Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sure He's Crazy. What's Your Point?

There's lots of argument around the margins, but nobody much disputes the basic point.  Abdul Awkal is crazy as a bedbug. At least, he is when he's not on his meds.
Was he legally insane at the moment he killed his wife and his brother-in-law? Is he technically competent to be executed?* The answer to those questions, at least the answers accepted by judges and the Parole Board and, it would appear, Governor Kasich, are "No" and "Yes."  Not insane when he killed, competent to be killed.
So off with his head.
The Parole Board, as you know, voted two weeks ago that he should be killed. It wasn't unanimous (though at 8-1 it wasn't exactly a nail-biter, either), nor did it have to be.  It's not actually binding, either.  The Governor has to wait for the Board before he can grant clemency, but he has absolute authority to do what he wants regardless of what they say.**
Oh, sure, they said, he suffers from Schizoaffective Disorder, Depressive Type, and has hallucinations and delusions.  (For just one instance, at least some of the time he believes that he'll be executed at the direction of the CIA).
But the docs say that he knows (at least some of the time) that he'll be killed because he killed two people. Which is all that matters, really.
It's what makes him competent.
Something clearly different from sane.
Back in 2009, talking about the then-impending (and since carried out) execution of John Allen Muhammad by the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia, I wrote this.
There you have it. If you're crazy enough, we can't kill you. Unless you happen to be crazy in exactly the right way. And oh, yeah, unless it's politically expedient. 
Abdul Awkal is scheduled to be murdered next Wednesday, June 6, at 10 in the morning.
Yesterday the Governor signed off on it.
There's still time for him to change his mind.
Or for a court to intervene.
I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you.

*There's an actual standard for that, set out by Justice Powell in his concurring opinion in Ford v. Wainwright.
I would hold that the Eighth Amendment forbids the execution only of those who are unaware of the punishment they are about to suffer and why they are to suffer it.
**Governor Ted clearly felt free to do that, commuting death sentences they said should be carried out and killing those they said should get clemency.

1 comment:

  1. The mentally ill are the most vulnerable people in our society. There is no real cure for mental illness and the (in)justice system has little to no real experience with it. For instance, we now have conclusive proof that mental illness is a physical disease. We don't know the cause, but we do know that the shape of the brain actually changes when a person is mentally ill.

    Give the Governor a bad head cold then tell him he's going to be flogged at high noon if he sneezes or coughs. Let him sweat for a while, then draw the parallel between his situation and mental illness.

    Maybe it'll work.

    If not, you get to administer the first ten strokes. I get to wield the whip for the next ten.