A group of conservatives said on Monday that Texas Gov. Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryTexas New Members 2019 Senate should reject Trump’s radical nominee to key energy panel Perry: We shouldn't let Russia use energy as a weapon MORE (R) should stop the execution of a man whose lawyers say he is severely mentally ill, as long the state’s parole board recommends it.

“Rather than serving as a measured response to murder, the execution of [Scott] Panetti would only serve to undermine the public’s faith in a fair and moral justice system,” they said in a letter to the governor, which was signed by 20 conservative writers and leaders.


“As conservatives, we must be on guard that such an extraordinary government sanction not be used against a person who is mentally incapable of rational thought. It would be immoral for the government to take this man’s life,” they said.

Panetti was sentenced to death for murdering his in-laws — in front of his wife and daughter — in 1992.

His advocates say he has suffered from schizophrenia since before the crime was committed. They asked the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to recommend that Perry commute Panetti’s sentence to life in prison. They have also asked the Supreme Court to stay his execution on Eighth Amendment grounds.

Prior to the crime, Panetti buried his furniture in his backyard because he believed that would stop the Devil from interfering in his life. He later subpoenaed Jesus while representing himself in his capital murder trial.

Prosecutors have said in the past that they believe Panetti’s claims of mental illness to be a ruse.

The letter is signed by several prominent conservatives, including former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R), currently the president of the Senate Conservatives Fund, and writer Charles Murray.

The controversy over Panetti’s execution — scheduled for Wednesday evening — comes at a time when conservatives are rethinking “tough on crime” rhetoric.

Increasingly, Republicans have joined Democrats in calling for a reduction in the number of people incarcerated in federal prison. Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) has partnered with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) on a prison reform package that would help divert low-risk offenders to other programs.

Others have called for more wide-ranging reforms. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has said that federal mandatory minimum sentences, which have helped contribute to the disproportionate incarceration of people of color, must be revised. He has also said that voting rights should be restored to offenders convicted of nonviolent felonies.

Texas has been hailed as a model for the nation for reducing its prison population.

The national trend in favor of criminal justice reform has not always included the death penalty. Despite a growing shortage of the drugs used for lethal injection, states have continued to execute prisoners.

There have been 33 executions so far in 2014. The number of executions nationally has fallen since it peaked in 1999, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.