Schizophrenic killer who murdered his in-laws not competent for execution

A notorious killer who tried to summon the Pope to his court case after murdering his in laws is "not competent for execution", according to a Texas judge.

In September 1992, Scott Panetti donned military clothing, shaved his head and drove to his in-laws' home in Texas, where his estranged wife and baby daughter were staying.

He broke in, shot her mum and dad and took his wife, who had left him because of his abuse and "strange" behaviour, and baby hostage. Despite later releasing his captives, both of her parents died during the bloody attack.

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And now, Gregory W. Wiercioch, Panetti's attorney, said the judge from the District Court for the Western District of Texas "did the right thing" in not ordering his execution.

"Judge Pitman’s ruling prevents the State of Texas from exacting vengeance on a person who suffers from a pervasive, severe form of schizophrenia that causes him to inaccurately perceive the world around him," Mr Wiercioch said.

"The Eighth Amendment bars the execution of people who, like Mr. Panetti, are severely mentally ill and do not understand the reason for their punishment."

Texas prosecutors had previously admitted Panetti is suffering from a litany of delusions, including thinking he had been visited by US Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett on death row.

Other delusions included Panetti thinking he thought an implant has been planted in his tooth for spying purposes and he thought he been murdered when his body was taken over by an evil spirit named Sarge Ironhorse.

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"His symptoms of psychosis interfere with his ability to rationally understand the connection between his crime and his execution.," Mr Wiercioch added.

"For that reason, executing him would not serve the retributive goal of capital punishment and would simply be a miserable spectacle. His execution would offend humanity."

During his murder trial, the court heard how Panetti, who had a long history of mental illness and was diagnosed with schizophrenia, had buried furniture because he thought the devil was in it and nailed blinds shut after fearing his neighbours were filming him.

He also tried to summon a range of famous figures to the courtroom, including Jesus, actress Anne Bancroft and the Pope.

Panetti was sentenced to death in September 1995. He came close to being executed in 2014, but received a stay.

In March this year, the Texas House of Representatives passed legislation that barred the death penalty for people with severe mental illnesses. This includes people with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.

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