into the back of a car, and shot him dead during a high-speed chase by the police.

And here are the facts of Staley’s mental illness: He has a long history of paranoid schizophrenia and depression. Staley was abused as a child by his mother, who was also mentally ill; when he was 6 or 7 she tried to pound a wooden stake through his chest. His father was an alcoholic. Staley tried to kill himself as a teenager. Doctors who have examined Staley on death row have said that he talks in a robot-like monotone yet has “grandiose and paranoid” delusions, including the beliefs that he invented the first car and marketed a character from Star Trek. He has given himself black eyes and self-inflicted lacerations and has been found spreading feces and covered with urine. Medicated with the anti-psychotic drug Haldol, Staley complained of paralysis and sometimes appeared to be in a catatonic state. He has worn a bald spot on the back of his head from lying on the floor of his cell.

Staley was found competent to stand trial back in 1991. The standard is low: A defendant has to be able to understand the charges against him and consult rationally with his lawyer so he can aid in his own defense. The standard for competency at execution was set by Ford v Wainwright, a 1986 case in which the Supreme Court said that the Eighth Amendment’s bar against cruel and unusual punishment forbids execution of the “insane.” Indeed, at the time no state permitted such an execution. The court quoted British judges in the 17th century worrying about the “miserable spectacle” of “extream inhumanity and cruelty” presented by executing a “mad man.” It served no retributive purpose, Justice Thurgood Marshall wrote, to execute a person “who has no comprehension of why he has been singled out.” He also noted “the natural abhorrence civilized societies feel at killing one who has no capacity to come to grips with his own conscience or deity.”

The problem with Ford is that the justices’ holding didn’t match their rhetoric. A defendant can be executed as long as he shows some rational understanding that he is about to die and why. Many people with serious mental illness can grasp those basic facts, at least on some level. Among the many examples of seriously mentally ill people who have been found competent to be tried and executed is Scott Panetti, a delusional schizophrenic who represented himself in 1995 dressed in a purple cowboy suit. Panetti tried to call Jesus Christ and John Kennedy as witnesses. Then there’s the case of Andre Thomas, which is so horrific that I’m sorry to ask you to read the next two sentences. Thomas was tried and sentenced to death, for triple murders in which he cut out the hearts of his victims, six weeks after gouging out his right eye. In 2008, on death row, he gouged out his left eye and ate it. (Both Panetti and Thomas’s executions are on appeal in the Texas courts.)

OK, deep breath. In 2006, after Staley stopped his medication, Judge Wayne Salvant, in a moment of mercy, found him incompetent to be executed. The District Attorney for Tarrant County, Joe Shannon, Jr., unmercifully asked Salvant to order Staley to be forcibly medicated. Salvant entered the order, finding that medicating Staley was the only way to ensure his competency to be executed, and that “the State has an essential interest in ensuring that the sentence of this Court is carried out.”

What is behind Judge Salvant’s chilling decision? In two cases in the 1990s, the Supreme Court said that the government can forcibly medicate a mentally ill inmate if he is dangerous to himself or others, the treatment is in his medical interest, and there is no less intrusive alternative. In 2003, the court acknowledged concerns about side effects of the drugs, and emphasized that the treatment had to be medically appropriate. None of these cases involved pending executions, however. When death is the state’s end goal, how can anyone argue that forcible medication is in a prisoner’s medical interest? TheLouisiana and South Carolina supreme courts have both rejected that macabre contention in ruling that to drug someone in order to execute him would violate their state constitutions.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit cracked open the door to forcible medication in 2003, in ruling that the state could execute a man who’d regained competency by taking medication on death row. The constitution doesn’t preclude executing someone who is “artificially competent,” the court said. In that case, the prisoner wasn’t refusing to take his meds, so the scenario is different than Staley’s. But this is the legal precedent that Judge Salvant cited when he ruled that forcing Staley to take Haldol would be “medically appropriate”—even though the purpose of drugging him is to make him rational enough to kill him. 

