January 17, 2007
Timberlake execution stayed by Indiana Supreme Court
The Associated Press
(INDIANAPOLIS) -- The Indiana Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the
execution of a man scheduled to die Friday in the 1993 murder of an Indiana
State trooper, citing a death penalty case that was pending before the U.S.
In its 3-2 decision, the justices stated that arguments raised by Norman
Timberlake's attorneys that he should not be executed because he is mentally
ill are similar to those the U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing in the case of
a condemned Texas man.
Attorneys for Scott Louis Panetti, who killed his estranged wife's parents
in 1992 in Fredericksburg, Texas, contend he has suffered from severe mental
illness for 25 years and should be spared the death penalty.
In their order, Indiana justices said the high court's decision in the
Panetti case, which might come this summer, could change the standard for
executing mentally ill patients by offering a new interpretation of the
Eighth Amendment, which bans cruel and unusual punishment.
Timberlake's impending execution is appropriate,
written by Justice Brent Dickson.
The court's decision to stay Timberlake's execution, set to be carried out
by chemical injection early Friday at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan
City, came a day after the Indiana Parole Board recommended that Gov. Mitch
Daniels deny clemency to Timberlake.
Timberlake, 59, was convicted and sentenced to death in 1995 in the Feb. 5,
1993, slaying of Master Trooper Michael E. Greene along Interstate 65 on
Indianapolis' northwest side during a routine traffic step.
He has maintained his innocence, blaming Greene's shooting on his traveling
Telephone messages seeking comment were left Wednesday by The Associated
Press for Timberlake's attorneys, Brent Westerfeld and Lorinda Youngcourt.
A message also was left on an answering machine for Master Trooper Michael
E. Greene's son, Michael C. Greene.
Indiana State Prison Superintendent Ed Buss has ordered preparations for
Timberlake's execution be stopped, said prison spokesman Barry Nothstine. He
referred questions about why the preparations were stopped to Attorney
General Steve Carter.
Messages seeking comment were left with Carter's office.
A 1986 U.S. Supreme Court ruling found that executing an insane person would
violate the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Death
penalty opponents argue, however, that few mentally ill people qualify under
the court's definition because they must be incapable of understanding why
they are being put to death or what they did wrong.
During a Jan. 8 appearance before the state parole board on his clemency
request, Timberlake said he has been hearing voices since 1997 from someone
who identifies himself as Satan. He also told the parole board he believes
he is under the control of a machine.
Lorinda Youngcourt, an attorney for Timberlake, has said he has been
diagnosed as suffering from chronic paranoid schizophrenia.
Deputy Attorney General Steve Creason has said testimony shows that
Timberlake both comprehends that he is set to be executed and the reason he
faces a death sentence.
In the Panetti case, the question before the high court is whether the
Eighth Amendment permits the execution of an inmate "who has a factual
awareness of the reason for his execution but who, because of a severe
mental illness, has a delusional belief as to why the State is executing him
In such a case, Panetti's attorneys contend, a death row inmate "thus does
not appreciate that his execution is intended to seek retribution for his
"If the Supreme Court interprets the Eighth Amendment in a manner
significantly different ... Timberlake's execution may prove to be
prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. We grant a stay to prevent learning the
answer to that question after it is too late," Dickson wrote.
Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard and Justice Frank Sullivan Jr., dissented
on the stay order. Shepard wrote in his dissent that the video he watched of
Timberlake's appearance before the parole board "does not suggest that he is
insane. Timberlake rationally understands the reason he is being executed."
Gov. Mitch Daniels in August 2005 commuted the death sentence of Arthur
Baird II to life without parole less than 36 hours before he was to be
executed for killing his parents in 1985.
Baird's lawyers argued he was mentally ill, but the state Parole Board had
voted 3-1 to recommend that the execution be carried out.
Daniels acknowledged claims that Baird was mentally ill, but he emphasized
other circumstances in his clemency order. They included the fact that life
without parole in murder cases was not an option at the time of Baird's
sentencing. It became an option for jurors in 1993, and prosecutors could
seek it on their own in 1994.
Source : The Associated Press