- January 5 - Three executions - all involving people who have dropped their appeals - are scheduled for the evening of Tuesday, Jan. 6 in the United States. Two of the executions involve Arkansas men with severe mental impairment.
"We are seeing more individuals with severe mental illness or mental impairment scheduled for execution," said Brian Roberts, executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. "We are also seeing an increase in the number of people on death row who are 'volunteering' to be executed. These phenomena are related. Death row conditions continue to deteriorate and prisons increasingly are used to warehouse people with severe mental problems. The public would be better served if people with mental health issues were treated before committing the crimes that landed them on death row."
The three people scheduled for execution Tuesday are:
***Charles Singleton, Arkansas. Singleton is scheduled to be executed for the murder of Mary Lou York in Ashley County. Both defense lawyers and prosecutors agree that Singleton suffers from serious mental illness and requires medication to prevent psychotic behavior. At issue in Singleton's case was whether the state could forcibly medicate Singleton in order to make him "sane" enough to execute. Singleton initially won appeals in lower courts; however, the full Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that he could be forcibly medicated and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
***Karl Roberts, Arkansas. Roberts is scheduled to be executed for the 1999 murder of his niece, Andria Brewer, in Polk County. As a youth, Roberts was run over by a dump truck while riding his bicycle. The resulting injury destroyed an estimated 15 percent of his brain, including the portion of his brain that directs impulse control. A prominent neurologist testified that "if it were not for the injury that Karl Roberts sustained...he would not have committed this crime. Prior to Karl's accident, he had no behavioral problems."
***Ynobe Matthews, Texas. Matthews is scheduled to be executed for the 2000 murder of Carolyn Casey in Brazos County. Matthews decided to end his appeals to spare his and his victim's families fromfurther anguish.
Singleton and Matthews are African American; Roberts is white. African Americans make up 12 percent of the U.S. population but 43 percent of the approximately 2,500 people on death rows.