I recently became made aware of a man in Texas who is being set to be executed. I don’t know a lot of the particulars of the story, but what I do know is that Mr. Panetti was diagnosed in 1978 with schizoprenia. He has lived for more than 30 years with a mental illness!
In 2004, Mr. Panetti was set to be executed but a federal judge court stayed the execution. Later, in a follow-up trial, Mr. Panetti was allowed to represent himself. He came into the courtroom wearing a purple cowboy suit and with a cowboy Bible. He called the likes of Jesus Christ and JKF as witnesses in his trial.
As I picture Mr. Panetti standing in that courtroom, I cannot help but realize that he is a very sick man….and needs proper medication, care, etc. I don’t know what caused him to experience a psychotic break but he clearly seems to have experienced one as he murdered his in-laws. I find myself pondering the question, “How sick is he now or was he then?”
Morally, I wonder what is the right solution to this situation. Yes, Mr. Panetti committed a crime, but does he deserve to be executed for his actions? I know not everyone will agree with me, but I don’t think that execution is the best answer for Mr. Panetti. Mr. Panetti is a human being just like the rest of us. And because of his illness, he made some horrific choices. Yet does that mean he deserves to die by the hand of execution?
I hope and pray that Mr. Panetti and all those that suffer from mental illnesses will find the proper help that they need. And that they will be shown compassion and not fear by the world around them. I think that is one of our biggest faults when it comes to caring for the mentally ill. We fear for ourselves and our families, yet showing even a little or a lot of compassion can go a very long way. God calls us to “love one another as I have first loved you.”