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Mental Illness – Paranoid Schizophrenia
Executed on May 18 2004
Letters Asking for Clemency
Kelsey Patterson’s Social History prior to the crime
Kelsey Patterson was born and raised in Palestine, Texas. His mother died when he was four years old, leaving behind Mr. Patterson’s maternal grandmother to raise him. Kelsey seemed to be a normal child and an average student. After graduating from high school, he immediately joined the military. After two years of military service, Patterson was honourably discharged to take care of his terminally ill grandmother.
Patterson’s first contact with the law came in 1978, when he was arrested for aggravated assault on a police officer. One year later he was charged with another assault. In 1980, Patterson was charged with shooting Richard Noel Lane at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Dallas. Lane was not certain why Patterson shot him, but earlier the same day, Lane and a few other co-workers were teasing Patterson about not putting his lunch in the refrigerator. Patterson had told them that his food was being poisoned while in the refrigerator and he was not going to use that refrigerator anymore.
Patterson was charged with attempted murder for the shooting. A jury found Patterson incompetent to stand trial, but likely to regain his competency. In 1981, during the subsequent testing, Patterson was first diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Psychiatrists at the Dallas County Jail concluded that at the time of the offense he was suffering from a mental disease or defect and could not conform his behavior to the law. The charges in the Lane shooting were eventually dismissed and Patterson voluntarily committed himself.
In 1983, Patterson was charged with criminal attempt to commit murder. Patterson was working at a Pizzeria, when he threw a pizza pan at fellow employee Kevin Huges and struck him in the head. Patterson then pulled out a gun and shot Huges in the left arm and in the right lung. Psychiatrists once again concluded that Patterson had a mental disease at the time of the crime that would render him incapable of conforming his conduct to the requirements of the law or of knowing the difference between right and wrong. The charges were again dismissed.
In 1986, Patterson was arrested for assault on a co-worker. As a result of a statement by Patterson that the guards were putting sedatives in his food and were raping him while he slept, he was then sent to the Mental Diagnostic Center at Parkland Hospital in Dallas. Patterson would eventually be transferred to Terrell State Hospital where he would spend the next several months. A year later, in 1988, Patterson was admitted to Rusk State Hospital with a diagnosis of Schizophrenia Paranoid Chronic with Acute Exacerbation. He was discharged a month later.
Kelsey Patterson was convicted for the 1992 killing of Louis Oates, a 63-year-old owner of Oates Oil Co. in Palestine, Texas, and his business secretary Dorothy Harris, 41. Louis Oates was standing on the loading dock of his business when Patterson walked up behind him and shot him with a pistol. Patterson walked away after the shooting but returned to shoot Dorothy Harris in the head when she came outside and began to scream. Patterson then walked a short distance to a friend’s house, put down the gun and took off his clothes, except his socks, which he kept on for some unfathomable reason. He was standing almost naked in the streets when he was arrested. A motive in the murders is unclear.
When Patterson was arrested for the murder of Mr. Oates, the standard for competency in Texas had become a more stringent benchmark for defendants to meet. Psychiatrists did not dispute that Patterson was mentally ill at the time of the crime, however, given the new standard, Patterson appeared to now meet the criteria for mental competency. The jury did eventually find Patterson competent to stand trial. However through the competency hearing, and the trial itself, Patterson ranted about devices that were implanted in him, as well as other conspiracies against him. The jury eventually found him guilty and sentenced Patterson to death.
Mr Patterson’s delusions are such that all authority figures become a part of his delusional structure; this includes his attorney and prison psychiatrists. Such delusions have made it impossible for his lawyer to communicate with Mr. Patterson. Mr. Patterson refuses all medical treatment and his attorney’s attempts to diagnose him. The prison officials no longer attempt to treat Patterson believing that he does not pose a threat to himself or to others. Patterson spends much of his time writing letters to judges and to the parole board, referencing a non-existent permanent stay of execution that he has received on grounds of innocence.
In 2000, a federal judge noted that "Patterson had no motive for the killings... he claims he commits acts involuntarily and outside forces control him through implants in his brain and body. Patterson has consistently maintained he is a victim of an elaborate conspiracy, and his lawyers and his doctors are part of that conspiracy. He refuses to cooperate with either; he has refused to be examined by mental health professionals since 1984, he refuses dental treatment, and he refuses to acknowledge that his lawyers represent him".
