Cecil Clayton had been working in a lumberyard in the Missouri town of Purdy when a piece of wood struck him in the head. It cut deep into his skull and doctors had to remove part of his frontal lobe in order to save his life. That’s an area which controls impulsive behavior, judgement and inhibition.
Before the accident, his family says Clayton was an easy going tea-totaller with his own gospel ministry. But after the operation he started drinking heavily, became aggressive and violent, and suffered memory loss.
In 1996, he shot and killed police officer Christopher Castetter after a routine traffic stop. When he was arrested, Clayton acted confused, saying, “he shouldn’t have smarted off to me like that,” and then adding that he really wasn’t there.
— Sister Helen Prejean (@helenprejean) March 18, 2015
The US Constitution forbids anyone to be executed if they are mentally incapacitated, but Clayton’ s lawyers did not have success in persuading the state Supreme Court to hear his appeal and label the punishment “cruel and unusual punishment,” which would be a constitutional violation. They unsuccessfully appealed six times.
Clayton had the reading capability of a nine-year–old and wass incapable of taking care of himself. “He is not simply incompetent legally, he would be unable to care for himself or manage basic self-care, were he not in a structured environment that takes care of him,” wrote psychiatrist David Forster in a recent evaluation.
Missouri has one of the highest rates of death row executions, second only to Texas. The state has been executing prisoners close to once a month in the last two years alone.