State Executes Man with Critical Brain Loss

Despite a state and national outcry against the execution, this week the State of Missouri executed Cecil Clayton.  Clayton was unique not only because he was the oldest man on Missouri’s death row (age 74), but also because he had lost a crucial portion of his brain that controls reasoning, judgment, and impulse control.

The traumatic brain injury was a result of a sawmill accident over 40 years ago that imbedded a piece of wood in his brain.  The only way doctors could save his life was by removing 20% of his frontal lobe, leaving empty space in his skull.

Immediately after the accident he changed from a hard-working family man to someone who experienced memory loss, paranoia, and hallucinations. He was in and out of psychiatric care for years, was unable to work, and was barely functioning in society.  Tragically, in an outburst of anger, Clayton took the life of Deputy Chris Castetter in 1996.

Clayton should have been punished for his crime, but to execute someone with such diminished mental capacity serves no purpose.  What does it take for the courts or the governor to show mercy? Executions are carried out in the name of every citizen of Missouri.  As Catholics who believe in the dignity of every human person, we should be appalled that our state executed this seriously disabled person in our name.  Rather than making our society safer, we are all diminished.

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