Letters Asking for Clemency
- May 18 2004 - Kelsey Patterson executed.
- May 18 2004 - Governor Rick Perry rejects the Texas Board of Pardon and Paroles' recommendation for clemency. For Governor Perry's statement click here.
- May 17 2004 - The Texas Board of Pardon and Paroles, in a 5-1 vote, recommended clemency for Kelsey Patterson. The recommendation now goes to the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, for consideration.
- May 13 2004 - U.S. Supreme Court denies appeal for stay
- March 18, 2004 – Amnesty International - Another Texas injustice: The case of Kelsey Patterson, mentally ill man facing execution
Gov. Rick Perry Denies Commutation, Stay for Kelsey Patterson
Gov. Rick Perry today denied convicted killer Kelsey Pattersons requests
for a commutation of his death sentence to life imprisonment and a stay of
"After carefully reviewing all of the facts in this case and the Texas
Board of Pardons and Paroles recommendation for clemency, I have rejected
the defendants requests," Perry said.
"Death penalty decisions are never easy, and this one is particularly
difficult - not only because of the brutal murder of 2 innocent victims of
this crime, but also because of Mr. Pattersons mental and criminal history
- including 2 prior charges of attempted murder.
"State and federal courts have reviewed this case no fewer than 10 times,
examining his claims of mental illness and competency, as well as various
other legal issues. In each instance the courts have determined there is
no legal bar to his execution.
"This defendant is a very violent individual. Texas has no life without
parole sentencing option, and no one can guarantee this defendant would
never be freed to commit other crimes were his sentence commuted. In the
interests of justice and public safety, I am denying the defendants
request for clemency and a stay."
(source: Office of the Governor, May 18 2004)
May 18, 2004, 6:29PM
Schizophrenic killer executed after Perry denies request for stay
HUNTSVILLE - Prison officials executed a mentally ill convicted killer this evening as Gov. Rick Perry rejected a parole board recommendation to commute the sentence to life in prison or delay the lethal injection.
The U.S. Supreme Court also denied a stay for Kelsey Patterson, 50, whose lawyers challenged lower courts' rejected claims that Patterson was mentally incompetent to be executed.
Patterson, a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, was condemned for a double slaying in Palestine in East Texas almost 12 years ago.
In a 5-1 vote, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles endorsed a petition from Patterson's lawyers and supporters that he be spared. Texas resumed carrying out executions in 1982, and Monday's board action marked the first time at this late stage in a condemned inmate's case the panel recommended the governor commute a death sentence.
"State and federal courts have reviewed this case no fewer than 10 times, examining his claims of mental illness and competency, as well as various other legal issues," Perry said in a statement less than an hour before Patterson's scheduled execution time. "In each instance the courts have determined there is no legal bar to his execution.
"This defendant is a very violent individual. Texas has no life without parole sentencing option, and no one can guarantee this defendant would never be freed to commit other crimes were his sentence commuted. In the interests of justice and public safety, I am denying the defendants request for clemency and a stay."
Patterson arrived at the death house early this afternoon.
"Mr. Patterson seemed even tempered although he kept insisting to the wardens that he had amnesty," said Michelle Lyons, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Huntsville, where executions are carried out. "He seemed particularly concerned about whether or not he'd be allowed to see his legal materials, which he was."
Although Patterson made no meal request, a tray of sandwiches and cookies was available to him, and he was offered and accepted a candy bar and a soft drink. He earlier had refused to complete paperwork associated with an execution, like picking a last meal or selecting witnesses.
"He denied to the warden that he's ever going to be executed," said J. Gary Hart, Patterson's lawyer.
Hart had cited Patterson's actions as another reason why the prisoner was mentally incompetent and should not be put to death.
Patterson was condemned for the 1992 shootings of Dorthy Harris, 41, a secretary at an oil company office in Palestine, and her boss, Louis Oates, 63.
Throughout his trial, outbursts earned Patterson repeated expulsions from the courtroom. He frequently talked about "remote control devices" and "implants" that controlled him.
