'The World of Illusion Is at My Door': Why Panetti v. Quarterman Is a Legal Mirage

63 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2022

Date Written: July 25, 2022

Abstract

Some fifteen years ago, in Panetti v. Quarterman, 551 U.S. 930, 956 (2007), the Supreme Court ruled that a mentally ill defendant had a constitutional right to make a showing that his mental illness “obstruct[ed] a rational understanding of the State’s reason for his execution.” In a recent paper, two of the authors (MLP & TRH) analyzed the way the Fifth Circuit had construed that case, and concluded that that court “has basically ignored Panetti’s holdings in all its decisions.” See “Insanity is Smashing up Against My Soul”: The Fifth Circuit and Competency to be Executed Cases after Panetti v. Quarterman, 60 U. LOUISVILLE L. REV. 557, 578 (2022). In this article, we expand that inquiry to consider how all federal circuits have interpreted Panetti, and we find that Panetti has never -- with the exception of one case, later vacated -- been a remedy upon which defendants with serious mental illness facing the death penalty could rely.

We analyze all the circuit-level Panetti decisions, and consider the case law through a therapeutic jurisprudence (TJ) filter, concluding that this body of cases violates all TJ precepts, and offer a series of recommendations – as to issues related to adequacy of counsel, the need for databases of experts competent to testify in such matters, the need for other scholars to study the cases we discuss here, and to seek to breathe new life into arguments made some years ago barring the death penalty in all cases of defendants with serious mental illness -- to, we hope, ameliorate this situation in the future.

Keywords: death penalty, mental disability, incompetency to be executed, malingering, expert witnesses, therapeutic jurisprudence

Suggested Citation

Perlin, Michael L. and Roitberg Harmon, Talia and Kubiniec, Haleigh, 'The World of Illusion Is at My Door': Why Panetti v. Quarterman Is a Legal Mirage (July 25, 2022). NYLS Legal Studies Research Paper No. 4172316, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4172316 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4172316

Michael L. Perlin (Contact Author)

New York Law School ( email )

185 West Broadway
New York, NY 10013
United States
212-431-2183 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.nyls.edu/faculty/faculty-profiles/emeriti_faculty/

Talia Roitberg Harmon

Niagara University ( email )

Niagara University, NY 14109
United States

Haleigh Kubiniec

Niagara University ( email )

Niagara University, NY 14109
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
198
Abstract Views
877
Rank
283,920
PlumX Metrics