PUBLIC AI Index: AMR 51/22/98
EXTRA 22/98 Insane man due to be executed 27 March 1998
USA (CALIFORNIA)Horace KELLY, black
Despite overwhelming evidence that Horace Kelly is insane and does not
understand that he could be about to die, his execution remains scheduled for
14 April 1998. If carried out, his execution would constitute a clear violation
of both the US Constitution and international standards.
Horace Kelly was convicted in two trials in 1986 and 1988 of three murders
committed in 1984. At the time of his arrest in 1984, when aged 25, he already
had a well-documented history of mental illness. His mental health continued
to deteriorate after he was put on death row in San Quentin prison in 1988.
A prison psychiatrist reported in 1993 that Kelly did not "express an adequate
understanding of his death sentence". Later that year, Kelly was diagnosed
as suffering from chronic schizophrenia.
A psychiatrist, appointed in 1995 by the US District Court to determine whether
Kelly was competent to assist his attorneys with his federal appeal, found
that he was "suffering from a psychotic mental disorder of such severity that
it precludes his ability to appreciate his current legal position and make
rational choices with respect to the current court proceedings." In September
1997 a US Court of Appeals granted a State motion to stop Kelly’s federal appeals
proceedings because they had exceeded the time limit imposed by the 1996
Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.
In March 1998, Kelly was interviewed by Dr Michael Radelet, professor and chair
of the Department of Sociology, University of Florida, and a scholar on the
use of the death penalty against the mentally ill. Dr Radelet reported that
Kelly’s speech was so disorganized and unfocused as to be totally
incomprehensible, and concluded that Kelly did not understand the nature or
purpose of his execution. Kelly stated that he had been through several "brochure
executions" and that he registered every month for "certified executions".
When asked about death, Kelly replied that "some [people] come alive, some
have false identities, some stay with different faces or changed applications".
Once Kelly’s execution date had been scheduled, the Warden of San Quentin
appointed three state prison psychiatrists to decide on the inmate’s sanity.
In March, two of the three reportedly determined that Kelly is unable to
comprehend his impending execution or appreciate the reason for his punishment.
One concluded that he does not demonstrate any "capacity to understand the
purpose" of his execution. Another wrote that, when Kelly was asked what the
term “execution” meant, he mentioned "payroll" and a "new identity". The third
psychiatrist expressed doubts about whether Kelly was sane or not.
Under California law, a prisoner must undergo a “sanity trial” if the Warden
has good reason to believe that he or she is insane. A Marin County judge,
after denying Kelly’s attorneys’ request for a stay of execution, ruled on
24 March that Kelly will undergo a sanity trial beginning on 6 April. A jury
will then determine whether he is sane and therefore able to be executed.
Despite the severity of Kelly’s illness, he has reportedly not caused any
disciplinary problems while in prison and has consistently been described as
soft spoken and passive. His fellow inmates have apparently begun recently
to care for Kelly by helping him groom his hair and cut his nails.