- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 31, 2015

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Missouri Supreme Court dismissed claims Tuesday that a man’s anxiety and panic attacks led to an unfair trial in which he was convicted and sentenced to death for killing an older couple during a break-in.

Judges said in a 5-2 opinion that there was no evidence Jesse Driskill was mentally unfit to stand trial, despite arguments from his public defender that he did not receive anxiety medication and left the courtroom to avoid having panic attacks in front of the jury.

His attorney, Rosemary Percival, said she plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Driskill, of Lebanon, was sentenced to die for the 2010 killings of 82-year-old Johnnie Wilson and 76-year-old Coleen Wilson, who had just returned to their rural home near Lebanon after celebrating their 59th wedding anniversary when they walked in on Driskill burglarizing the house.

Both were shot and Coleen Wilson was raped before their attacker attempted to burn the couple’s bodies.

Driskill received two death sentences and seven consecutive life sentences for the murders and several other charges.

Percival in October argued Driskill was unable to properly work with his attorney to defend himself because of his anxiety and at one point had a breakdown in court. He watched the trial via videoconferencing to avoid having another panic attack in front of the jury. Driskill later left court during the penalty phase and declined to watch through videoconferencing.

“I mean, I know how I am and I know I’ll snap out,” he said, according to court documents.

Judge Patricia Breckenridge, who opposed the majority opinion, faulted the trial court in a separate opinion for not allowing Driskill to have another mental examination to see whether he still was competent to stand trial.

Still, anyone facing death could face similar anxiety, the majority ruling said, and “it would be illogical not to be uneasy at such a time.”

“Driskill paints a portrait of a mentally incompetent defendant who is unable to participate in his criminal defense,” the justices wrote. “But this picture is refuted by the record.”


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