Lawyers Argue 79-Year-Old Ohio Death-Row Prisoner with Dementia is Incompetent to Be Executed
Lawyers for James Frazier (pictured), Ohio’s oldest death-row prisoner, have filed a motion to prevent his execution, arguing that he has severe vascular dementia that has rendered him unable to understand his punishment.
Legal papers filed in the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas in October 2020 assert that Frazier, now 79 years old, suffered a series of mini-strokes in 2017 that have caused serious physical, psychological, and cognitive impairments that make him incompetent to be executed. His lawyers say that he suffers from paranoia, incontinence, and confusion, believes the year is 1990, and thinks he is still awaiting trial.
“Mr. Frazier’s concept of reality is so impaired that he cannot grasp the execution’s meaning and purpose or the link between the crime and his punishment – not now and not ever,” his lawyer, Sharon Hicks, wrote.
A mental health report by Dr. Bhushan Agharkar, a psychiatrist who examined Frazier over the course of two years, stated that “Mr. Frazier is unable to rationally assist his counsel with his case because his deteriorating brain disease impairs his memory, ability to weigh and deliberate options and maintain a coherent conversation when discussing his case. He is easily confused and appears paranoid, the result of his dementia.” Frazier, the report says, “is clearly demented and lacks a rational understanding of his death sentence and why the state wants to execute him.”
In 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Ford v. Wainwright that the constitution prohibits states from executing individuals who lack a rational understanding of the fact that they will be executed or the reasons for their execution. In 2019, in Madison v. Alabama, the Supreme Court said that decision applied to cases in which the prisoner’s cognitive impairment was a product of dementia.
Published Januar 2021 - LB