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Mentally ill man executed in US

Jan. 7, 2004 • Thursday January 8, 2004

The state of Arkansas has executed a man with a severe mental illness.

Charles Singleton, 44, was forcibly given anti-psychotic drugs which made him lucid enough under court guidelines to be put to death.

America vs. Human Rights

“The United States has long regarded itself as a beacon of human rights, as evidenced by an enlightened constitution, judicial independence, and a civil society grounded in strong traditions of free speech and press freedom. But the reality is more complex; for decades, civil rights and civil liberties groups have exposed constitutional violations and challenged abusive policies and practices. In recent years, as well, international human rights monitors have documented serious gaps in U.S. protections of the human rights of vulnerable groups. Both federal and state governments have nonetheless resisted applying to the U.S. the standards that, rightly, the U.S. applies elsewhere.”
Human Rights Watch

This particular case demonstrates just how low America has sunk when it comes to human rights. It talks the talk, but it seldom walks the walk.

A diagnosed schizophrenic, he was given a lethal injection in the state’s death chamber in Varner for killing grocery store worker Mary Lou York in 1979.

The Governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, had refused to issue a stay of execution.

The European Union and Amnesty International had urged the governor to commute the death sentence, saying it was morally reprehensible to execute a person with a severe mental illness.

Singleton’s lawyer, Jeffrey Rosenzweig, said the execution left him “frustrated, disappointed, saddened”.


While in prison, Singleton’s mental condition worsened and he was forcibly given powerful drugs to alleviate the symptoms.

Eligibility for execution is the only unwanted consequence of the medication
- Federal court rejecting Singleton’s appeal

Lawyers for Singleton attempted to stop this, saying that it was not in their client’s medical interest to be declared mentally competent enough to be executed.

But last year, the 8th Circuit federal court ruled that Arkansas could forcibly medicate Singleton. Handing down its decision, the court said that “eligibility for execution is the only unwanted consequence of the medication”.

The US Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the lower court’s decision.

Singleton was the first person Arkansas has executed this year and the 26th since the state reinstated the death penalty about 20 years ago.

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