I will pause in this grim tale to note, with relief, that the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association hold that it is ethically unacceptable for doctors to prescribe drugs to restore competency for the purpose of execution. This should be an easy call for the Texas courts as well. If it’s awful to imagine psychotic prisoners going without their meds, it’s more awful to force shots on them so the state can kill them. If Texas fails to grasp this, other inmates will follow Steven Staley. Mental illness is common on death row. The only reason that the issues raised in Staley’s case haven’t been decided before, defense lawyers tell me, is that humane prosecutors and judges don’t insist on executing people whose sanity is so uncertain.

There’s a larger question here, beyond the one about forcible medication. It’s about halting the execution of the seriously mentally ill in the same way, and because of similar concerns about a defendant’s impairment, that the states have stopped executing the mentally disabled. Kentucky recently considered such a law and Connecticut has one. If Texas and other states followed suit, we would be spared the miserable spectacle of executing people who commit terrible crimes, but also have terrible deficits. People like Steven Staley and Scott Panetti and Andre Thomas.

TEXAS – Steven Staley – Execution – may 16 – STAYED

Facts of the Case

On September 18, 1989, Steven Staley escaped from a community correctional center in Denver, Colorado. Following his escape, Staley embarked upon a series of nine armed robberies as he fled through four states from Colorado to Texas. On October 14, 1989, Staley, accompanied by two friends, Tracey Duke and Brenda Rayburn, went to the Steak and Ale Restaurant in Tarrant County, Texas for dinner. After dinner, and just prior to closing, Staley and Duke removed two semi-automatic pistols from Rayburn’s purse. Staley gathered the employees in the rear kitchen storeroom while Duke secured the front of the restaurant. While this was happening, an assistant manager escaped through a rear door and called the police.

Once all the staff was gathered in the storeroom, Staley demanded that the restaurant’s manager identify himself. Robert Read stepped forward. Read was then ordered by Staley to open the cash registers and the safe. Staley also forced the other employees to get down on the floor and throw out their wallets and purses. One person attempted to stand up, prompting Staley to kick him in the chest and threaten to “blow away” the “next person that puts their head up”.

While this was transpiring, the police, having been alerted by the assistant manager, arrived at the restaurant. Staley, believing that Read had activated a silent alarm, threatened to kill Read if he discovered that the police were outside. Read responded by assuring Staley that the restaurant had no such alarms. He volunteered to serve as a hostage if Staley promised not to hurt the other employees. Staley agreed to Read’s proposal and left the restaurant with Read, Duke and Rayburn, using Read as a human shield. They then hijacked a car and Staley pushed Read into the back seat with him. Police officers subsequently reported hearing several gunshots before the car pulled off and while the car was accelerating away. A high-speed chase ensued, ultimately ending when the stolen car broke down. Staley, Duke and Rayburn then attempted to flee the scene but were apprehended by the police. The police found Read dead in the back of the car. According to the medical examiner, Read had been shot in the head at point blank range. The evidence indicated that both Staley and Duke had shot Read.

On April 8, 1991 Steven Staley was found guilty of capital murder. He was subsequently sentenced to death on April 25, 1991. Prior to his conviction, Staley had given a written statement implicating himself in the shooting. Tracey Duke was sentenced to three life sentences in Texas and an additional 30 year sentence in Colorado for murder and armed robbery. Brenda Rayburn, as part of a plea bargain, was sentenced to 30 years.

With regard to his competency to be executed, Staley was examined by two experts, including Dr. Mark D. Cunningham, a clinical and forensic psychologist who submitted an affidavit on behalf of the defense. In his affidavit, Dr. Cunningham stated that although he found Staley to be coherent and generally orientated and aware of his impending execution (originally set for March 23rd), Staley’s unmedicated status, the psychotic symptoms he exhibited, and his “apparent growing psychotic decompensation” made “probable that he will become markedly more psychotic” between the time of evaluation (March 16, 2005) and his execution. As a corollary of this, Dr. Cunningham asserted that, as Staley’s “psychosis increases in severity, it may well diminish or negate his understanding” of his death sentence or the execution. He concluded that there was “no assurance that the awareness he displayed regarding his execution [during the examination] will be present at the time of his execution”.

Mental Illness

Staley suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. People diagnosed with such mental disorders frequently have a close biological relative with similar mental illnesses. In Staley’s case, his mother had a long history of mental illness. She was hospitalised in a psychiatric hospital on numerous occasions and treated with psychiatric medications and electroconvulsive therapy. Her records document an “acute schizophrenic episode”.

From an early age, Staley was exposed to violent and erratic behaviour. His mother attempted to pound a wooden stake through his chest at the age of six or seven and, at a later date, attempted to stab both Staley and his sister with a butcher’s knife. On each occasion she was committed to mental health institutions. Staley’s father was a severe alcoholic and was killed in a road traffic accident in 1985. His maternal grandfather also committed suicide. Staley, himself, subsequently attempted suicide when he was 16 or 17 and was later placed on suicide precautions during his incarceration.

Following his incarceration, Staley was hospitalized on numerous occasions for psychiatric care. The first instance occurred on June 17, 1994 and lasted for 3 months until his discharge on September 17, 1994. Immediately following this however, Staley was found unresponsive in his cell and subsequently re-admitted on September 21, 1994 for six weeks. He was forcibly medicated despite his refusals. Staley was then diagnosed with major depression with delusional features and schizoid personality disorder with anti-social features.

Staley subsequently refused to co-operate with medical treatment, attend doctor’s appointments or attend clinics. This culminated in a nurse being called to his cell to treat a seizure. Staley was then re-hospitalised, during which time he reported feelings of paralysis and audio hallucinations with voices torturing him. Again, he was released and then re-hospitalised, this time, however Staley was catatonic. Subsequent psychiatric evaluations “suggested a psychotic valley which is typical of schizophrenia, paranoid type”. Hallucinations, delusions and extreme suspiciousness were noted. He was then discharged.

Staley’s behaviour subsequently deteriorated and he exhibited psychotic, bizarre and on occasions, hostile behaviour. He also reported hallucinations, paralysis and exhibited delusional thinking. Staley was hospitalised ten times in total and diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and anti-social personality type. During this period, Staley also suffered from depression and was placed on suicide precautions. Staley was most recently hospitalised for approximately 19 months from November 28, 2002 to June 17, 2004.

The diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia made during his incarceration is further supported by an examination by Dr. Cunningham. Dr. Cunningham also concluded that Staley suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and is psychotic. In his March 17, 2005 affidavit, Dr. Cunningham reports that Staley’s “speech is characterised by robot-like tone, odd syntax, neologisms (personally created words), alliterations, pseudo-intellectualism, excessive detail, and repetitive phrasing”. Staley also reported “grandiose and paranoid delusional beliefs” believing himself to be on a part-time “security mission to save the world from war” with security clearance. Staley further believed that Texas was out to kill him, either by lethal injection or, “if found innocent possibly by shooting in the outside world, stabbing or poisoning by fellow inmates in prison and general mischievousness”. Staley also claimed to have invented the first car, sold the blueprints to a character from Star Trek and to have been recruited as an undercover police officer at the age of thirteen.

from Steven Staley blog :

Sat Mar 3, 2007 1:13 am (PST)

Order to forcibly medicate killer is debated


FORT WORTH — For more than eight months, officials have been forcibly injecting convicted murderer Steven Kenneth Staley with anti- psychotic drugs that one day may make him sane enough to be executed.Whether Staley deserves to die is not an issue — that was decided long ago by a Tarrant County jury and upheld by the appellate courts. The controversy surrounding Staley now is a complex issue at the forefront of a legal debate about the death penalty in the United States:

Is it constitutional to forcibly medicate a mentally ill Death Row inmate to make him competent enough to be executed?

Staley’s attorney, Jack Strickland, says forcibly medicating Staley, 44, is cruel and unusual punishment and should be stopped immediately.
Tarrant County prosecutor Chuck Mallin says forcibly medicating Staley is necessary to control his psychosis and to carry out a
sentence imposed by a jury more than 15 years ago.
On Thursday, both sides argued the issue before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which is expected to issue an opinion in the near
The nine-judge panel heard the arguments before a standing-room- only crowd in an auditorium at Texas Wesleyan School of Law in downtown Fort Worth.
The state’s highest criminal court occasionally travels from Austin to law schools around the state to give students a chance to hear
arguments and see the criminal justice system at work.

