« Ind. Law - "Gary cameras may nab drivers who run red lights" | Main | Ind. Decisions - Court of Appeals issues 3 today (and 10 NFP) »

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court issues confusing ruling re Mental Illness and Competency to be Executed

Michael Dean Overstreet v. State of Indiana, a 46-page opinion authored by Justice Rucker for the majority, is somewhat split , as indicated on p. 41:

Shepard, C.J., and Dickson, Sullivan, and Boehm, JJ., concur except as to part VI. B, and vote to affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

As to part VI. B, Shepard, C.J. delivers an opinion in which Sullivan, J. concurs and Dickson, J., and Boehm, J., deliver separate opinions.

Justice Rucker's opinion begins:
A jury convicted Michael Dean Overstreet of murder, rape, and criminal confinement in connection with the 1997 strangulation death of 18-year-old Kelly Eckart. The jury recommended a sentence of death, and the trial court accepted the recommendation. On direct appeal we affirmed Overstreet’s conviction and sentence of death. Overstreet v. State, 783 N.E.2d 1140 (Ind. 2003), cert. denied, 540 U.S. 1150 (2004). Thereafter, Overstreet filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which the post-conviction court denied after a hearing. He now appeals that denial raising several issues for our review, at least two of which are waived because they were known and available at the time of Overstreet’s direct appeal, and another three are barred because of the doctrine of res judicata. We address the remaining issues, which we rephrase as follows: (a) was Overstreet denied the effective assistance of trial counsel; (b) was Overstreet denied the effective assistance of appellate counsel; (c) did Overstreet receive a fair post-conviction proceeding; and (d) is Overstreet incompetent to be executed because of his mental illness.
Part VI is "Mental Illness and Competency to be Executed"; VI-A relates to the federal constitutional claim, VI-B to state constitutional claim.

Oddly, on pp. 38-40, where the discussion of the majority opinion turns to the VI-B, the state constitutional claim, the language becomes that of a minority opinion, ending on p. 40 with:

Because I see no principled distinction between the diminished capacities exhibited by Overstreet and the diminished capacities that exempt the mentally retarded from execution, I would declare that executing Overstreet constitutes purposeless and needless imposition of pain and suffering thereby violating the Cruel and Unusual Punishment provision of the Indiana Constitution. Therefore, I would remand this cause to the post-conviction court with instructions to impose a sentence of life imprisonment without parole. In all other respects, I would affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 27, 2007 10:11 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions