Death Penalty

Missouri Set to Execute Man Who Is Literally Missing Part of His Brain

If this doesn't count as mentally disabled...

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Cecil Clayon's brain scan
Supplied to The Guardian

The Supreme Court of the United States has made itself clear: The government may not execute people with severe mental disabilities.

Missouri law is also clear. It reads: "No person condemned to death shall be executed if as a result of mental disease or defect he lacks capacity to understand the nature and purpose of the punishment about to be imposed…"

Yet today, at 6 p.m. local time, the state of Missouri will execute Cecil Clayton, a man who 43 years ago suffered a devastating accident in which a section of his brain "the size of a fist" was damaged and had to be removed. Reports The Guardian:

A man who before [the accident] occurred had been a teetotal devoted husband and father of five, who preached and sang the gospel in his own ministry, developed severe memory loss and despair, sank into alcoholism and split from his wife, had hallucinations and displayed bouts of violent rage.

He has the reading ability of a nine-year-old, has visual and auditory hallucinations in which he is convinced that he is accompanied by a man and a woman wherever he goes, is incapable of simple tasks such as ordering food from the prison commissary, and is under the delusion that he will never be executed because God will intervene and free him so that he can return to his preaching and gospel singing.

Three forensic psychologists have spent time with Clayton in multiple visits spanning 2005 to this year, and have unanimously and consistently concluded that he is entitled to constitutional protections because of his mental incompetence.

This is not a question of guilt—no one denies that Clayton shot to death a police officer in 1996. This is a question of competency, and whether we ought to be in the business of putting to death people suffering from mental illness or disability so severe they are unable to care for themselves without assistance. (One of the psychologists who evaluated Clayton said just that about the level of his intellectual functioning.) The Court has ruled that doing so violates the Eighth Amendment, but it also left states to determine what's meant by severely mentally ill—and the state of Missouri is refusing to acknowledge that the category applies in this case.

There is some precedent for that decision. In 1992, a convicted cop killer, Rickey Ray Rector, was executed in Arkansas. Rector had sustained the equivalent of a frontal lobotomy from a self-inflicted gunshot wound that left him with a "dim simplicity" and little awareness of his situation. Then–Gov. Bill Clinton, intent on being seen as tough on crime, nevertheless left the campaign trail to fly home and sign the death warrant himself.

Rector's was the last execution in this country of someone missing part of his or her brain. That may change tonight.

Back in December, I wrote about the growing opposition among conservatives to capital punishment—especially in cases where the person to be put to death is clearly mentally unsound. Back then, a catalog of conservative leaders signed on to a letter urging Texas Gov. Rick Perry to commute the sentence of another mentally ill inmate, Scott Panetti. The pressure appeared to work, with the courts ordering a last-minute stay of execution.

No such effort has materialized this time around. Despite the gaping hole in Clayton's brain scan, the conservative leaders who months ago were so troubled by what was about to happen in Texas seem unmoved by what will happen hours from now in Missouri.

See Reason TV's recent video The Battle for Death Penalty Transparency here:

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  1. …the conservative leaders who months ago were so troubled by what was about to happen in Texas seem unmoved by what will happen hours from now in Missouri.

    Duh. He killed a police.

    1. That’s it in a nutshell. Some pigs are more equal and all.

  2. Missouri law is also clear. It reads: “No person condemned to death shall be executed if as a result of mental disease or defect he lacks capacity to understand the nature and purpose of the punishment about to be imposed…”

    Sure would’ve been nice of the law to at least suggest what to do with the people with pathological mental defects who lack the capacity to understand the nature and purpose of their punishment.

    1. Sorry, *violent* pathological defects.

      IMO, the condition of your brain is of little consequence, once fist connects with nose.

      1. Really? You don’t see the difference between a perfectly healthy 35 year old electrical engineer planning and carrying out the murder of his wife to get the insurance money and a man with severe brain damage who can no longer understand the world around him in any meaningful way who is driven to violent rages attacking and killing someone in a fit?

        Sometimes people with alzheimers or other progressive brain diseases that cause dementia can descend into fits of rage as their hold on reality and ability to understand their situation deteriorates. They can sometimes be so incapacitated by their illness that they cannot take care of themselves in any way, even to feed themselves or go to the toilet. But their body remains in top shape. So they can become dangerously violent as people they don’t recognize at all try to care for them. Should we charge them with crimes when they lash out at the orderly trying to change their diaper?

        I’d say intent makes all the difference in the world. Sure, your nose is just as broken if I accidentally bump into you as it is if I haul off and punch you in the schnoz, but for most people the intent factors into their reaction to a huge degree.

        1. What do you do with a dog who attacks your grandkid?

          Should the CNAs just resign themselves to getting punched in the nose coz Grandpa’s not quite right in the head?

