A Texas jury decided in 1991 that Steven Kenneth Staley, now 43, should be put to death for killing a restaurant manager, but three days before his February 2006 date with destiny, psychologists testified that he is mentally ill, and the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a mentally ill person cannot be executed. The solution, declared state judge Wayne Salvant in April, is for the state to inject Staley with enough psychotropic medicine to make him sufficiently sane to understand why he is going to die, at which point he can be killed. In similar cases, drugs improved Charles Singleton enough for his 2004 execution in Arkansas, but have failed since 1999 to restore Texan Emanuel Kemp’s competency.
GOVERNMENT IN ACTION
The newly installed municipal sewer system in the Florida Keys town of Islamorada was scheduled to go on line in May, but the real test will come shortly after that if the town cannot hook up a threshold number of residents to allow the system full, efficient functioning. The fallback plan, according to the town government, will require it to buy enough out-of-town sewage to boost the weak flow that would be running through the system.
ARE WE SAFE YET?
To free up soldiers for war-zone duty, the Army hires contractors to man the gates at 57 domestic installations, including Fort Bragg and West Point, but in April, the Government Accountability Office announced that, despite three warnings, some of the contractors continue to hire an alarming number of convicted felons as security guards. And Nashville’s Tennessean newspaper revealed in April that a man still serving time for hiring a hit man to kill his wife was actually put in charge of the purchasing office of the state’s emergency management agency. Inmate Daniel Erickson was participating in a rehabilitation program intended to help prisoners find work when they get out and apparently was so good at his job that agency officials promoted him.
Last year, New York Gov. George Pataki, criticizing the legislature’s spending priorities, deplored wasting money on trivial state projects like “cheese museums and pro wrestling halls of fame.” In 2006, however, another $5,000 of state funds went to the Cuba (N.Y.) Cheese Museum, from a fund nominally controlled by Pataki. The Cuba Cheese Museum is not to be confused with the New York State Museum of Cheese in Rome, N.Y.
LEAST COMPETENT PEOPLE
In Red Deer, Alberta, in April, Jesse Maggrah, 20, listening through earphones to heavy-metal music while walking on Canadian Pacific Railway tracks, was hit from behind by a train moving at about 30 mph, but survived. In his hospital bed suffering from broken ribs, a punctured lung, and other injuries, Maggrah said, “I thought, ‘Holy crap, dude, you just got hit by a train.’ Maybe the metal gods above were smiling on me, and they didn’t want one of their true warriors to die on them.”
LEAST COMPETENT PERVERT
Benjamin Thornton, 20, was charged with impersonating a police officer and attempted kidnapping in Pearland, Texas, in April, after he allegedly confessed that he had unsuccessfully tried ruses to molest adolescent girls more than 100 times. In the latest case, he tried to convince a nine-year-old girl that the toy she had could not legally be held by anyone waiting for a school bus, but the girl was too smart for him. MTW