While on death row, he told people and wrote nearly incomprehensible letters to courts about having amnesty and a permanent stay of execution.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled it's unconstitutional to execute someone who is mentally retarded, but has not extended the same protection to those claiming mental illness. However, the high court in a 1986 ruling regarding insanity and the death penalty said an inmate may not be executed if he doesn't know why he's on death row and the punishment he faces.
Lawyers from the Texas attorney general's office, opposing appeals by Patterson's attorneys to halt the punishment, cited Patterson's references to stays of execution as indicating the prisoner had an awareness of his punishment.
Evidence showed Patterson left his home in Palestine, about 100 miles southeast of Dallas, and walked about a block to where Oates was standing on a loading dock at his business. Patterson walked up behind him, shot him in the head with a .38-caliber pistol and started walking away. When Harris saw the scene and began screaming, Patterson grabbed her and shot her in the head.
Then he went home, took off his clothes except for socks, and was arrested walking on the street in front of his home.
In 1980 in Dallas and in 1983 in Palestine, Patterson was ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial on charges related to nonfatal shootings.
In March, Perry for the first time since taking office in 2000 commuted the death sentence of a prisoner. The inmate is mentally retarded and was not within hours of a scheduled execution.
In 1998, four days before former self-confessed serial killer Henry Lee Lucas was to die, then-Gov. George W. Bush commuted Lucas after questions were raised about his conviction. It was the only death sentence commuted by Bush in his six years in office when 152 executions were carried out.
Gov's Office Considering Recommendation for Death Row Inmate
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, in a highly unusual action,
recommended Gov. Rick Perry either commute or grant a reprieve to a
mentally ill killer scheduled to die Tuesday for a double slaying in East
Texas. The panel, in a 5-1 vote Monday, recommended the death sentence of
Kelsey Patterson be commuted to life. If he declined, the board said Perry
should grant Patterson a 120-day reprieve.
The recommendation was "under review," Perry spokeswoman Kathy Walt said.
Patterson repeatedly has been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and
his lethal injection set for Tuesday evening in Huntsville renewed the
legal quandary of whether it's proper to execute someone who is mentally
ill when the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled it's unconstitutional to execute
someone who is mentally retarded.
The courts have halted the executions of 3 Texas inmates this year because
the inmates were considered mentally retarded. Also, the state's highest
criminal court last month for the 1st time commuted a death sentence
because the convict was deemed retarded.
But no such protections, based on Supreme Court ruling 2 years ago in a
Virginia case known as Atkins, have been extended to inmates considered
mentally ill, like Patterson. And since the Atkins decision, at least
three mentally ill prisoners have been executed in Texas.
Patterson, 50, was condemned for the shooting deaths of Louis Oates, 63,
who owned an oil company in Palestine, and Oates' secretary, Dorthy
Harris, 41, almost a dozen years ago.
"I'm not going to count my chickens," J. Gary Hart, Patterson's lawyer,
said Monday evening. "It's encouraging."
Hart said he was continuing to file appeals in the courts to block the
execution, which would be the 9th this year in the state.
"I can't quit what I'm doing because I don't know what Gov. Perry is going
to do," Hart said. "I can't assume."
Hart's appeals centered on Patterson's competency to be executed. One
appeal was rejected earlier Monday by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of
In March, Perry commuted the death sentence of Robert Smith, convicted of
a 1990 Harris County slaying. Smith's lawyers contended their client was
mentally retarded and ineligible for execution. The commutation in a death
penalty case, recommended by the parole board, was the first for Perry
since he took office in 2000. In that time, 82 inmates were executed.
Smith, however, was not within hours of a scheduled execution and Harris
County prosecutors agreed with the recommendation.
Another inmate, Joe Lee Guy, is awaiting a decision from Perry after the
board recommended his sentence be commuted to life. Guy was the lookout in
a Plainview case where two gunmen received life prison terms.
Anderson County District Attorney Doug Lowe had planned to make the trip
from Palestine to Huntsville on Tuesday to attend Patterson's punishment.
