Is Druery Sane Enough to Die?

Brazos County judge apparently thinks so

Is Druery Sane Enough to Die?

Although he's been hearing voices for years, believes that he and his cell on Texas' death row are "wired," and has spent a significant amount of time in the prison system's psychiatric ward, a judge in Brazos County today denied to hold a competency hearing to determine if Marcus Druery is indeed sane enough to die.

Druery was sent to death row for the kidnapping, robbery, and murder with two accomplices of 20-year-old Skyyler Browne in 2002. Druery would be the 484th person executed in Texas since the reinstatement of capital punishment, and the 245th killed under the watch of Gov. Rick Perry, if his execution goes forward as scheduled on Aug. 1. Unless a higher court, like Texas' Court of Criminal Appeals, steps in and reverses today's decision by Judge JD Langley, that is likely to happen.

Langley's decision to deny a full competency hearing for Druery means that, in Langley's view at least, Druery's lawyers Katherine Black and Greg Wiercioch with the Texas Defender Service did not meet the statutory burden of raising a "substantial doubt of the defendant's competency to be executed."

Druery has not before raised the issue of his competency, which is to say that no other court has already determined that he is sane enough to be executed. In the absence of a previous competency finding, the court is required to consider evidence brought by the defense before determining whether or not a condemned inmate is entitled to a hearing to determine his competency. In Druery's case, Black and Wiercioch put into a 36-page motion a bevy of evidence, including a sampling of more than 5,500 pages of prison and medical records, including numerous notes and statements Druery has made and over the years – many of which detail his feelings about his cell being wired and his food being poisoned. "They refused to unwire me from speakers," he apparently said during a psychiatric examination in February 2011 (one of many he's had since landing on death row). "I was hooked up to the speakers system. I do not know who idd it when, where and why. I thought I was supposed to go back to world. I know danger was coming from other inmates, and officers at unit of assignment, as they were trying to attack me with razor blades from last two years. In 2009, I was stabbed and cut with razor. … My food was mixed with feces, urine and insects."

Moreover, according to the motion, Druery, who has been diagnosed as schizophrenic since being sentenced to death, has repeatedly asserted that he has been denied his "options" to leave prison and go home. Indeed, whether or not Druery has a rational understanding of his impending execution is part of determining whether he is sane enough to be put to death. Reportedly, prosecutor Doug Howell said today that Druery testified before Langely at a June 29 hearing that he had not killed Browne, testimony that indicates that Druery understands he will be executed and why.

Executing the mentally ill is a violation of the constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishments, and the Supreme Court has ruled – in another notable Texas death case – that it isn't enough to understand that execution is imminent, but that it takes a "rational understanding" of that fate in order to satisfy the Eighth Amendment ban. And that, Black and Wiercioch have argued, is something that Druery does not have. Druery's defenders say they will appeal to Langley's denial of a full hearing to the Court of Criminal Appeals for consideration. "Mr. Druery's execution would violate the Eighth Amendment … because he suffers from a psychotic disorder that renders him incompetent," Black said in a statement. "The state's own mental health professionals have diagnosed him as schizophrenic, noting that he suffers from delusional and paranoid thoughts and auditory hallucinations," she continued. "Texas must allow Mr. Druery's counsel the opportunity to fairly present the evidence of Mr. Druery's mental illness so that he may establish his incompetence for execution."

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Courts, Legislature, Marcus Druery, capital punishment, death penalty, Texas Defender Service, Katherine Black, Greg Wiercioch, Rick Perry, Skyyler Browne, competency, mental illness, JD Langley, Court of Criminal Appeals, CCA

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