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Texas set to execute man for killing his mother, burying body in her backyard

HOUSTON — A Texas inmate whose lawyers say has a history of mental illness faces execution on Wednesday for killing his mother and burying her body in her backyard nearly 20 years ago.

Tracy Beatty, 61, is scheduled to receive a lethal injection Wednesday evening at the state penitentiary in Huntsville. He was sentenced to death for strangling his mother, Carolyn Click, after they had argued in November 2003 in her East Texas home.

Authorities say Beatty buried his 62-year-old mother’s body beside her mobile home in Whitehouse, about 115 miles southeast of Dallas, and then spent her money on drugs and alcohol.

Beatty’s attorneys have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stay his scheduled execution, arguing he was being prevented from receiving a full examination to determine if he is intellectually disabled and possibly ineligible to be put to death. He has had three prior execution dates.

Death row inmate Tracy Beatty. Texas Department of Criminal Justice / AP

His attorneys have requested that state prison officials allow Beatty to be uncuffed during mental health evaluations by experts. The experts argue that having Beatty uncuffed during neurological and other tests is crucial to make an informed decision about intellectual disability and evaluate his mental health.

One expert who examined Beatty said he “is clearly psychotic and has a complex paranoid delusional belief system” and that he lives in a “complex delusional world” where he believes that there is a “vast conspiracy of correctional officers who . . . ‘torture’ him via a device in his ear so he can hear their menacing voices,” Beatty’s lawyers wrote in their Supreme Court petition.

In 2021, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice put in place an informal policy, citing security and liability concerns, that it would only allow an inmate to be unshackled during an expert evaluation through a court order.

Federal judges in East Texas and Houston and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans have previously ruled against Beatty’s request for an evaluation without handcuffs. The 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 during years of appeals had not previously raised any claim relating to his mental health and that requiring handcuffs during such an evaluation is “quite simply, a rational security concern.”

While the Supreme Court has prohibited the death penalty for individuals who are intellectually disabled, it has not barred such punishment for those with serious mental illness, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

In 2019, the Texas Legislature considered a bill that would have prohibited the death penalty for someone with severe mental illness. The legislation did not pass.

On Monday, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles unanimously declined to commute Beatty’s death sentence to a lesser penalty or to grant a six-month reprieve.

Beatty had a “volatile and combative relationship” with his mother, according to prosecutors. One neighbor, Lieanna Wilkerson, testified Click had told her that Beatty had assaulted her several times before, including once where he had “beaten her so severely that he had left her for dead.” But Wilkerson said Click had still been excited to have Beatty move in back with her in October 2003 so they could mend their relationship.

But mother and son argued daily and Click asked her son twice to move out, including just before she was killed, according to testimony from Beatty’s 2004 trial.

“Several times (Beatty) had said he just wanted to shut her up, that he just wanted to choke her and shut her up,” Wilkerson testified.

If Beatty is executed, he would be the fourth inmate put to death this year in Texas and the 13th in the U.S. Another execution in Texas — the last one in the state in 2022 — is scheduled for next week.

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