          Humans are quite fine with the notion that intent is not a necessary factor to a classification as dangerous. We start hemming and hawing about what to do about it after that.

          Grown-up Conversation We’ll Never Have #329

        2. Intent is what makes an action criminal.

          Violence, too, is an intent rather than an action.

          Back in the early 1990s, I had 6 years of training in European Martial Arts – to put it simply, my friends and I would swing 8-pound iron bars at each others’ heads. . .
          We wore 50 pounds of plate armour, to be certain. . . but the fact remains that we were trying to clobber one another with steel swords.

          There was no violence involved, though – because our Intent was not violent. We weren’t trying to hurt each other – although that happened on a daily basis – we were simply having fun and learning combat techniques that went out of style 400 years or more ago.

        3. You don’t see the difference between a perfectly healthy 35 year old electrical engineer planning and carrying out the murder of his wife to get the insurance money and a man with severe brain damage who can no longer understand the world around him in any meaningful way who is driven to violent rages attacking and killing someone in a fit?

          Sure I see a difference. If the impetus and focus of the electrical engineer’s act is solely his wife, once she’s dead, he’s no longer a threat to anyone else. Moreover, (if you believe in deterrent and/or criminal reform) he can serve his time and return as a fully functional engineer.

          The very argument of them being pathologically mentally handicapped implies they aren’t in control of their actions and that they are, thereby, entirely likely to repeat offend. Additionally, since they are incapable of understanding their actions enough to prevent them, they are incapable of reform. If they aren’t capable of understanding their punishment and reform is an impossibility, I don’t see how confinement for the rest of their natural lives is the optimal solution for the taxpayer or the accused.

          As I said below, if there is a volunteer or family member who is willing to be punched in the nose, in private, it’s none of my business. However, in this case, the guilty party had several public altercations with friends/family that required police intervention and the last one resulting in a cold blooded killing.

    2. What’s the point of a law like that? If you don’t know you’re going to be killed, isn’t that less of an imposition than if you do know?

      And what’s the point of this whole business? That you shouldn’t be killed if you’re brainwise or mentally less than fully human?

  3. my neighbor’s mother makes $86 /hour on the internet . She has been fired from work for 8 months but last month her check was $12427 just working on the internet for a few hours. see it here…………..

    ????? http://www.netjob70.com

  4. What is the purpose of executing someone like Clayton?

    1. He’s violently pathological. If family can’t keep him, what’s the purpose of the rest of us doing so?

      1. Wait. So if family could keep him, he gets to live? What the fuck?

        1. Wait. So if family could keep him, he gets to live? What the fuck?

          Yeah. If violently pathological constituted frequently punching holes in walls, and the family kept him away from walls that weren’t his/theirs to punch holes in, it’s none of my business how violently pathological he is.

          The second he steps foot off his property and punches a hole in the wall, the question is what is the owner (and/or society) going to do with him?

          Maybe there’s a need for someone who can’t understand right and wrong to wander around killing cops, but by everyone’s testimony, there’s no guarantee that cops will be the only ones killed.

    2. As a warning to anyone else who would dare kill one of the king’s men.

      If they could hang, draw, and quarter him, then nail his body parts to the courthouses in Kansas City, Saint Louis, Cape Girardeau and Jefferson City.

      Officer Safety All.

      1. It’s an especially dire warning to people who, like the “exectutee” of this article, cannot understand what’s going on around them.

    3. #onlycoplivesmatter

      1. #Gohomesafely

      2. #andtheirfriendsandfamiliesandretiredcops

  5. “No person condemned to death shall be executed if as a result of mental disease or defect he lacks capacity to understand the nature and purpose of the punishment about to be imposed…”

    That’s interesting. One wonders how he was convicted if he can’t possibly understand these simple concepts. One of the precepts of standing trial is that you understand the charges brought against you. The legal definition of insanity is that you don’t understand your actions and/or their consequences, and don’t even understand that they were wrong.

    1. He laid a hand on one of the holies of holies, a king’s man.

      1. I suppose that probably figured highly.

    2. FYTW. The law means what we say it means.

  6. The solution is simple — life in prison. Then again, the prison might be connected to the nose of launch vehicle programmed with a trajectory for the sun.

    1. Or the prison might be attached to a planet suffering irreversible global warming.

      1. We could start a new reality show on Fx where violent, mentally-ill criminals vie for food and shelter each week. When you get voted off the island, they dump you in the bay.

  7. Much like abortion, the death penalty is a subject that I cannot rise past apathy for. However, if you are a proponent of the death penalty what difference does the mental deficiency of the doomed matter? If he was found able to stand trial, is he NOT found able to suffer the punishment along with the verdict of his guilt?

