The law requires that inmates understand why they are being executed.Fifteen years ago this month, a Tarrant County jury condemned Steven Kenneth Staley to die for killing restaurant manager Robert Read. His execution has been stopped at least twice because Staley doesn’t understand why he is being killed and refuses to take medication that makes his mind clearer.
Since Staley was sent to Death Row in 1991, he has been hospitalized nearly 20 times for as long as nine months and diagnosed as being a paranoid schizophrenic. Doctors testify that Staley is incompetent and unable to understand why he has to die.
Staley was scheduled to be executed a couple times, but the execution was stopped because of his incompetence.
My question is: Why is he still living? He claims he doesn’t understand why he is being executed. I bet he understood everything when he robbed and shot the 35-year-old manager.
Taxpayers have to spend their money on keeping someone who doesn’t deserve to be alive by paying not only his room and board at the prison but also massive amounts of medical bills. Do the taxpayers have a chance to understand? No.
Did Read’s wife and three small children get a chance to understand why he was killed? No.
I am a strong believer in the death penalty. Who cares if Staley refuses to take the anti-psychotic medication? Staley should die soon for his crimes.
This may sound harsh, but this law of understanding why one is being executed has been taken too far. Medically speaking, if the guy is really psychotic then that doesn’t justify his actions. So what if he is? What he did was wrong, and regardless of whether he was psychotic he should suffer the consequences.
Staley’s attorney says that forcibly medicating Staley in order to execute him is unconstitutional and violates his right to privacy. But what Staley did was also definitely unconstitutional.
What rights to privacy are inmates supposed to get? Rights are taken away when one is taken into custody. That is one of the things that contributes to the punishment the inmate has to suffer. When someone is murdered, his or her rights are taken away; his or her life is taken away. Why is the murderer awarded rights?
Crime is going down, but the populations of the jails and prisons are rising. Staley’s case is a perfect illustration of why there is an increase in prisoners: The inmates’ trials extend to years when they could be completed in less time.
Of course, the courts need to be 100 percent certain that the person being executed is guilty. But once found guilty, the next step is punishment, and in this case, execution. Courts shouldn’t waste time and money making sure the guilty inmate knows why he or she is being punished.
I don’t think it’s Staley who needs the anti-psychotic medication; the lawmakers, judges and his attorney are in need of it more.
Rashi Vats is a sophomore broadcast journalism major from Houston.