Friday, September 13, 2013

It's for Your Own Good. Really. Now Die

It appears that everyone agrees, Steven Staley is a paranoid schizophrenic.  In lay terms that means he's a fucking lunatic.  The question is what to do with him.

Brandi Grissom in the Texas Tribune gives some background.
Staley fatally shot Fort Worth Steak and Ale restaurant manager Robert Read in the course of a 1989 robbery that came at the end of a four-state crime spree with two accomplices. He was sentenced to death in 1991.
Staley has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Jail staffers have found Staley in his cell covered with his feces and urine. He has bruised himself by banging his head against walls, and he has lain catatonic for so long that he wore a bald spot on the back of his head. 
"He believes there is a big conspiracy orchestrated by the state and that everybody, everybody, is part of the conspiracy," his attorney, John Stickels, said in May 2012. "He believes that he was wrongfully convicted because of the conspiracy."
See, here's the thing. Staley's in prison in Texas. On death row. They want to kill him, but even by the peculiar standards of sanity that apply to such matters in the Lone Star State (see the case of Andre Thomas), Staley's too crazy to kill. Except when he's medicated. Which at the moment he is.
A bit more background.
In February 2006, Staley's execution was stayed after the court found him mentally incompetent. In 2006, he told psychologist Mark Cunningham that the jury found him guilty because the judge was trying to steal his one-of-a-kind faded red 1958 Pontiac pickup, which he said had a $1.5 million street value, and because Oprah Winfrey paid off the jury.

After that stay, Tarrant County state district Judge Wayne Salvant ordered Staley to be forcibly medicated.
Wednesday, the Court of Criminal Appeals ruled.
In this case, we are asked to decide whether state or federal law disallows the execution of a mentally ill inmate who was previously found incompetent to be executed and later became competent only after he was involuntarily medicated pursuant to a court order. 
That's the opening of the majority opinion which concluded that the court that ordered the forced medication had no statutory authority to do so, and that because Staley was incompetent to be killed when he wasn't medicated, he should be returned to that state and therefore not executed.  It's a terrific decision, but there's little in the way of broader principle in it.  It's not constitutional; it just interprets a couple of Texas statutes.  There were, of course, dissenting opinions

But this isn't a post about the opinions.  As I said, they're just about the statute.  Ho hum.  No, what's striking here is the prosecution.
Jim Gibson, an assistant criminal district attorney in Tarrant County, said the decision was disappointing and that the prosecutor's office is considering what steps to take next in the case. Without medication, he said, Staley will be left trapped with the demons in his head.

"We’ve always thought it was unfortunate that because of his actions he’s consigning himself into a descent into madness," Gibson said.
Ah, see, it wasn't to kill him. They wanted to medicate him so he'd be happier.  For his own good. 
Tarrant County prosecutors argued that Staley needed to be medicated not solely for purposes of competency for execution but also to protect him from his own frightening delusions and psychosis.
That thing about making it OK to kill him?  You know, like how chemotherapy causes hair to fall out.  Same thing.  A side effect.  You get the chemo, you'd rather not go bald, but hey, it's worth it.  Same here.  Staley gets his shit back together.  He'd rather not be killed, but hey, it's worth it.

And really, it makes the prosecutors happy.  So really, it's a win all around.

Chutzpah, they say, is killing your parents and pleading for leniency because you're an orphan.

Or maybe it's being a prosecutor in Tarrant County, Texas.

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