Judge: Man convicted in Cleveland murders mentally ill

6:21 PM, Jun 15, 2012   |    comments
Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction
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CLEVELAND -- A judge has ruled that a condemned Cleveland man is not mentally competent to be executed.

Abdul Awkal faced the death penalty for the murders of his estranged wife and brother-in-law in a Cleveland courthouse in 1992. 

"Abdul Awkal presently lacks the capacity to form a rational understanding as to the reason the state intends to execute him," stated Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Stuart Friedman, reading from his 13 page opinion.

"Abdul Awkal may not be executed unless and until he has been restored to competency."

The judge heard three days of testimony this week before making his decision. He ordered Awkal to be taken to a prison facility where he could be restored to competency so that he could possibly be executed in the future.

Awkal was scheduled to be executed last week and was hours away from death, when  Governor Kasich ordered a two week reprieve so the mental competency issue could be determined by a judge.

Kevin Cafferkey, Awkal's attorney, said the right decision had been made.

"All five doctors in this case, even the state's doctors, determined that he is a severely mentally ill person, that he has schizophrenia," Cafferkey told reporters following Friday's decision.

Cafferkey will now petition the Ohio Supreme Court for a formal  stay of execution. He did express his condolences to the family of Latife Awkal and Mahmoud Abdul-Aziz who were murdered by Awkal.

"We feel unbelievable remorse for what had occurred, and we assured them he will never get out of prison," Cafferkey said.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason said his office would appeal Friedman's decision.

"Awkal changed his story on the eve of executiion and blamed the CIA for executing him," Mason wrote, "after admitting that he had lied to psychiatrists and has now successfully manipulated the court "

In May, the Ohio Parole Board had voted 8-1 against recommending mercy.

The victims' brother Ali Abdul-Aziz, testified at that hearing, urging that Awkal's execution go forward as scheduled. Abdul-Aziz later posted a letter on a website of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, asking for the public's support in upholding the execution. 

"This criminal since day one has been feigning insanity and mental illness, by malingering and manipulating psychiatrists," Abdul-Aziz wrote in part.

"He is inot insane. He is a liar and a manipulator and above all a big malingerer."


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