Michael Eggers was executed tonight, after a judge allowed him to fire his attorneys and abandon his appeals despite strong evidence that he was severely mentally ill.
Mr. Eggers had a personal and family history of mental illness. His brother is institutionalized in a mental hospital with schizophrenia, and family observed that Mr. Eggers showed symptoms similar to his brother. In 1985, when he was 17, narcotics officers in California compelled him to make some controlled marijuana purchases. Since then, Mr. Eggers believed that the Mexican Mafia and other outlaw groups, law enforcement agencies, and the government were conspiring to persecute him — following him from California as he fled to eight different states to evade them; checking into the psych ward to torment him when he was involuntarily committed for emergency psychiatric care; and even killing his father in retaliation for the killing of his former employer in Walker County, Alabama, in 2000.
Jail and prison authorities recognized Mr. Eggers’s mental illness and treated him with anti-psychotic medications. Correctional officers observed he was paranoid, delusional, and suicidal, and placed him in protective custody after he tried to kill himself.
Mr. Eggers also sent thousands of pages to state and federal courts that demonstrate his mental illness. He fired numerous lawyers for refusing to argue that he killed the victim because he was “the victim of 3 separate conspiracies 2 of which involve government agencies at different times in the past.” He accused state and federal courts, the prosecution, and his lawyers of participating in the conspiracy against him along with “thousands” of others who pursued him across the United States, and he demonstrated behavior in court that the judge observed was “not following any kind of legal logic” and amounted to “talking in circles.”
In federal court, Mr. Eggers filed nearly 100 pleadings he wrote himself in which he complained about his lawyers’ refusal to argue his conspiracy theory, sought to fire them, asked to represent himself, and sometimes threatened to waive his appeals. The federal trial court nonetheless refused to hold a competency hearing until it was ordered by the federal appeals court. Despite credible evidence proving that he had a psychotic spectrum disorder and a history of irrational behavior and delusions, the court was unconvinced that Mr. Eggers’s beliefs “are actually delusional” and granted his request to fire his lawyers, waive his appeals, and be executed. The Eleventh Circuit upheld that ruling in December.
Executing people who have a mental illness, disorder, or disability that significantly impairs their cognitive or volitional functioning at the time of the offense violates the Constitution because, like children and people with intellectual disability, they are less culpable and less deterrable due to their “diminished capacities to understand and process information, to communicate, to abstract from mistakes and learn from experience, to engage in logical reasoning, to control impulses, and to understand the reactions of others.” EJI believes that states have the ability to humanely imprison and treat mentally ill citizens who have committed violent crimes without killing them.