State’s Oldest Inmate Executed

Mar 18, 2015 - 0 Comments

The oldest inmate executed in Missouri yesterday lost a last-minute ditch effort to obtain clemency for his preexistent brain injury and below-average IQ. 

Cecil Clayton, 74, was put to death by lethal injection last night for the coldblooded killing of a sheriff’s deputy in 1996. Up until that moment, he was Missouri’s oldest death row prisoner.

Observers at Clayton’s execution say he “was cooperative” and that it took about eight minutes for the convicted killer to die, during which time his breathing was labored and his right leg twitched slightly.

The only words the condemned man offered before being strapped to the executioner’s gurney was, "They brought me up here to execute me." An odd farewell which in itself may indicate that the mentally-impaired prisoner’s depth of understanding was indeed quite limited.

Lawyers for Clayton claimed his pronounced mental defects stemmed from a 1972 sawmill mishap that resulted in the loss of 8-percent of his brain, including one-fifth of the frontal lobe.

That region of the brain governs impulse control and logical thinking.

"Cecil Clayton had -- literally -- a hole in his head," argued Elizabeth Unger Carlyle, one of the attorneys hoping to spare their disabled client’s life at the eleventh hour.

"Executing him without a hearing to determine his competency violated the Constitution, Missouri law, and basic human dignity,” she added. “The world will not be a safer place because Mr. Clayton has been executed."

His was Missouri's second execution already this year, putting the state well on track with its 2014 record-breaking number of ten. It was also the first one performed at nighttime, as opposed to the customary wee small hours of morning.

But Clayton’s case will make criminal-justice history for another more important reason: He’s the oldest inmate executed in the state of Missouri. At least thus far.

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