Press Releases

NAMI Asks Texas Governor George Bush To Commute Death Sentence Of Man With Schizophrenia

Aug 12 1999

Arlington, VA - The nation's largest grassroots organization for people suffering from severe mental illnesses has called on Governor George W. Bush (R-TX) to demonstrate "consistency as a leader of compassion" by commuting the sentence of Larry Robison, who is scheduled to be executed on August 17th.

Robison suffers from schizophrenia, a biological brain disorder. For persons receiving adequate medical care, the treatment success rate is 60 percent, higher than that for heart disease.

In an August 11th letter to Governor Bush released today, Laurie Flynn, executive director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) called Robison's case "particularly tragic," noting that he never received adequate treatment for his illness in the years and months before he killed five people; that he had been "discharged prematurely from hospitals because of lack of insurance"; and his parents had "tried desperately to help him but were told repeatedly that there was nothing available for him unless he became dangerous."

"Sadly, when he finally did become dangerous, it was too late to help him or his victims," Flynn said. The letter also noted that "strong medical documentation" exists that Robison was experiencing uncontrollable, auditory "command hallucinations" at the time of the 1982 murders and that the "evidence is compelling that the killings were directly linked to the symptoms of his untreated brain disorder."

"Commuting Mr. Robison's sentence to life without parole will both protect the public safety and interests of justice," Flynn said. His execution "will not restore the lives that were so senselessly lost," but will "add to the tragedy of this case, and cast a pall over millions of Americans who suffer from mental illnesses, while being denied the treatment they desperately need."

In a similar case this year, Virginia Governor James Gilmore (R) commuted the sentence of Calvin Swann, who also suffers from schizophrenia, a few hours before his execution. In response, NAMI praised Gilmore as "a man of honor and compassion" and expressed hope that the Virginia decision would become "a national precedent" for other death penalty cases involving severe mental illnesses.