Social Pressure Works: Court Orders Stay of Execution for Scott Panetti


Earlier today, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the imminent execution of a convicted murderer named Scott Panetti. He was set to be killed less than eight hours later at 6 p.m. local time.

The reasoning given was "to allow us to fully consider the late arriving and complex legal questions at issue in this matter." It's not clear what new information or "late arriving" developments sparked the decision, but it seems highly likely that sustained, vocal opposition from a large number of conservative leaders, including former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, played a role. A letter signed by nearly two-dozen such individuals argues that Panetti is not of sound mind and that, as a result, taking his life would be immoral.

Said Marc Hyden of the group Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty in a statement after the announcement:

Political conservatives and Evangelicals from Ron Paul to Jay Sekulow have helped awaken our nation to what many view as a travesty of justice. Texas was about to cross a line by executing a severely mentally ill man. A wide array of conservative and faith leaders have spoken out in record numbers about this case. We have made it abundantly clear that numerous conservatives and Evangelicals view executing those who are mentally ill as a violation of our values as Americans. Conservatives have demonstrated we are firmly part of what appears to be a national consensus against executing people who are mentally ill.

See my colleague Lauren Galik's discussion of the Panetti case here.

Read my examination of shifting conservative attitudes about capital punishment here

Or watch "3 Reasons to Get Rid of the Death Penalty" from Reason TV, below.

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