Hopes of reprieve for mentally ill killer due to be executed

A paraonid schizophrenic due to be executed later today in Texas was last night given hope of a last-minute reprieve when an influential advisory board recommended that the Governor of the state commute the sentence.

A paraonid schizophrenic due to be executed later today in Texas was last night given hope of a last-minute reprieve when an influential advisory board recommended that the Governor of the state commute the sentence.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted yesterday evening to recommend advising Rick Perry that instead of going ahead with the execution of Kelsey Patterson, he commute his sentence to one of life imprisonment.

Mr Patterson's lawyer, Gary Hart, had made his appeal on the grounds that his client was mentally unfit. The 50-year-old believes that microchips have been planted inside his head to control him.

Mr Hart said last night that Mr Perry was not bound to follow the recommendation, but added: "It's looking better."

In his clemency petition, sent to the board and Mr Perry, Mr Hart argued: "There are compelling reasons for not executing capital offenders who suffer debilitating mental illnesses that are similar to the reasons society will no longer tolerate the execution of the mentally retarded. Execution of someone such as Kelsey, whose paranoid schizophrenia is severe and chronic, serves neither the retributive nor the deterrent functions the death penalty was intended for."

No one disputes that Patterson is guilty of shooting to death two people in Palestine, east Texas, in September 1992. Courts have heard how Patterson left his home armed with a .38-calibre pistol, walked a few hundred yards to an oil company office and shot dead the owner, Louis Oates. Mr Oates's secretary, Dorothy Harris, was also shot and killed.

Patterson went home and took off his clothes. When arrested by police he was walking in front of his house, naked but for his socks.

In a recent petition to the US Supreme Court, Mr Hart argued that Patterson had been expelled from his trial because of outbursts "almost certainly fuelled by his delusional system".

In addition to missing half of the testimony against him, Mr Hart said that Patterson had refused to co-operate with him for the past several years because his client does not believe he is qualified to deal with "hell law", an invention of the prisoner.

The Supreme Court rejected the appeal. In a 2002 ruling on a Virginia case it barred the execution of mentally retarded people, but the same prohibition has not been extended to the mentally ill. Over the past two years, at least a half a dozen prisoners claiming mental illness have been put to death in Texas.

Mrs Harris's family does not believe Patterson should receive clemency. Michele Smith, the only child of Mrs Harris, is today planning to travel to Huntsville to witness Patterson's execution.

Ms Smith, who was 20 at the time of her mother's murder, told the Herald-Press newspaper in Palestine: "I don't know how I'll deal with things if next Tuesday doesn't go as planned. After waiting for 12 years and you get this close, it's hard to have another disappointment."

Ms Smith said that she hoped watching the execution would bring the pain associated with her mother's death to an end. "For you to actually heal from something, it has to be completely over," she said.

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