US Judge Wayne Salvant has ordered that Steven Kenneth Staley, a death-row inmate who is so severely mentally ill as to be unable to comprehend his situation, can be forcibly medicated so he can be executed while mentally competent.
A stay of execution was previously granted as he was judged not to understand his situation due to impaired mental functioning.
Staley is not the first prisoner to find himself in this situation. In 2004, Charles Singleton was forcibly medicated and subsequently executed in Arkansas.
His case was considered by an appeals court that decided by 6 votes to 5 that forcible medication for execution was acceptable.
In 1986, the US Supreme Court stated that the execution of the insane was barred by the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, although the definition of insanity is left to individual states.
In 2002, the state of Texas executed Monty Delk. His last words were recorded in the state’s execution report:
At his execution, Delk screamed profanities and gibberish. When the warden asked if he had a final statement, Delk shouted. “I am the warden! Get your warden off this gurney and shut up!” At 7:47 p.m., the warden signaled for the lethal injection to begin. After spouting more profanity, Delk blurted out, “You are not in America. This is the island of Barbados. People will see you doing this.” Then, abruptly, he stopped speaking, and his mouth and eyes froze wide open. He was pronounced dead at 7:53 p.m.