PAYNE SPRINGS, Texas (by Jolie McCullough, The Texas Tribune) — A Texas judge has withdrawn a death row inmate's execution date amid questions that he may not be mentally competent to be put to death.
On Thursday, less than two weeks before Randall Mays’ scheduled Oct. 16 execution, Judge Joe Clayton of Henderson County withdrew the death warrant. Mays’ attorneys had filed a motion to find him incompetent for execution because he was recently diagnosed with schizophrenia and believes he is to be executed because he has a renewable energy design that threatens oil companies.
Clayton said in his order that he stopped the execution to “properly review all medical records submitted.” The U.S. Supreme Court has long held that for an execution to be conducted, the inmate must know that they are about to be executed and why.
Mays, 60, was sentenced to death in 2008 after killing two Henderson County sheriff's deputies in a standoff that began with a domestic disturbance call, according to court records. Mays and his wife were yelling, and a neighbor said Mays was shooting at her, on their property in Payne Springs, a small town southeast of Dallas.
At first, deputies said Mays was calm and polite, and that his wife told them to leave because they were “just having a spat.” When the neighbor wanted to press charges for the gunshots and a deputy attempted to arrest Mays, however, his face changed, court briefings state. He ran inside with a rifle , but continued talking with deputies through a window and at one point outside for about 20 minutes, telling them he feared the deputies would kill him.
Mays then shot two deputies, Tony Ogburn and Paul Habelt, in the heads, killing them. Another deputy was shot in the leg but survived. Mays surrendered after he was shot himself.
In 2015, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stopped Mays’ first scheduled execution because of competency questions, but ultimately the same Henderson County judge found he was fit for execution. A reason for that finding, Mays’ lawyers claim, was because the Texas prison system had not diagnosed or treated Mays for any relevant mental illness at that time.
That has since changed. In 2018, prison mental health officials diagnosed Mays with schizophrenia and other disorders and prescribed him antipsychotics, the lawyers wrote in a motion last month.
A forensic psychiatrist who visited Mays before also said that as of August, his cognitive functions and delusional beliefs have worsened. Mays had trouble staying on topic, quickly veered conversation to comments that the guards were poisoning the air vents and was frequently incoherent.
Mays’ execution was the second stopped this week. On Friday, the execution of Randy Halprin, set for Oct. 10, was halted by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
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