LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A federal public defender is arguing that Arkansas death-row inmate Bruce Earl Ward suffers from schizophrenia and shouldn’t be executed.
A Pulaski County judge issued a temporary stay in a separate lawsuit Friday delaying Ward’s execution that was scheduled for Oct. 21, as well as the executions scheduled for seven other inmates. But Ward’s attorneys are moving forward with a mental incompetency claim filed this week in Jefferson County Circuit Court, citing instances of Ward not understanding or believing that the execution was scheduled to take place.
No hearing date had been set as of late Friday morning in the lawsuit that names Department of Correction Director Wendy Kelley as a defendant. Cathy Frye, a spokeswoman for the Department of Correction said she could not comment on ongoing litigation.
Ward was convicted in the 1989 strangulation of an 18-year-old convenience store clerk.
According to affidavits and attorney statements, Ward has repeatedly told attorneys and prison staff that God will not let the execution happen and that a life sentence is an offer from Satan.
“He reportedly told the warden and others, ‘My charges are being dropped, and I’m walking out of here. I’m going free, and I’m not interested in anything you have to say.’ He said there was a ‘power’ or a ‘something’ in that room, that angels were involved, and that the Spirit of God was present,” Assistant Federal Defender Scott Braden wrote in the filing.
The filing notes Ward’s insistence on a conspiracy involving the Pennsylvania mafia that knew something bad would happen before he moved to the South and other statements he has made to attorneys and mental health officials. It includes a statement from a former teacher, who said Ward was strange and that he ate flies during class.
His attorneys argue that an insufficient evaluation from a state mental health professional was inadequate to determine Ward’s competency in previous trials.
The filing argues Kelley has an interest in declaring Ward competent to be executed and shouldn’t be given the last say on his competency.
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