    For those who oppose the death penalty, doesn’t the same hold true? If you oppose the death penalty, why does it matter about the mental deficiency of the doomed?

    Are there actually people who are cool with the death penalty until a certain IQ floor is found? At that point is it horrible when it was tolerable before?

    1. Some people see child-like qualities in retards. That’s where the aversion comes from.

      1. Well, when everything is described as “has the ______ capacity of a 9 yr-o…” it sometimes comes off that way.

        1. Does “has the capacity of an adult 9-yr-old who murdered an armed police officer” make the picture clearer?

      2. Then instead of killing people, why not do brain surgery to diminish their capacity to that of a 9 YO?

    2. Much like abortion, the death penalty is a subject that I cannot rise past apathy for. However, if you are a proponent of the death penalty what difference does the mental deficiency of the doomed matter?

      As a death penalty supporter, the mental capacity (or lack thereof) makes a big difference. I have no interest in executing people who don’t understand their own crime or actions. It seems to me the very definition of cruel and unusual.

      1. but if they were found guilty and sentenced to death, wouldn’t the fact that they already understand their crime/action be established?

        Wouldn’t this, then, be moot? Why would this not be grounds for exoneration but it WOULD be grounds to stay an execution?

        1. Unfortunately you’re touching on my original comment above. If they’re incapable of understanding the punishment and circumstances surrounding it, it seems they were incompetent to stand trial, which I agree, calls the conviction into question.

          And unfortunately the whole ‘has the _______ capacity of a 9 yr-o’ is woefully overused.

          When my daughter was nine, and had she been caught skipping school and subsequently sentenced to death, she’d have understood the circumstances surrounding the punishment. She’d think it was all grossly unfair, but she’d understand that skipping school had serious consequences.

        2. “but if they were found guilty and sentenced to death, wouldn’t the fact that they already understand their crime/action be established?”

          In the U.S.?

    3. That’s the position of the Supreme Court, and also a number of conservatives. The story linked in the second-to-last paragraph addresses the latter.

    4. Well, it depends on why you view the DP is a legitimate method of sentencing. If you view it as a deterrent, then no, it doesn’t matter how dumb the person is. Of course, the DP is not a deterrent.

      If you view it as punishment for the crime committed then it doesn’t really make sense to kill someone who doesn’t understand why he/she is being killed. Of course, the DP is punishment.

      1. How can death be punishment if you don’t survive it to learn your lesson? Are you saying that the benefit comes in the afterlife, which you’ll after-live better as a result of punishment during regular life?

        1. If you view it as a deterrent, then no, it doesn’t matter how dumb the person is.

          It’s pretty good at deterring any repeat offenses of those it’s applied to. Regardless of how high or low their IQ.

    5. “If you oppose the death penalty, why does it matter about the mental deficiency of the doomed?”

      It doesn’t.. My opposition is based on absolute certainty the government will fuck this up. The defendants are irrelevant.

  8. He was smart enough to drive a car, hide his gun, and ask for an alibi.

    http://www.cncpunishment.com/f…..ch-17-2015

  9. Not competent enough to stand trial, but competent enough to murder someone? Tough shit. Fry him.

  10. Ricky Ray Rector was mentally disabled because he shot himself in the head *after* murdering a couple of other people.

    The whole “we shouldn’t execute mentally incompetent people” thing refers to their mental capacity at the time the crime was committed. It isn’t meant as a get-out-of-execution-free card for people who killed in cold blood while in full possession of their wits.

    1. Ricky Ray Rector was mentally disabled because he shot himself in the head *after* murdering a couple of other people.

      IMO, Rector’s issue was more about the trial and/proceedings rather than any actual question of guilt or mental (in)stability. He chose to defend himself, dressed like a cowboy while doing so, called a bunch of famous witnesses (most of whom were dead), and generally butchered his own trial/defense.

      I understand the impetus behind the law, nobody wants to see Lennie die for accidentally killing Curly’s wife, but there are plenty of vile, murderous people who are entirely willing to live up to every aspect of the definition of batshit crazy and it, in no way, justifies or excuses their actions and certainly does not obligate the rest of us to subsidize and/or tolerate it.

  11. There are three categories of killer.

    The first understood the nature of their crime; they are guilty. Executing them is justice.

    The second are the ones who were unable to understand the nature of their crime, but can be cured of that deficiency; they are innocent like children. Executing them is wrong, because it destroys an innocent person for actions he is not responsible for.

    The third are permanently unable to understand the nature of their crime; they are as innocent as a rabid dog. Executing them is not justice, but merely sanity, the same as executing a rabid dog..

    Accordingly, the US Supreme Court and the letter-writers are all insane.

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