Awkal, who was diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder, believes that he advises the CIA on “Islamic religion and culture,” and he’s spent more than a decade writing letters to former CIA directors and to President Obama offering advice on the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although he was sentenced to die for a double murder, Awkal says that he is going to be killed because the “CIA wanted him dead.”. He has a long history of hallucinations and mental breakdowns and was once ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial.
Singleton tells ThinkProgress that he will ask Kasich to reconsider his decision, and that Awkal’s legal team will also seek relief in state and, if necessary, federal court. Awkal could have a strong case. The Supreme Court held in Panetti v. Quarterman that it is unconstitutional to execute a person who is unable to “‘comprehen[d] the reasons’” for his punishment” or who is “unaware of … why [he is] to suffer it.” If Awkal truly believes that he is being executed because the CIA wants him dead, rather than because he committed a serious crime, than he is constitutionally beyond the reach of Ohio’s death chamber.
Ultimately, however, the fact that Awkal’s attorneys need to prove exactly how insane he is in order to save his life highlights the absurdity of America’s rules for state-sponsored killings. The Supreme Court has already recognized that the Constitution forbids executions of juvenile offenders or the mentally retarded because diminished mental capacity makes it harder for an offender “to understand and process information, to learn from experience, to engage in logical reasoning, or to control impulses—that also make it less likely that they can process the information of the possibility of execution as a penalty and, as a result, control their conduct based upon that information.” The same logic also applies to a severely mentally ill man such as Abdul Awkal.