Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Comp injury no excuse for murder

While facing a death sentence and nothing else works, a convict turned to worker's comp.

When claimant was in his early 30s he worked in a sawmill.  A piece of wood broke off a log and lodged into his head resulting in brain surgery.  After the injury, claimant developed changes in his personality, he abused alcohol, and he became anti-social.  He  diagnosed with  "Dementia Due to General Medical Condition, Major depression,  and Psychotic Disorder Due to General Medical Condition," i.e., traumatic brain injury.

Many years later he was convicted of shooting a deputy point blank in his head when the deputy  investigated a complaint from his girlfriend.  He argued at trial that he didn't do it, and even if he did do it, he didn't mean it and lacked intent.   He argued at the sentencing phase, the death penalty was not appropriate because of his prior TBI.     The "sad" belief that divine intervention  will save him and free him to become a gospel singer did not make him incompetent. 

A dissent argued that he was entitled to a hearing to assess his competency given past IQ scores of 71 and that is was  unconstitutional  to execute him, even if he may have been more competent at the time of the hearing.  The judge criticized the state for rushing the execution dates of capital convicts.  The deputy was killed 19 years earlier.   State ex rel Clayton v Griffith, 2015 Mo Lexis 24 (March 14, 2015). 

Clayton, 74,  was Missouri's oldest inmate on death row.  He was executed by lethal injection.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/17/cecil-clayton-execution_n_6889312.html

St. Louis University has researched for many years the adverse impact of some workers with back injuries and long-term consequences such as financial problems resulting in more post-accident evictions and child support collections.  The  lead researchers concluded  that disparate treatment is  associated with  more post-accident anti-social behavior such a stalking and adult abuse.  http://www.slu.edu/x52734.xml

The death row appeal dealt with a  narrow issue of whether someone who had previous marginal testing of IQ with a history of 20% of his brain removed was entitled to a hearing on competency before he was executed.   The state Supreme Court split 4-3 to deny a hearing.   The governor denied clemency.