Death Watch: Rockwell Schizophrenic or Faker?

One execution stayed, another set for Oct. 24


The Court of Criminal Appeals has spared the life of Texas death row inmate Juan Segundo – at least for now. Segundo, who faced execution on Oct. 10, was granted a stay just days before in light of the Supreme Court's 2017 ruling in Moore v. Texas. Like Bobby Moore, Segundo asserts that he is intellectually disabled and, therefore, ineligible for execution. Further orders from the CCA are still pending.

In the meantime, another inmate faces execution on Wednesday, Oct. 24. Kwame Rockwell, a Fort Worth man, was convicted of killing two people during a botched store robbery in 2010. Though the U.S. Supreme Court denied Rockwell's last appeal for relief in Oct. 2017, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals approved a request for Rockwell's previous lawyer to withdraw, and appointed David Dow as substitute counsel on Oct. 2. That's often seen as a sign of impending legislation, but few court filings have been made since and Dow did not respond to requests for comment.

According to court records, the same day Dow was assigned to Rockwell's case, an amended motion for leave to file for reasonably necessary funds "ex parte and under seal" was received in a U.S. District Court. Two days later, the state filed their response detailing Rockwell's request for funding to "litigate a state competency-to-be-executed proceeding," which the state argued is not "reasonably necessary." Rockwell alleges that he suffers from schizophrenia, but the state argues that he's faking his illness, noting that both his trial attorneys and "own mother" believe he's malingering. The state also claims that Rockwell's request does not require ex parte confidentiality. Fort Worth federal court Judge Reed C. O'Connor filed a sealed order the same day that the state filed their response, but according to O'Connor's staff, what's in that order is not a matter of public record.

What happens next in Rockwell's case remains a mystery – court records haven't been updated since Oct. 4. Rockwell is expected to be the 11th inmate executed this year. Three more are scheduled for this year.

There had been six men slated for end-of-year executions, but a Tarrant County trial court stayed the execution of Emanuel Kemp, scheduled for Nov. 7, to conduct additional forensic testing. Kemp, who landed on death row in the late Eighties, had since been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and was eventually deemed too ill for execution. But according to the Houston Chronicle, the D.A. unexpectedly requested the Nov­em­ber date before approving an order to halt Kemp's execution pending DNA testing.


Update

Court records have been updated to show that the federal court has granted funding to determine if Rockwell is competent enough for execution. Since then, his counsel filed a motion to withdraw his execution date, but the trial court denied that request because, allegedly, Rockwell “did not make a substantial showing of execution incompetency.” On Oct. 15, Rockwell’s lawyers appealed that decision and have a requested a stay of execution from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, arguing that Rockwell “does not possess a rational understanding of the fact that he is to be executed ... or of the causal nexus between that punishment” and his capital murder conviction. The State, in a response filed Wednesday evening, asked the CCA to not grant Rockwell a stay “unless and until it concludes” he’s “made a threshold substantial showing of execution incompetency and that further competency proceedings are necessary under the guidelines” that have been set.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Death Watch, death penalty, capital punishment, Greg Abbott, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Juan Segundo, Moore v. Texas, Bobby Moore, Kwame Rockwell, David Dow, 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, Reed O'Connor, Emanuel Kemp

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