Panetti v Quarterman Title and Term Paper

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Panetti has not challenged those factual findings on appeal."

Panetti could not be considered incompetent to stand execution based on Ford v. Wainwright. Similar to Panetti, Ford did not initially argue mental illness, but during the trial he developed a severe form of mental disorder, leading to his unawareness of the crimes he had committed and of the reasons for his capital punishment.

The involved parties were both counting on Justice Powell's previous expertise in the Ford v. Wainwright case and were hoping that the judge would be better able to understand both sides.

The dismissal of the second issue of the case, that of the habeas relief motion, is based on the argument that Ford only "requires an opportunity for the petitioner to be heard and an impartial tribunal - both of which Panetti received." Other requests of Panetti's were dismissed. "Because the state-court procedures were adequate under Ford, the AEDPA statutorily bars Panetti's request for habeas relief."

The main argument used by Panetti's defence was that a death row and mentally unstable inmate could only be executed provided that he possessed "rational understanding." However, the court felt that such a standard was subjective and manipulative and would create a precedent on which death row inmates could escape the capital punishment. "Moreover, such a requirement - imported from the Court's Fifth and Sixth Amendment jurisprudence concerning defendants' strategic participation at the guilt and sentencing phases - is out of place at the moment of execution. Finally, the retributive and deterrent interests served by the death penalty - focused primarily as they are on society at large rather than the capital murderer - do not demand the "rational understanding" that Panetti urges."

6. Separate Opinions

Presiding Justice Powell stated his opinion that the death penalty is efficient only if the inmate is capable of understanding its reasons and its existence. "If the prisoner is capable of understanding the connection between his crime and punishment then the underlying retributive goal of the criminal law would be satisfied. If the prisoner is unaware of the punishment and the reason for it, however, then executing him would be cruel and unusual in violation of the Eighth Amendment."

The opinion of Texas Assistant Attorney General Gena Bunn was agreed by the court and it stated that "awareness, as that term is used in Ford, is not necessarily synonymous with rational understanding, as argued by Panetti."

7. Analysis

The Panetti v. Quarterman was a difficult case since it debated the level of awareness necessary for a death row inmate to be considered competent or incompetent to strand execution. The single case the court could relate to was Ford v. Wainwright, but since the level of awareness for the two petitioners was different, so were the rulings. The Fifth Circuit has rather high standards for awareness that have not spared any inmate from the capital penalty during the past 20 years.

Were the court to rule in favour of the petitioner, it would have created a precedent for numerous death row inmates to escape the death penalty due to technicalities and their defence's ability to prove the inmate's lack of rational awareness.

Bibliography

Supreme Court of the United States, Syllabus, Panetti v. Quarterman,

Panetti, Scot v. Quarterman, Nathaniel, Northwestern University, Medill Journalism, January 9, 2007, http://docket.medill.northwestern.edu/archives/004241.php, last accessed on October 11, 2007

Scot Louis Panetti v. Nathaniel Quarterman: Brief for Respondednt, No. 06-6407 in the Supreme Court of the United States

Tim Birnbaum, Panetti v. Quarterman (06-6407): Death Penalty, Mental Illness, Factual Awareness Standard, Eight Amendment, Retribution, Cornell University Law School, http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/cert/06-6407.html, last accessed on October 12, 2007

Supreme Court of the United States, Syllabus, Panetti v. Quarterman

Panetti, Scot v. Quarterman, Nathaniel, Northwestern University, Medill Journalism, January 9, 2007

Justice Lewis Powell, declaration retrieved from Panetti, Scot v. Quarterman, Nathaniel, Northwestern University, Medill Journalism, January 9, 2007

Scot Louis Panetti v. Nathaniel Quarterman: Brief for Respondednt, No. 06-6407 in the Supreme Court of the United States

Tim Birnbaum, Panetti v. Quarterman (06-6407): Death Penalty, Mental Illness, Factual Awareness Standard, Eight Amendment, Retribution, Cornell University Law…[continue]

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