Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday temporarily put a hold on the execution of Duane Eugene Owen and ordered a psychiatric evaluation of the Death Row inmate after his lawyers argued that he may be insane.
Owen, 62, is slated to be executed by lethal injection on June 15. But DeSantis issued an executive order calling for three psychiatrists to evaluate Owen.
According to the order, Owen’s lawyers sent a letter to the governor that included a neuropsychologist’s “recent evaluation” saying that Owen “meets the criteria for insanity.”
Owen was “feeling that he is a woman in the body of a man” and “was trying to fully become the woman he really was,” according to the order, which quoted from the neuropsychologist’s report.
Nothing in the recent report “demonstrates that Owen lacks the mental capacity to understand the nature of the death penalty and the reasons why it was imposed,” DeSantis’ order said.
Under Florida law, a governor may put an execution on hold and order an examination by three psychiatrists when an inmate makes “sufficient allegations of insanity.”
DeSantis’ order said that the “allegations” in the neuropsychologist’s evaluation “are insufficient assertions of insanity,” according to requirements in state law.
But, he added, “because the governor’s solemn duty to execute a duly imposed sentence of death requires the exercise of utmost caution, I will nonetheless implement the requirements” of the law.
DeSantis ordered psychiatrists Wade Myers, Tonia Werner and Emily Lazarou to evaluate Owen on Tuesday. The Florida Supreme Court on Monday set up an expedited schedule to hear appeals in the case.
Owen has spent more than three decades on Death Row after being convicted of the 1984 rape and murder of Georgianna Worden in Palm Beach County.
The psychiatric evaluations of Owen come after DeSantis signed a suite of bills targeting transgender treatment for children and adults and the LGBTQ community.
One of the proposals prohibits doctors from using puberty blockers, hormone therapy or surgeries for children diagnosed with gender dysphoria.