In mid-June, a small group of journalists filed out of the witness room at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution, having watched Sedley Alley euthanized on a gurney for killing a female Marine 20 years ago. As the reporters left the room, their senses still heightened by the anxiety of watching a man die, they could see an inmate in white prison garb through a small window of a door leading to holding cells for other inmates on death watch.
The inmate nodded at reporters as they gathered together, waiting for a prison guard to open the next door. He smiled, a kind of smirk on his face. His full head of brown hair stood up in the back. He looked like a little kid. The smile, of course, and the inmate’s “hey, dude” attitude underscored the juvenile tone of the exchange. Was the inmate messing with the reporters’ minds, something along the lines of “You’ll be seeing me next”?
“Who is that?” one of the reporters whispered.
The inmate was, of course, Paul Reid, the notorious short-order cook who went on a robbery and murder spree in the early part of 1997, slashing and shooting seven fast-food workers. It was easy to think, watching him grinning and nodding, how addled Reid must be. In fact, federal judge Todd Campbell had already issued a stay of execution to evaluate Reid’s mental competency. With the stay in effect, Reid was returned to his cell from deathwatch more than 12 hours after his encounter with reporters.
The two sides—Reid’s attorney and the state Attorney General’s office—were set to square off in Judge Campbell’s courtroom Sept. 5. At issue was whether Reid was competent enough to manage his personal affairs, and, more importantly, whether he could, as requested, deny further appeals in his case and face execution.
The hearing was expected to be a slam dunk for prosecutors because they’d argued successfully in state court that Reid was competent and because they’d hired neuropsychologist Daniel Martell, an associate of Park Dietz, who found Houston mother Andrea Yates sane after she’d drowned her five kids in the family’s bathtub. In fact, it was Dietz’s testimony that required Yates to be retried. He told jurors that Yates routinely watched Law & Order, a show for which Dietz consulted, and that one episode featured a mother who was found insane after drowning her kids. In fact, there was no such episode of Law & Order.
Martell, though, failed to deliver. Sources say that he has issued a report to the court that in essence says he finds Reid to be incompetent and to have a temporal lobe dysfunction. Reid, who cracked his head so hard in a mini-bike accident when he was a kid that he leaked brain fluid from his ear for three days, has written the Scene to say that the government has had him under surveillance since 1985 and that his brain has been bombarded with scientific information from the military.
Martell’s finding was a surprise, though he has sided with defense experts as a prosecution witness before—on at least three occasions in cases involving people who murdered and pleaded insanity, including Jennifer Cisowski, a Florida mother who smashed her 8-month-old son’s head as a testament to God.
Based on Martell’s conclusion, Campbell has appointed Reid’s sister, Linda Martiniano, as his guardian to make legal decisions, but only at the federal level. The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals still must decide whether Martiniano can occupy the same position at the state level.
Whatever happens, don’t expect prosecutors to call on Martell again anytime soon, at least not in the Reid case.