WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday upheld a stay of execution for Garry T. Allen while federal courts sort out questions regarding his mental competency.
In a brief order, the high court rejected Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt's effort to move forward with the execution, which had been scheduled for Thursday. A federal judge in Oklahoma City issued a stay, and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld it late Thursday.
Allen's attorneys said Allen is insane and therefore can't constitutionally be executed. They are also challenging an Oklahoma law that gives a prison warden authority to determine whether to declare an inmate competent for execution.
Allen, 56, killed Gail Titsworth outside an Oklahoma City day care center in 1986, and he was shot in the head by a police officer at the scene.
Allen's case has been winding slowly through state and federal courts since, with his mental competency the repeated focus. After a jury found him mentally competent to stand trial in 1987, he pleaded guilty to killing Titsworth and was given the death penalty.
The U.S. Supreme Court in 1997 overturned his death sentence because he was declared competent to stand trial under an Oklahoma law ruled unconstitutional by the high court.
He was given the death sentence again. The state Pardon and Parole Board voted in 2005 to commute his sentence to life in prison — a recommendation ultimately rejected by Gov. Mary Fallin. In 2008, a jury voted 9-3 that he was mentally competent to be executed.
After his most recent appeal in state courts failed in December, an execution date was set, putting in motion the latest round of arguments.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1986 that an insane person could not be executed. That same ruling found flaws in a Florida law that allowed the governor, after hearing from a panel of psychiatrists, to decide whether an inmate was competent.
Allen's attorneys said Oklahoma's law is similarly flawed since it gives the prison warden broad discretion. U.S. District Judge David Russell, in staying Allen's execution, wrote this week that the Oklahoma procedure was “troubling” in light of the 1986 case.
According to Allen's attorneys, Allen was evaluated by a neuropsychologist in February and deemed incompetent to stand trial.
“Mr. Allen is demented, functioning akin to an Alzheimer's patient with severe incapacities in his ability to retain and process information,” a brief filed with the 10th Circuit court states.
Alex Weintz, spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin, said Friday that the governor “is satisfied that Allen has had ample opportunity to plead his case. Allen has now had three chances to argue incompetency in court. In all three cases, he has been determined competent and sane.
“Nevertheless, the federal court's decision will give Allen yet another opportunity to argue a defense of insanity,” Weintz said.