Wesley Purkey, 68, executed despite Trump's office having 'proof of his dementia', his attorneys claim
Wesley Ira Purkey, a 68-year-old on death row for rape and murders in 1998, was executed on Thursday, July 16 by lethal injection as the is the Trump administration carried out its second federal execution this week. Purkey was reportedly put to death at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana, at 8:19 a.m. local time. Moments before his execution, Purkey released a statement, saying: "I deeply regret the pain and suffering I caused to Jennifer’s family. I am deeply sorry. I deeply regret the pain I caused to my daughter, who I love so very much. This sanitized murder really does not serve no purpose whatsoever."
Earlier, the Supreme Court on Thursday morning, July 16, gave a green signal for Purkey's execution after a lower court had put a stay on his execution over claims about his mental competency.
Purkey's attorneys have stated that the Trump administration "appears to have had scientific confirmation" that suggested that Purkey has vascular dementia. His attorneys had previously stated that Purkey, a death row convict for rape and murders in 1998, is set to be executed despite the President's office having proof of his debilitating mental health conditions that inhibit him from understanding the reason for his government-ordered imminent death.
The top court's ruling comes as the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit late on Wednesday, July 15, had upheld the District Court’s preliminary injunction blocking the government from executing Purkey on Wednesday night. Purkey's attorneys had filed urgent information with the Court of Appeals in an emergency motion opposed to the government’s attempts to vacate a preliminary injunction.
“Critically, five minutes before this filing, Mr Purkey’s counsel learned that the Government appears to have had scientific confirmation in their possession of significant structural abnormalities in Mr Purkey’s brain that are consistent with cognitive impairment such as vascular dementia or other conditions," the filing stated, according to court documents obtained by the MEA WorldWide (MEAWW).
"Access to this testing had been requested by Plaintiff for months, and arbitrarily denied by Defendants. Defendants reversed course last week, and permitted the testing at the expense of the Mr Purkey’s team," the filing added. "Even though the testing was paid for and requested by Plaintiff’s counsel and their experts, the results were initially delivered only to the Government, last week. The Government provided reports based on this data late last week but did not deliver the underlying scans to Mr. Purkey’s expert until yesterday. Although Plaintiff’s expert has not been able to verify the extent of the atrophy and damage to Plaintiff's brain through the actual scans, the reports themselves make clear that significant abnormalities exists.”
The Supreme Court's Thursday order granted the government's request to lift an injunction blocking Purkey's execution. All the liberal side, Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Elena Kagan dissented in the 5-4 opinion.
US District Judge Tanya Chutkan had issued an injunction on Wednesday blocking Purkey's scheduled execution. Chutkan, in her ruling, noted that the 68-year-old convict suffers from progressive dementia, schizophrenia, and severe mental illness. The court also found that the government did not provide any independent evidence to contest Purkey's competency. The Department of Justice, after the ruling, appealed to the Supreme Court.
Three leading national mental health organizations, last week, had also called on Attorney General Bill Barr in a letter to put a halt to Purkey's execution, calling it "cruel and unusual" because of his mental health issues. Purkey suffers from Alzheimer's and dementia so severe that he does not understand the reason for his execution and believes that he is being put to death in retaliation of his complaints about the prison conditions.
“Wes Purkey is a severely brain-damaged and mentally ill man who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease,” said Woodman in a statement to MEAWW. “He has long accepted responsibility for the crime that put him on death row, but as his dementia has progressed, he no longer has a rational understanding of why the government plans to execute him. He believes his execution is part of a largescale conspiracy against him by the federal government in retaliation for his frequent challenges to prison conditions and he believes his own lawyers are working against him within this conspiracy."
Purkey's lawyers have stated that their filing of a preliminary injunction in the case demonstrated that the 68-year-old's condition met this standard and that his execution would violate the Eighth Amendment. "The Eighth Amendment prohibits executing someone who, like Wes, lacks a rational understanding of the basis for his execution, and the court must not allow the execution to go forward unless and until it can confirm that Mr Purkey has this understanding,” Woodman, who represents Purkey with Miller & Chevalier of Washington DC as co-counsel, added.
Purkey, from Lansing, Kansas, was given the death sentence for raping and killing a 16-year-old girl, Jennifer Long, in Kansas City, Missouri, 1998. He reportedly raped Long then killed her by stabbing her repeatedly and eventually used a chainsaw to cut her body into pieces. Purkey later burned her remains in a fireplace and threw her ashes 200 miles away in a septic pond in Clearwater, southwest of Wichita. Nearly nine months after Long's killing, he attacked an 80-year-old woman, Mary Ruth Bales, from Kansas City with a hammer and killed her. Purkey, at the time, pleaded guilty to the elderly woman's murder and was given a life sentence for the crime. However, years later, in 2003, a federal jury in the Western District of Missouri found Purkey guilty of kidnapping and killing Long. Prosecutors then sought the death penalty for him. Purkey, since then, has continued to remain at the US Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana.