CRIME
03/17/2015 08:50 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Cecil Clayton, Brain-Damaged Missouri Cop-Killer, Executed After Last-Ditch Appeal Fails

A Missouri man missing part of his brain was executed Tuesday night for gunning down a sheriff's deputy nearly two decades ago.

Cecil Clayton, who at 74 was Missouri's oldest inmate on death row, was given a lethal injection at 9:13 p.m. local time at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre, Missouri. The Missouri Department of Corrections said Clayton was pronounced dead at 9:21 p.m.

Clayton's execution had been set for 6 p.m., but was delayed more than three hours after his attorneys launched three last-ditch appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court declined the flurry of motions. Gov. Jay Nixon (D) also denied clemency Tuesday night, The Associated Press reported.

Clayton's attorney, hoping for a last-minute reprieve, argued for clemency based on a sawmill accident decades earlier that permanently damaged Clayton's brain and left him incapable of understanding his crime and his punishment.

"The world will not be a safer place because Mr. Clayton has been executed," Elizabeth Unger Carlyle, one of his lawyers, said in a statement. She said putting Clayton to death without a hearing to consider his mental competency violated U.S. and state law "and basic human dignity."

In November 1996, Clayton shot Barry County sheriff's deputy Christopher Castetter in the forehead while the officer responded to a complaint about an argument between Clayton and his girlfriend.

Clayton's lawyers noted in an appeal Friday that it was the opinion of three experts that Clayton was "legally incompetent," with an IQ that classifies him as intellectually disabled. A 2004 test revealed his IQ to be 71.

The Missouri Supreme Court ruled 4-3 on Saturday that Clayton was not intellectually disabled under state law, and declined to hold a hearing to explore his mental competency.

"The problem is that in this country we say that we only execute the worst of the worst. You can see there's a big hole in his right frontal lobe -- that's what controls impulse control and reasoning," Carlyle told the Riverfront Times Tuesday. "He's just not tracking what's really happening, what's going on. He's not able to respond well to it, or even be able to understand what's happening to him in any rational way. And that's just not the person that we ought to be executing."

cecil clayton

A scan of Cecil Clayton's brain showing the missing portion of his frontal lobe.

While working at a sawmill in 1972, a piece of wood broke off and pierced Clayton's head, according to court records. Doctors removed 20 percent of his frontal lobe, which controls, among other things, problem solving, spontaneity, memory, judgement and impulse control. The accident left Clayton prone to anxiety, depression, delusions and hallucinations, according to his lawyers.

On Monday, The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stopped the scheduled execution of Randall Mays, 55, convicted of fatally shooting two police officers during a gunfight at his home. According to The Associated Press, Mays' lawyers had pressed the court for an additional review of his mental competency.

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