A coalition of mental health organizations on Friday urged Attorney General William P. Barr to stop the execution of Wesley Purkey, a convicted child killer who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease.
“In expressing our position, we do not trivialize in any way the magnitude of Purkey’s crime or the suffering of his victim and her family,” the groups wrote in a letter to Mr. Barr. “However, we are gravely concerned that issues concerning Purkey’s competence to be executed have not been adequately considered by the U.S. or any court of law.”
The letter was signed by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mental Health America, and the Treatment Advocacy Center.
A Justice Department spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Purkey was convicted in 2003 of raping and murdering a 16-year-old girl and bludgeoning to death an 80-year-old woman in Missouri. He is set to be executed on July 15 in Indiana.
The groups say Purkey suffers from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and brain damage. He experiences delusions and hallucinations, including the belief that people were spraying a poisonous mist into his room and that drug dealers implemented a device in his chest to kill him, the groups wrote.
Those illnesses have prevented him from comprehending the nature of his crimes and have grown worse in the years he’s spent on death row, the coalition says.
“His thought patterns have become increasingly bizarre and he has filed numerous complaints against prison officials that reflect his irrational state of mind,” the groups wrote. “In 2016, he was diagnosed with the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s disease, a condition that grows progressively worse over time and usually results in death within three-to-seven years.”
Instead of executing Purkey, the groups say Mr. Barr should sentence him to life in prison.
The coalition’s plea is the second attempt to halt or delay Purkey’s execution.
The American Civil Liberties Union last week filed a lawsuit against Mr. Barr demanding the Justice Department delay his execution so his Buddhist priest, who is staying away because of the coronavirus pandemic, can attend the lethal injection.
That lawsuit is still pending.