Cecil Clayton's Execution Looms As Attorneys Seek Clemency For Brain-Damaged Killer

03/17/2015 07:00 am ET | Updated May 17, 2015

March 17 (Reuters) - Missouri is set to execute the convicted killer of a sheriff's deputy on Tuesday over objections from his lawyers who say a sawmill accident decades ago cost him part of his brain and made him ineligible for the death penalty.

Cecil Clayton, 74, of southwest Missouri, is scheduled to die by lethal injection after 6 p.m. CDT at a Missouri state prison. He would be the second inmate executed in Missouri this year and the 10th in the country.

Police were called in November 1996 on a complaint that Clayton, who had been arguing with his girlfriend, was trespassing. He shot Barry County Sheriff's Deputy Christopher Castetter in the head while the officer was in his patrol car.

Clayton's attorneys have argued that his intelligence dropped precipitously after a piece of wood was driven into his skull during a sawmill accident in 1972. Surgery was required, resulting in the loss of part of his frontal lobe.

He also suffers from hallucinations and delusions due to the injury, his attorneys said in court papers.

At trial, Clayton's attorneys argued that the accident left him incapable of deliberating or forming the intent necessary for a finding of first-degree murder.

Clayton now does not believe he will be executed, but thinks God will set him free so he can travel the country preaching and singing the gospel, his attorneys said.

The Missouri Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, found Clayton was not intellectually disabled under state law, and denied his petition for a competency hearing.

Clayton's lawyers have appeals pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals and U.S. District Court, seeking to stay his execution.

"I certainly think we have some strong reasons why the court ought to at least take another look at this case before Cecil dies," said Elizabeth Carlyle, an attorney for Clayton. (Reporting by Mary Wisniewski in Chicago; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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