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A Texas inmate who tried to call Jesus Christ and President John F. Kennedy as trial witnesses is not mentally sound enough to be executed, a federal judge has ruled. 

Scott Panetti, 65, has been on death row for nearly 30 years after he shot his in-laws dead in front of his ex-wife Sonja Alvarado and three-year-old daughter in September 1992. 

He was just hours away from being executed by lethal injection on December 3, 2014 before it was postponed following a judgement from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in Texas. 

Panetti’s lawyers have long-argued that his 45-year documented history of severe mental illness, including paranoid and grandiose delusions and audio hallucinations show that he is not mentally fit to be put to death.

US district judge Robert Pitman in Austin ruled on Wednesday that Panetti’s well-documented mental illness and disorganized thought prevent him from understanding the reason for his execution. 

Texas inmate Scott Panetti, 65, who tried to call Jesus Christ and the late president John F. Kennedy as trial witnesses, is not competent to be executed, a federal judge has ruled

Panetti was diagnosed with schizophrenia 14 years before he shot Joe and Amanda Alvarado dead in front of his estranged wife and daughter.

In a sworn affidavit in 1999, Sonja said that although she hated what her ex-husband did, he was a good man who suffered mental illness and should not be put to death.

The US Supreme Court has banned the death penalty for the intellectually disabled but not for people with serious mental illness.

But it has ruled that a person must be competent to be executed.

In his 24-page ruling, Judge Pitman wrote: ‘There are several reasons for prohibiting the execution of the insane, including the questionable retributive value of executing an individual so wracked by mental illness that he cannot comprehend the “meaning and purpose of the punishment”.

‘As well as society’s intuition that such an execution “simply offends humanity”. Scott Panetti is one of these individuals.’ 

Gregory Wiercioch, one of Panetti’s lawyers, said the ruling ‘prevents the state of Texas from exacting vengeance on a person who suffers from a pervasive, severe form of schizophrenia that causes him to inaccurately perceive the world around him’.

‘His symptoms of psychosis interfere with his ability to rationally understand the connection between his crime and his execution. For that reason, executing him would not serve the retributive goal of capital punishment and would simply be a miserable spectacle,’ he said. 

The Texas Attorney General’s Office had argued during a three-day hearing in October 2022 that Panetti is competent for execution. He has had two previous execution dates in 2004 and 2014. 

The Supreme Court ruled in 1986 that the eighth amendment bars the execution of mentally ill individuals who do not have a factual understanding of their punishment.

In a ruling on an appeal in Panetti’s case in 2007, the high court added that a mentally ill person must also have a rational understanding of why they are being executed.

At the October hearing, Timothy Proctor, a forensic psychologist and an expert for the state, said that while he thinks Panetti is ‘genuinely mentally ill’, he believes he has both a factual and rational understanding of why he is to be executed.

Panetti claims Texas wants to execute him to cover up incest, corruption, sexual abuse and drug trafficking he has uncovered.

He also said the devil has ‘blinded’ Texas and is using the state to kill him to stop him from preaching and ‘saving souls’.


Testimony from Scott Panetti’s 1995 murder trial showed the depth of his delusions when he insisted on representing himself in court. He recounted the murders as such: 

Panetti: ‘… Sarge woke up. Cut off Scott’s hair. Sarge suited up. Shells, canteen, pouch, 3006, tropical hat, tropical top, bunkhouse, fast, haircut fast, suited up fast, boom, ready fast, fast, haircut, webgear, top, brush hat, boots, out the door, in the jeep, driving, wife, the bridge. Why is it taking so long? In front of Joe and Amanda’s house…

‘Sarge, everything fast. Everything fast. Everything slow. Tapped on the window, shattered window. Sonja screams, runs, follow her. She runs out, out the front, knife, Birdie, Birdie [Scott and Sonja’s daughter]. Where’s Birdie? Pick her up, she’s in bed…

‘Scott, what? Scott, what did you see Sarge do?

‘Fall. Sonja, Joe, Amanda, kitchen. Joe bayonet, not attacking. Sarge not afraid, not threatened. Sarge not angry, not mad. Sarge, boom, boom. Sarge, boom, boom, boom. Sarge, boom, boom.

‘Sarge is gone. No more Sarge. Sonja and Birdie. Birdie and Sonja. Joe, Amanda lying kitchen, here, there, blood. No, leave. Scott, remember exactly what Scott did. Shot the lock walked in the kitchen. Sonja, where’s Birdie? Sonja here. Joe, bayonet, door, Amanda. Boom, boom, boom, blood.

Demons. Ha, ha, ha, ha, oh, Lord, oh, you.

Judge: Mr Panetti, let’s stop.

Panetti: You puppet.


Panetti was condemned for the slayings of his estranged wife’s parents at their Fredericksburg home in the Texas Hill Country.

He armed himself with a rifle, a sawed-off shotgun and knives, dressed in camouflage clothing and broke into his in-laws home. 

Both Joe and Amanda Alvarado were shot at close range in front of his ex-wife and daughter, before Panetti allowed them to leave. 

He later changed into a suit and handed himself into the police.

Despite being diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1978 and admitted to hospital more than a dozen times for treatment in the decades before the deadly shooting, he was allowed by a judge to serve as his own lawyer at his 1995 trial.

At his trial, Panetti wore a purple cowboy outfit, flipped a coin to select a juror and insisted only an insane person could prove insanity.

He testified as alternate personality ‘Sarge’ to describe the Alvarado slayings and tried to subpoena Jesus Christ, the Pope and the late President John F. Kennedy.

His attorney Wiercioch previously said that Panetti’s delusions ‘have become more pervasive’. 

Wiercioch said Panetti told him devices implanted in his teeth by prison system dentists were sending command messages to his brain, that in the sixth grade he had a fight with future President Barack Obama at a Chicago museum and that his tooth told him to write a letter of apology to Obama. 

Ellen Stewart-Klein, an assistant Texas attorney general, told the Supreme Court in 2014 that records failed to support claims that Panetti’s mental condition had deteriorated and that some of his odd behavior could be deliberate.

‘Panetti’s mental health condition has long been exaggerated to his benefit and he continues this long established pattern here,’ Stewart-Klein said.

Sonja filed for divorce from Panetti because of her husband’s drinking and she said he was obsessed with the notion that the devil lived in their house

He buried furniture and nailed the curtains shut. Panetti was also having hallucinations that the devil lived in the walls of the house and began washing the walls, believing that they were running with blood.

Three years after her ex-husband’s trial for the murder of her parents, Sonja filed a petition saying that he should never have been tried for the crimes. 

She said: ‘I do not hate Scott. I hate what Scott did. Scott was a good person except when he changed… I know now that Scott is mentally ill and should not be put to death.’

Dailymail.com has contacted Texas Attorney General’s Office and Panetti’s attorney Wiercioch for comment. 

Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk

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