HOUSTON (AP) – A Texas inmate whose lawyers say he has a history of mental illness faces execution Wednesday for killing his mother and burying her body in his backyard nearly 20 years ago.
Tracy Beatty, 61, is scheduled to receive a lethal injection Wednesday night at the state prison in Huntsville. He was sentenced to death for strangling his mother, Carolyn Click, after an argument in November 2003 at her home in East Texas.
Authorities say Beatty buried his 62-year-old mother’s body next to her mobile home in Whitehouse, about 115 miles (180 km) southeast of Dallas, then spent her money on drugs and alcohol.
Beatty’s lawyers asked the US Supreme Court to delay his scheduled execution, arguing that he was prevented from undergoing a full examination to determine whether he was intellectually impaired and might not be eligible for death. He had three previous execution dates.
His attorneys requested that state prison officials allow Beatty to remain without handcuffs during a mental health evaluation by a professional. Experts say having Beatty uncuffed during neurological and other tests is critical to making an informed decision about intellectual disability and assessing his mental health.
One expert who examined Beatty said he was “obviously psychotic and has a complex system of paranoid delusions” and lived in a “complex world of delusions” where he believed there was a “vast conspiracy of correctional officers who . . . . “You are ‘torturing’ him with a device in his ear so he can hear their threatening voices,” Beatty’s lawyers wrote in their petition to the Supreme Court.
In 2021, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice instituted an informal policy, citing safety and liability concerns, to allow an inmate to be released only during a court-ordered forensic examination.
Federal judges in East Texas and Houston and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans previously ruled against Beatty’s request for an uncuffed evaluation. A federal appeals court called Beatty’s request a “delay tactic.” U.S. District Judge Charles Eskridge in Houston last week questioned why Beatty’s lawyers had not made any earlier claims about his mental health during years of appeals and that requiring handcuffs during such an evaluation was “a simple, rational safety concern.”
Although the Supreme Court has banned the death penalty for people with intellectual disabilities, it has not banned the death penalty for those with severe mental illness, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
In 2019, the Texas Legislature considered a bill that would ban the death penalty for someone with a serious mental illness. The law did not pass.
On Monday, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles unanimously refused to commute Beatty’s death sentence or grant a six-month reprieve.
According to prosecutors, Beatty had a “volatile and combative relationship” with his mother. One neighbor, Lieanna Wilkerson, testified that Click told her that Beatty had assaulted her several times before, including one time when he “beat her so badly he left her for dead.” But Wilkerson said Click was still excited for Beatty to move in with her in October 2003 so they could repair their relationship.
But mother and son argued daily, and Click twice asked her son to move out, including shortly before she was killed, according to testimony from Beatty’s 2004 trial.
“Several times (Beatty) said he just wanted to shut her up, he just wanted to choke her and shut her up,” Wilkerson testified.
If Beatty is executed, he will be the fourth inmate executed this year in Texas and the 13th in the United States. Another execution in Texas — the state’s last in 2022 — is scheduled for next week.
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