WASHINGTON - May 7 - The state of Texas is scheduled to execute Kelsey Patterson, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, for the 1992 murders of Louis Oates and Dorothy Harris in Anderson County. Patterson experiences hallucinations, delusions, confused thinking and altered senses, emotions, and behaviors. He believes that he has received a "permanent stay from execution based on innocence," despite his May 18th execution date.
Patterson consistently has refused to cooperate with his attorneys and with mental health professionals. In 2000, a federal judge found that "all of the professionals who have tried to examine him agree that he is mentally ill. The most common diagnosis is paranoid schizophrenia.''
Patterson was initially diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 1981 and had been committed to state hospitals several times before the 1992 murders; on two separate occasions in the 1980's he had been arrested for gun-related incidents and declared unfit for trial due to insanity. Fifth Circuit Judge Fortunato Benavides places responsibility for this tragedy on the state's mental health system, which kept placing Patterson back in the community despite his violent tendencies. Indeed, the 1992 murders occurred days after Mr. Patterson's brother attempted to commit him to a state mental hospital.
"The U.S. Supreme Court requires that in order to be competent for execution, a person must understand that he is about to be executed and why," said David Elliot, communications director for the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. "Kelsey Patterson quite obviously does not realize that he is about to be executed. However, because he refuses to cooperate with anyone, no expert has been able to evaluate him and determine that he is incompetent. Thus Mr. Patterson is a captive to his own illness. Allowing this execution to proceed would fall well beneath the standard set by the Supreme Court in Ford v. Wainwright."
Elliot added that the Patterson case should serve as a wake-up call when Texas legislators debate what level of funding should be appropriated to treat people with severe mental illness. "If we're serious about crime prevention, this case all too vividly shows the need for treating people with mental illness," he said.