BOISE, Idaho — Idaho officials have agreed to stop seeking to execute a man who has been in solitary confinement on death row for 30 years because he is too mentally ill to be legally put to death and doctors say he will not recover.
The agreement, approved by a federal judge on Monday, means David Leslie Card will instead serve life without parole and will be moved out of the solitary confinement housing of death row. U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill wrote in the ruling that if Card ever does regain competence, the appeals in his case may be re-opened.
Medical professionals who have examined Card over the course of the past three decades have said such an event would border on the miraculous. Card has paranoid schizophrenia but has refused to take his medications for years, and psychological experts say he is delusional and psychotic.
Card, however, does not believe he has an illness to medicate, according to an agreement filed jointly by Card's attorneys and state prosecutors, and doctors have said that even if he resumed taking medication that his illness has progressed so far that it would not fully improve.
Card was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder for the June 5, 1988, shooting deaths of Eugene and Shirley Morey at a Nampa convenience store and was subsequently sentenced to death.
Witnesses at the trial said Card was frustrated after a clerk at the store scolded him, and that he left to get his gun with the apparent intention of killing the clerk. But the clerk was gone when Card returned so he walked to a parking lot nearby and killed the Moreys, who were sitting in their car folding newspapers for delivery. At the time, Judge Jim Doolittle called it a "cold-blooded, pitiless killing."
Bruce Livingston, the attorney representing Card, said Card was suffering from schizophrenia at the time of the killings and had to be medicated so that he could stand trial.
His primary court appeal — that he had ineffective counsel at his trial — has been on hold for years because he is too mentally ill to assist his attorneys in the case.
Now, even if Card does somehow get well enough for a new trial, "the State of Idaho will never again seek to sentence David L. Card to death for the murders for which he was convicted in this case," the attorneys wrote in the joint agreement.
The attorneys said the agreement benefits the court system and witnesses in the case, because many of them are elderly or have health problems.