1902: Harry “Breaker” Morant and Peter Handcock, “scapegoats for Empire” 1528: Patrick Hamilton, Scotland’s first Protestant

2002: Monty Allen Delk, in a Three-Pronged Failure

February 28th, 2008 David Elliot

(Thanks to David Elliot at Abolish the Death Penalty for the guest post -ed.)

Six years ago today the state of Texas executed an FBI agent, a state district judge, the president of Kenya and a war hero who commanded a nuclear-powered submarine during the Civil War. More aptly put, Texas executed a seriously mental ill inmate named Monty Allen Delk who, at varying times, believed he was all of these things.

Delk was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Gene “Bubba” Allen of Anderson County in East Texas. Although the state of Texas maintained that Delk was “malingering,” i.e., pretending to be mentally ill to stave off execution, the prison system’s former chief mental health officer stated that Delk suffered from a severe mental illness, one that had become progressive in nature since it was first noticed in 1989 –- years after Delk was tried and convicted.

A close examination of the Delk case reveals yet another significant flaw in the capital punishment system:

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that executing severely mentally ill inmates violates the U.S. Constitution.

The court also has held that a death row inmate must be mentally competent in order to drop his appeals.

But the court has not directly addressed the issue of whether a death row inmate must be mentally competent in order to pursue his state and federal habeas appeals. In fact, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, and the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over death penalty cases in Texas, have ruled that prisoner competence during state and federal habeas proceedings is not constitutionally required.

The question is fundamental to due process. Habeas is the first, last and often only avenue of appeal for death row inmates whose sentences have been upheld on direct appeal by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. But because Delk was unable to assist his attorney through his habeas appeals, he could not answer simple questions that were key to his case -– questions such as, did he commit the crime? Did he think his trial was fair? Did he think his trial lawyers adequately represented him? Were there circumstances about the crime or about his personal history that mitigated against a death sentence?

The fact that Delk’s execution was allowed to proceed represented a three-pronged failure on the part of Texas’ death penalty system. The first failure must be attributed to the courts, which failed to order a psychiatric evaluation of Delk, despite repeated requests by Delk’s very able attorney, John Wright of Huntsville.

The second failure lies with Texas’ executive clemency system. Because of his mental illness, Delk’s sentence should have been commuted to life in prison. Yet the Board of Pardons and Paroles as well as Texas Gov. Rick Perry did nothing. (It is important to note that four days before Delk’s execution, the Georgia Parole Board, acting in a similar case, commuted death row inmate Alexander Williams sentence to life in prison after pleas from human rights activists. Williams is a chronic paranoid schizophrenic who thinks Sigourney Weaver is God and that little green frogs are in his prison cell, staring at him.)

The third failure rested with the Texas media. While Williams’ case attracted comprehensive media coverage in Georgia and beyond, newspapers in Texas largely failed to investigate Delk’s case. Government -– including the criminal justice system –- works best under the glare of public scrutiny. Absent such scrutiny, abuses occur. In this case, no one outside Texas’ fervent anti-death penalty community took much notice of Delk’s execution.

The good news is Texas’ newspapers are beginning to sit up and take notice. If I am not mistaken, every major Texas newspaper has called either for abolition of the death penalty or for a moratorium on executions. The issue of capital punishment has advanced from the margins to the mainstream. In today’s climate, one wonders whether Texas officials could get away with executing a person as severely mentally ill as Delk.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court will have to directly confront the issue of whether a death-sentenced prisoner need be mentally competent during his habeas appeals. Until that happens, we simply will have to ask ourselves a key question:

Is executing someone who is so severely mentally ill he does not know who he is not the very definition of an insane act?

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Common Criminals,Diminished Capacity,Guest Writers,Lethal Injection,Murder,Notable Jurisprudence,Other Voices,Texas,USA

17 thoughts on “2002: Monty Allen Delk, in a Three-Pronged Failure”

  1. Foodle says:

    I think your idea will be copied and utilized to inspire the creation of many more ideas because it is brilliant and original.

  2. Shannon Paige Guzman-Peterson says:

    I AM the local, “Texas media” agent who attended this man’s execution & I have to somewhat take issue w/ your “media pitfall” claim. It was impossible to interview this man, as I’m not inclined to continue an interview in which he has spent 5 minutes belting out incoherent, but obviously forced BABBLE…. & as a grand finale, proceeded to urinate into his phone. Most of these other claims of his victims were not properly documented & largely based on “here-say.” Responsible journalism is FACTUAL & DOCUMENTED!!! I tried & TRIED to prove all of this as fact, but w/ 6 states involved & NO family willing to talk – it’s difficult.

  3. Bobby says:

    ok, Delk was NOT insane. there are numerous reports of him bragging to his fellow inmates on how clever he was for his deception. he showed none of this “insane behavior” before the trial, and would even “slip up” when around various personnel at the prison. in summation, he was just a bad person who had a rough life and did something terrible. the end.

