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A jury convicted Delk of capital murder in May 1988 and sentenced him to death. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction and sentence in April 1993.
Monty Delk was one of death row's most notorious inmates. Prison officials said that he showered without removing his coveralls or using soap, and that his personal odor was so offensive, he had to be segregated from the other inmates so as to avoid making them ill. In interviews, he claimed to be over 129 years old, having previously been a district judge and a submarine commander. He claimed that in prison, he was the president of Kenya and was also the physician to the other inmates in his unit. He said that he had been killed 150 times while in prison.
Delk's attorney, John Wright, said that Delk was insane and incompetent to be executed. According to Texas law and a 1986 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, no prisoner can be executed unless he understands his punishment and the reason for it. Wright said that he could not communicate with his client because he only babbled incoherently.
Prosecutors, on the other hand, accused Delk of faking insanity in order to avoid the death penalty. They point out that Delk was coherent at his trial, and that he showed signs of being clever and manipulative. For example, Gary Thomas, the former Anderson County Sheriff, said that, while Delk was in jail there, he would memorize the car models and license plate numbers of jail employees to threaten them. Thomas also said that Delk would listen to employees' conversations and memorize their names of their wives and children. Thomas also said that Delk constantly chipped away and kicked at the blocks in his cell, and that he eventually had to have it lined with welded steel plates.
Wright said that Delk became insane while in prison, on death row. He said that Delk had a severe reaction to a drug that prison officials administered after he was diagnosed with a bipolar disorder. He characterized Delk's behavior as "long periods of psychotic thought punctuated by grandiose delusions, incoherent ramblings, and smearing himself with his own feces, interspersed with brief moments of lucidity and compliance."
In 1994, prison psychiatrists changed their diagnosis of Delk from bipolar disorder to "malingering to avoid the death penalty." In 1997, a state district judge found in favor of the state, ruling that Delk was "voluntarily choosing not to assist his counsel." In 1998, the trial court held evidentiary hearings on Delk's habeas corpus claim, and denied him relief. All of Delk's other appeals in state and federal court were denied, up until the day before his execution.
On Wednesday, 27 February, U.S. District Judge Richard Schnell granted Wright's request for a stay, ruling that Delk's condition needed to be examined. Texas Attorney General John Cornyn immediately announced that he would appeal Schnell's ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday.
Delk was left in his cell on death row Wednesday night, rather than being transported to Huntsville for execution. Prison officials said that he took his first shower in months that evening, in exchange for some commissary privileges.
On Thursday, around 2:00 p.m., the 5th Circuit Court ruled in favor of the state. Prison officials immediately transported Delk to the Walls Unit, where all Texas executions are performed. In the meantime, Wright appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, trying to obtain another stay. As his final appeal was being made, Delk declined a last meal. Prison officials waited as 6:00 p.m. -- the time executions are normally started -- came and went. At 7:05 p.m., the Supreme Court denied Delk's application for a stay. A half hour later, Delk was strapped to the gurney and wheeled into the death chamber.
At his execution, Delk screamed profanities and gibberish. When the warden asked if he had a final statement, Delk shouted. "I am the warden! Get your warden off this gurney and shut up!" At 7:47 p.m., the warden signaled for the lethal injection to begin. After spouting more profanity, Delk blurted out, "You are not in America. This is the island of Barbados. People will see you doing this." Then, abruptly, he stopped speaking, and his mouth and eyes froze wide open. He was pronounced dead at 7:53 p.m.
By David Carson. Posted on 4 March 2002. Grammatical error corrected on 24 March 2015.
Sources: Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Texas Attorney General's office, Associated Press, Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle, Huntsville Item.