By Finn Bunting
Cecil Clayton, a 74-year-old dementia-sufferer with an IQ of 71, was recently executed by the state of Missouri despite his attorney’s last-ditch pleas. His lawyers had hoped he might be spared execution due to diminished understanding - Clayton was missing a large section of his brain.
In 1972, a sawmill accident resulted in a shard of wood being speared into his head. Clayton had about 20% of his frontal lobe removed (around 8% of the total brain mass). The part of the brain involved in impulse control, problem solving, and social behaviour.
From that point on Clayton was plagued by his own mind; suffering from violent impulses, schizophrenia and extreme paranoia. The New York Times reports: “there was a profound change in him that he doesn’t understand”. In 1996 he shot deputy sheriff Christopher L. Castetter of Barry County, southwestern Missouri and was sentenced to death.
Clayton’s attempts at exemption hinged on his attorney’s attempts to prove he didn’t understand his death sentence. Under both Missouri and federal law “the condemned [must] know that they are to be executed and understand the reasons for it.”
Prophetically, psychiatrist Dr. Douglas Stevens, who evaluated Clayton’s mental state as far back as 1983, said: “There is presently no way that this man could be expected to function in the world of work … He has had both suicidal and homicidal impulses, so far controlled, though under pressure they would be expected to exacerbate.”
Cecil Clayton’s last meal was fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn, green beans and cola.
New York Times March 7, 2015.