  4. Laura says:

    So my mom JUST decided to tell me that this is her cousin!! And to look him up. Pretty creepy. I cannot believe I am related by blood to this guy. :/ Ahh.

  5. J says:

    Monty Delk shot and killed my neighbor [Chris S.] in that “hunting accident” when I was 15 years old. Delk was a year older than me and I knew him as a bully and general asshole. Good riddance.

  6. i knew him says:

    I was his best friend in school and i knew he was bent, who do u tell ?

  7. i knew him says:

    Monty was a natural born killer. He started in the 9th grade, got away with it and look where it lead. I knew him and he honostly scared me because he was capable of murder, he proved it. In high school he just got high and listened to his music in class, he didnt care cause he knew he wasn’t gonna have a future. I can tell everyone without any remorse that Southeast Texas is a much safer place with him gone. He was capable of far worse than what he did, everyone needs to understand that.

  8. PN-G says:

    I went to high school with Delk. He killed my friend in that so called hunting accident. My friend was standing in grass that was about a foot tall and Delk said he thought it was a deer. He not only ruined my friends familys life but hundreds of people that knew my friend. Anybody who came in contact with Delk in school knew there was something really wrong with him. He was with his stepfather when the so called accident happened. He got what he deserved.

  9. Yasir Hasan says:

    These deathrow guys can go to any extent to ask for clemency… some of them claim they had a bad childhood, well many people have bad childhood, full of poverty and abuse, that does not mean they go and killing spree… Similarly, many claims mental problems, well he was competent enough to know how to kill, how to get the valuable stuff in his possession… nothing but a cheat, imposter, got what he deserved… may be a more painful death was required… but I think knowing death in advance is also a penalty in itself…

  10. KYGB says:

    All my sympathy to the victim survivor’s. Delk was a bad one and his execution was a needed event.

    I hope you all are dealing with your loss.

  11. KYGB says:

    All my sympathy to the victim survivor’s. Delk was a bad one and his execution was a needed event. I hope you all are dealing with your loss.

  12. s snell says:

    The man Delk killed was my Brother. Who was a wonderful person. Delk was crazy, but who needs people that crazy running around? He was on death row 15 years and my Tax dollars was paying to feed the man that murdered my brother. Delk knew what he was doing. He was evil and would make your skin crawl. He was like the devil. He was not cute. He got what he had coming. He ruined many lives. He got what he needed he just should have got it a lot sooner.

  13. S.Allen says:

    I am the mother of the “last” person Monty Delk killed. I say last because it came out in the trial that he had murdered a teenager in Florida for talking to his girlfried. After the information came out, and the location the body might be in, the Florida authorities found sleletal remains. The skull had a gunshot wound. I didn’t know about the other incident about the “accidental” killing of a friend while hunting with the step father. Another funny “accident” was when Monty and his step father went fishing in a boat and the step father drowned. Monty was a teen then, I understand. All this came out at the trial for my sons murder. There were many stories that came out at the trial about him. He conveniently developed a mental illness after he was on death row. A reporter that went to interview him once said, that when they interviewed him, he was acting all crazy, like he didn’t understand anything. Then when the reporter slid a permission slip to him, for him to sign to release his story, he took it, looked for the place to sign it and then signed it. That told the reporter that he wasn’t as crazy as people might think.
    At the execution, no one was there for him, not one single family member. We were told no one wanted his body. He was buried at the prison. If you want to feel sorry for someone, don’t feel sorry for him. Feel sorry for the unborn child that had to grow up without a father. For the grieving widow of my son. His grieving parents and sisters,his baby brother and the many relatives and friends that loved him so much and dearly miss him to this day. My son was killed Nov. 1986, he was 22 years old with an expectant wife with their first child. My son was so excited over that baby. His wife was 8 1/2 months pregnant. The baby was born two weeks after my son’s death. My son was just trying to sell a car. For that, he was shot in the head, robbed of his wallet and car and left in a ditch with a shotgun blast to his head. By the way, he wanted the car to go to Chicago, to kill his wife and her family. I don’t feel sorry for Delk and I think he got just what he deserved. I would love to talk to mjkaylor. Look me up, I am easy to find. Post again a little more info on Delk. I was glad to see what you had wrote. Thanks

  14. Trip says:

    He knew wrong from right when he did the crime, he may have had some mental problems, but he was in control of his actions. I feel the punishment fits the crime.

  15. mjkaylor says:

    Having grown up with Monte as a young child. He was my preschool playmate. His grandmother lived behind us. His mental problems probably started when his grandmother had a major stroke. She was the only stable person in his life. He also accidentally killed a friend when they were out hunting with his stepfather as a teenager. I can say that he odd things as a young boy, like putitng his grandmothers small dog in the fridge.

  16. Lena B says:

    what a sexy guy 🙂
    Damn that all cute man are murderer and ends up at death row, I am very disappointed… *crying*
    a big kiss to you.

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