Prison Doctor Claims Panetti Doesn’t Need Mental Health Care
In a strange twist to the case of Scott Panetti, the Texas inmate whose execution was postponed for mental evaluations, the prison doctor has released a report saying Panetti hasn't been medicated for years and doesn't need treatment.
Originally sentenced to death in 1994 for the murder of his in-laws, Scott Panetti's case has raised many questions about the treatment of prisoners with mental health issues. A diagnosed schizophrenic prior to his conviction, having been involuntarily committed twice, Panetti was found mentally fit to stand trial and defend himself, doing so dressed as a cowboy and claiming to be a character from a John Wayne movie. Panetti received a stay of execution ten years ago when his lawyers argued he didn't understand what he was being punished for, and his execution last month was halted to allow time for mental health screenings.
Due to privacy of medical records, information on Panetti's treatment hasn't been publically available. Panetti's lawyer claims he hasn't been on medications for much of the last twenty years, causing his condition to deteriorate. Dr. Joseph Penn, director of mental health services for the Correctional Managed Care division of the University of Texas Medical Branch, released an affidavit about Panetti's condition and treatment, noting that Panetti is allergic to most basic medications used to treat schizophrenia, but also notes Panetti's condition isn't serious enough to warrant medication,
From the mental health notes in the chart, it appears that he has always been described as hyper-religious, but that it did not appear to be affecting his daily functioning. Mr. Panetti may have had some baseline or chronic residual psychosis or alternatively over-valued religious beliefs all these years, but nothing severe enough to warrant treatment with medications.
The medical records reflect that none of the 14 UTMB CMC mental health staff who have met with Mr. Panetti in person and evaluated him have identified any clinical signs and symptoms indicating a psychiatric diagnosis or required the need for additional mental health or psychiatric treatment such as psychotropic medications.
The doctor's opinion is being questioned as it is not based on direct encounters with Panetti, but the notes of the mental health staff who has met with Panetti. Also, Dr. Penn only referenced the records of the past ten years as they were the only ones digitized in storage. Governor-Elect Greg Abbot has sided with the state opinion that Panetti is of sound mind and should be put to death, saying,
Anyone can do strange things, and if strange things were good enough to get criminals off of death row, believe me, they’d be doing strange things all the time, every day. Based upon the conclusions of many judges in this case, this guy is not insane, and at some point in time, that decision just needs to be put to rest.
via Texas Tribune