Crime and punishment

On Oct. 14, 1989, Staley and two friends went to a Steak and Ale restaurant in west Fort Worth and sat down to eat.

After finishing their meal, they pulled out semiautomatic weapons and demanded access to the cash register and the safe. As customers and employees huddled at the rear of the restaurant, an assistant manager slipped out and called police.

A short time later, police surrounded the restaurant, and 35-year-old Robert Read, the manager, offered himself as a hostage to spare the others. The three took him up on his offer and held him at gunpoint as they tried to escape.

When Read resisted after they tried to force him into a hijacked car, he was fatally shot.

In April 1991, a Tarrant County jury sentenced Staley to death. Four months later, he found himself on Death Row.

Confined to a tiny cell, Staley — a Charles Manson look-alike who suffers from a severe form of paranoid schizophrenia — was prone to
lying in his urine-soaked cell and blackening his eyes by repeatedly beating himself in the face.

Over the years, he has refused to take his medication because he thinks he is being poisoned. He has been hospitalized up to 19 times.

Three times, Staley has managed to avoid execution after experts determined that he is incompetent and doesn’t understand why he is being put to death.Federal and state law prohibits the execution of an insane or incompetent person.

Last year, Mallin and fellow prosecutor Jim Gibson filed a motion asking state District Judge Wayne Salvant to forcibly medicate Staley to restore his competence and carry out the jury’s verdict.

Staley was moved to the Tarrant County Jail and continued to refuse to take his medication. In April, after a long hearing in which
Staley picked at his hair and mumbled nonsensical phrases, Salvant granted the motion — marking what is believed to be the first time a Texas judge has ordered an incompetent Death Row inmate to be forcibly medicated.

Strickland responded by filing a flurry of legal paperwork, seeking an emergency stay of Salvant’s order. But his requests were denied.

During the week of June 5, according to court documents, Salvant’s order was carried out and officials began forcibly medicating Staley in the Tarrant County Jail, where he remains today.

The appeal

During the hearing Thursday, Strickland asked the Court of Criminal Appeals to stop Salvant’s order until he has time to explore all his
legal options.

“If allowed to stand, it would be the first time such an order has been found to be valid,” Strickland said.

Strickland maintains that, in addition to being cruel and unusual, forcibly medicating Staley is indecent; violates medical ethics as
well as Staley’s rights to privacy and liberty; and produces artificial competence with psychotropic drugs that have painful and
debilitating side effects.

Mallin, meanwhile, urged the court not to intervene, saying he believes that it lacks jurisdiction to stop Salvant’s order.

Mallin said that Staley suffers when he is unmedicated and that the drugs’ side effects do not outweigh their benefits. Treating Staley,
Mallin contended, is necessary and medically appropriate.

“When he takes it, he is competent,” Mallin said. “It is by his own volition that he has decided that he is going to be incompetent. ”

Strickland and Mallin each received about 20 minutes to state their cases but, most of the time, the judges peppered them with questions.

When one of the judges questioned whether they had authority to weigh in on the issue at this stage, Mallin’s reply drew laughs: “The
mountain came to Muhammad,” he said, referring to the panel’s trip from Austin to Fort Worth.

“But I don’t want to be rude and say you need to go home.”

Strickland acknowledged that the case has entered uncharted waters. He told the panel that if Salvant’s order is stayed, it would let him
explore options that might include trying to commute Staley’s sentence to life in prison.

In his final words to the court, Strickland urged the judges not to let Texas become the first state to forcibly medicate someone so he
is competent enough to be executed.

Staley believes that he works for the CIA, that judges and prosecutors were conspiring to steal his car, and that the Prince of  Wales has a summer home in Huntsville and communicates with him telepathically, Strickland said.

“We have an opportunity to do what is right, what is fair, what is decent and what is humane, and that is not to execute a crazy person,” he said.

It could be months before the Court of Criminal Appeals issues its opinion. Officials said the panel could decide that it doesn’t have
jurisdiction and decline to get involved; could agree with Salvant and allow the forcible medication to continue; could stop Salvant’s
order; or could come up with another solution.

Regardless of the decision, one thing is certain: The issue is far from over.