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Friday, December 15, 2006

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court issues order late this afternoon [Updated]

Norman Timberlake v. State of Indiana is titled "PUBLISHED ORDER CONCERNING SUCCESSIVE PETITION FOR POST-CONVICTION RELIEF IN CAPITAL CASE." It is a 3-2 opinion written by Chief Justice Shepard, with Dickson and Sullivan, JJ., concurring, that begins and concludes:

Having exhausted the judicial review to which he is entitled as a matter of right, Norman Timberlake remains sentenced to death for murdering a law enforcement officer acting in the line of duty, and the State has requested an execution date be set. Timberlake has filed papers requesting permission to litigate a successive post-conviction claim that his mental illness renders him “incompetent to be executed” under the state and federal constitutions. However, a court-appointed psychiatrist has concluded that, although Timberlake has active and chronic paranoid schizophrenia, Timberlake has the mental capacity to understand that he is about to be executed and why. Because we conclude on the record before us that Timberlake has not shown a reasonable possibility that he is “incompetent to be executed” (and thus entitled to relief on his claim), we deny his request for further review of his sentence. A date for execution of the sentence will be set by separate order. * * *

Because Timberlake has not met his burden of establishing a reasonable possibility that he is entitled to post-conviction relief, we decline to authorize the filing of a successive petition. A date for execution of the death sentence will be set by separate order.

Rehearing should not be sought if Timberlake intends merely to raise the same arguments we have already addressed. If he does petition for rehearing, however, he shall certify in the papers presented to the Clerk for filing that copies have been sent by fax or electronic mail to opposing counsel and to the Division of Supreme Court Administration (fax number 317/232-8372).

The dissent is written by Justice Boehm, with Rucker, J. concurring:
The issue before us is whether Norman Timberlake is insane within the meaning of the Eighth Amendment prohibition against execution of an insane person. This requires an assessment of his current mental condition. We are not concerned with his insanity at the time of the offense, which is judged by a different formulation of “insanity.” Nor is the issue his ability to understand the proceedings and participate in the defense at the time of his trial. * * *

We are told that Timberlake believes that a machine is guiding the actions of his jailers and executioners as well as a number of other persons in public life. The machine speaks to him and on occasion tortures him. Dr. Parker concludes that Timberlake is not malingering in these claims. Because Dr. Parker was asked to, and did, opine only as to whether Timberlake met the Ford standard, we have no opinion as to whether Timberlake met any other standard of “insanity.” Surely, most ordinary citizens would consider a genuine belief in this machine and its workings to render Timberlake, like Arthur Baird before him, at least on the margins of insanity. It seems clear from Dr. Parker’s report that Timberlake has ordinary intelligence and the ability to communicate. Whether Timberlake’s belief in this machine leaves him with “diminished capacities” to “understand and process information” or to “engage in logical reasoning” or to “control impulses” seems more debatable.

As I stated in Baird, we should be cautious in carrying out the death penalty because of its irreversibility, whatever we think of its morality. In Baird’s case, it seemed to me that the circumstances of his crime and trial left some question as to whether the death penalty was appropriate, even though it was clear that he met the statutory requirements for eligibility by reason of killing his wife, his mother, and his father. Timberlake engenders no such doubt. He killed a law enforcement officer in the line of duty. Timberlake is nonetheless entitled to the protections of the Constitution of the United States. There is sufficient doubt as to his mental condition that I would permit him to proceed with an adversary proceeding to resolve his eligibility to be executed consistent with the Eighth Amendment.

[Update] Here is a brief story from the Indianapolis Star, headlined "Trooper's killer to be executed in January."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 15, 2006 04:25 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions