CLEVELAND (AP) — An inmate is too mentally ill to be executed for the killings of his wife and brother-in-law, a judge ruled Friday in a decision that comes just a week after the governor issued a reprieve hours before the man was set to die.
"Abdul Awkal presently lacks the capacity to form a rational understanding as to the reason the state intends to execute him," Cuyahoga County Judge Stuart Friedman said. "Abdul Awkal may not be executed unless and until he has been restored to competency."
The judge said it's up to the defense to seek a delay. Awkal asked the Ohio Supreme Court on Friday night to delay his scheduled execution Wednesday, and the court gave prosecutors until Monday morning to respond.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason said he also would appeal the judge's decision.
"Awkal changed his story on the eve of execution and blamed the CIA for executing him, after admitting that he had lied to psychiatrists and has now successfully manipulated the court," Mason said in a statement. "Delays like this are what is wrong with the death penalty."
A brother of the victims, Ali Abdul-Aziz, said the ruling means killers can avoid the death penalty by faking insanity.
"Where is the justice," he asked in an email. "All the court has done is set a precedent for all criminals, telling them: All you must do is act insane, and then you will live."
The ruling concluded several days of testimony from both sides who argued whether the 53-year-old Awkal was mentally ill when he killed his estranged wife, Latife Awkal, and brother-in-law, Mahmoud Abdul-Aziz, in a Cleveland courthouse in January 1992 as the couple prepared to take up divorce and custody issues.
Kevin Cafferkey, Awkal's attorney, said whatever happens on the execution issue, Awkal would never leave prison.
"Mr. Awkal was approximately 16 hours away from getting a lethal injection when Gov. Kasich issued a reprieve and certainly we're thrilled about that," Cafferkey said.
Cafferkey said it is possible Awkal could be restored to mental competence to face execution.