Condemned killer claims incompetence in death sentence appeal

Michael Dean Overstreet

Nearly 16 years after a Franklin College student's murder, her killer is appealing his death sentence saying he's too mentally ill to be executed.

Connie Sutton has waited and waited for the full measure of justice for her daughter Kelly Eckart.

"It's starting to feel like it's never going to end. We've been waiting for too long," she said, speaking of the death penalty process she and her family have endured.

Now it appears after 16 years, she'll wait even longer to see Michael Dean Overstreet put to death.

Overstreet was convicted and sentenced to die for the abduction, rape and murder of Eckart, an 18-year-old Franklin College student, in 1997.

Instead of setting an execution date, the Indiana Supreme Court ordered a review of new claims that Overstreet is too "incompetent to be executed."

"I believe that he should be executed. He did it. He did the crime, now let him pay for it," said Sutton without apology.

"We don't execute insane people. Whether you are insane at the time of execution is a distinct question," said Steve Schutte, Overstreet's death penalty lawyer.

Schutte admits it's a rare filing and says it does not rely on Overstreet's mental state at the time of his conviction.

"Mr. Overstreet is incapable of forming a rational understanding of why the state has chosen to execute him," explained Schutte.

Schutte says Overstreet suffers from schizophrenia and is reportedly taking anti-psychotic medications. He says over the years, his client's rational state has deteriorated.

Sutton questions whether Overstreet is over-medicated.

"Competent yeah," Sutton said. "He knows what he is doing and he knows what he has done."

In the end, Overstreet's attorneys argue it's about our nation as a people.

Sutton says our nation must also take a firm stand when it comes to heinous crimes. Her daughter was found strangled in a Brown County ravine with a bullet wound in her head.

"I think of Kelly and how happy she always was, and how much she like school and how much she loved life in general," said Sutton, who says her daughter has left a wonderful legacy.

Franklin College has a scholarship in Eckart's name.

The Indiana Supreme Court wants a Johnson County court to make a determination on Overstreet's appeal by March of next year. As for Michael Dean Overstreet, he remains on death row. He is not being housed in a mental institution.