"I'm hopeful we can have this execution accomplished," he said Monday
before the parole board recommendation. "I don't think there's a dispute
with him being diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, but that doesn't
mean a person isn't accountable for what they do."
No one, including Patterson, disputed the fact he killed 2 people.
Evidence showed he left his home in Palestine, about 100 miles southeast
of Dallas, Sept. 25, 1992, carrying a .38-caliber pistol. He walked about
a block to where Oates was standing on a loading dock at his business.
Patterson walked up behind him, shot him in the head and started walking
away. When Harris stepped outside, saw the scene and began screaming,
Patterson grabbed her and shot her in the head.
Then he went home, took off his clothes and was arrested in front of his
home while walking on the street.
Throughout his trial, outbursts earned him repeated expulsions from the
courtroom and he frequently talked about "remote control devices" and
"implants" that controlled him.
The fatal shootings were not the 1st involving Patterson. In 1980 in
Dallas and in 1983 in Palestine, he was ruled mentally incompetent to
stand trial on charges related to nonfatal shootings.
While on death row and now as his execution date neared, he refused to
consult with his lawyer and has written jabbering letters to the courts.
"He keeps talking about his permanent stay from execution based on
innocence and his amnesty and tells people he's been acquitted and
exonerated," Hart said. "We've got plenty of documentation to show that
he's a serious paranoid schizophrenic. We just don't have the functional
equivalent of an Atkins opinion."
The Supreme Court has ruled that as long as someone understands why they
are on death row and the punishment they face, they are competent to be
put to death.
Lawyers from the Texas attorney general's office argued Patterson
understands he's under a death sentence for a double killing, even if he
believes his execution has been stopped as a result of a delusional belief
Michele Smith, who was 20 and a new mom when her own mother was gunned
down, also had planned to be in the death chamber Tuesday evening.
"Devastating would not even begin to explain how I have felt for the last
11 1/2 years since my mother was killed," she said. "I couldn't work... It
affected my whole life.
"I need to see this man be executed for the murder of my mother so it can
finally be really and completely over and I can let myself move past this
tragedy to a place where I can find peace with what has happened."
(source: Associated Press, May 17 2004)
May 14 - Mentally ill killer's stay bid rejected
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday refused to halt the execution next week
of a convicted killer who has repeatedly been diagnosed as mentally ill.
Kelsey Patterson, 50, is set for lethal injection Tuesday evening in
Huntsville for the fatal shootings of a man and woman in the East Texas
town of Palestine.
An appeal to the high court asked that Patterson's execution be delayed
and that the court formally review his case. The court denied both
requests. Additional appeals in the federal courts were planned,
Patterson's lawyer said.
The Supreme Court, in a 2002 ruling in a Virginia case, barred the
execution of mentally retarded people. The same prohibition has not been
extended to those considered mentally ill.
A request for clemency for Patterson was pending Thursday before the Texas
Board of Pardons and Paroles, but a vote by the panel wasn't expected
until Monday, said J. Gary Hart, Patterson's attorney.
Patterson left his home in Palestine the afternoon of Sept, 25, 1992,
carrying a .38-caliber pistol. He walked about a block to an oil company
office where he shot the owner, Louis Oates, in the head. Oates' secretary
was fatally shot after she walked outside, saw his body on the ground and
In 1980 in Dallas and in 1983 in Palestine, Patterson was ruled mentally
incompetent to stand trial on charges related to nonfatal shootings.
He was found competent to be tried for the double slaying, however, and
was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death.
In his request to the Supreme Court, Hart noted that Patterson, diagnosed
as a paranoid schizophrenic, had to be expelled from his murder trial
because of outbursts "almost certainly fueled by his delusional system"and
missed nearly half of the testimony against him.
At least a half-dozen prisoners claiming mental illness have been put to
death in Texas over the past 2 years.
(source: Associated Press)
In Texas, the Board’s clemency recommendation is binding on the governor. This procedural rule means the Governor cannot grant clemency without the Board’s recommendation. However if the Board does recommend clemency, the Governor does not have to follow that recommendation. Below is the contact information for the Board and the Governor.
Governor Rick Perry
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711
Chairwoman Rissie Owens
Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
P.O. Box 1340
Austin, Texas 78711-3401