PUBLIC AI Index: AMR 51/048/2001
EXTRA 19/01 Death penalty 23 March 2001
USA (Ohio)Jay D. Scott, black, aged 48
Jay Scott is due to be executed in Ohio on 17 April 2001. He was sentenced
to death in 1984 for the murder of 74-year-old Vinnie Prince, who was shot
during an attempted robbery of her Cleveland delicatessen in May 1983.
Jay Scott is reported to have developed serious mental illness in the past
few years. According to his current lawyers, in December 2000 a prison doctor
diagnosed him as suffering from schizophrenia. Prior to this, doctors have
variously described him as “delusional” and as having a “major depressive
disorder, chronic with psychotic features”. Jay Scott is reported to have
suffered from auditory hallucinations - a symptom of schizophrenia - from as
early as 1992. His disturbed behaviour over the years has included setting
fire to his cell, banging his head against the wall, screaming incoherently,
and fouling his food and then eating it. During recent psychotic episodes,
he was taken out of his cell and placed on 24-hour suicide watch. He has been
given anti-psychotic drugs.
On 26 April 2000, the UN Commission on Human Rights adopted a resolution urging
all countries which still use the death penalty not to impose it “on a person
suffering from any form of mental disorder or to execute any such person”.
The US National Alliance for the Mentally Ill believes that “the death penalty
is never appropriate for a defendant suffering from schizophrenia or other
serious brain disorders”.
Jay Scott’s background is one of poverty, deprivation, and exposure to violence
from an early age. At his 1984 trial, his lawyers decided not to present any
mitigating evidence to this effect because they feared it would reveal details
of his criminal history. Their decision meant that the jury was left unaware
of factors which had helped to shape Jay Scott’s life.
According to his current lawyers, Jay Scott was the sixth of 11 children born
to parents who married when they were both 14 years old because the mother
was pregnant. Because the father spent the family’s money on alcohol and
gambling, the mother used to ask neighbours for food or allow the children
to steal food if they were hungry. The father was physically and emotionally
abusive to his wife and children, particularly when he was drunk. He would
beat them, and on one occasion he stabbed his wife, who had to be hospitalised.
Jay and his brothers ran into trouble with the law from an early age, and were
all convicted of juvenile offences. Jay was first incarcerated when he was
nine because of truancy problems. He was in and out of juvenile detention through
his teen years and served several years in prison as an adult.
The rest of the family’s story is a litany of tragedy. One brother was shot
dead, and another was paralysed from the neck down as a result of gunshot wounds.
Another brother suffered mental illness and has spent much of his life in
psychiatric hospitals. Jay Scott’s eldest sister died in a house fire before
he was born. Another sister was shot to death during an argument. A third killed
a brother-in-law in self-defence.
In April 2000, the federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote that the
mitigating evidence which had been withheld from the jury “would have revealed
Scott’s personal loyalty to his siblings, girlfriend, and children, and an
exceedingly violent environment throughout his upbringing...[I]t is impossible