A psychiatrist’s evaluation states that Michael Dean Overstreet thinks he’s in a vegetative state or coma and that execution would jolt him back into reality with his wife and children.
The 47-year-old, who got in trouble as a kid for bringing a gun to school and who was sent home from the Navy due to behavior issues six weeks after he enlisted, has had documented mental and behavioral problems since junior high and has been diagnosed by multiple doctors as a paranoid schizophrenic.
Due to his illness, Overstreet isn’t able to comprehend that a lethal injection would lead to death and what death means, so he can’t be executed under federal law, Dr. Rahn Bailey said in a report for Overstreet’s defense.
Bailey’s report is one of multiple mental health evaluations that will be discussed at a hearing that begins Tuesday in South Bend. His findings led the Indiana Supreme Court to order a decision on Overstreet’s competency.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that death row inmates with mental illness must be able to understand both why they were sentenced and what their punishment is in order to be put to death. A judge will now determine whether Overstreet is competent to be executed.
The report about Overstreet highlights a long history of behavioral problems and mental illness, including growing up with an abusive father, battling alcoholism and struggling with worsening symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia.
Overstreet’s attorneys have several more doctors, including mental health professionals who work for the Indiana Department of Correction, who will testify that he is schizophrenic and suffers from delusions, attorney Steve Schutte said.
The state will try to prove that Overstreet does understand the punishment he’s been sentenced to and will present testimony from doctors who have evaluated him. They will argue that, despite his illness, he is competent to be executed.
Other psychiatric evaluations and doctor opinions are not part of the public record on the case. Bailey’s evaluation is included in the public court records and was released by the Indiana Supreme Court in October.
After evaluating Overstreet three times early last year, Bailey determined that Overstreet has severe paranoid-type schizophrenia that is causing delusions, despite four psychotropic medications he takes daily.
‘Outside the norm of reality’
Bailey’s report includes multiple examples of how Overstreet does not think his execution will lead to the end of his life. The execution will either leave Overstreet unchanged but able to understand aliens who control his behavior or release him from a vegetative coma and allow him to return to normal life with his ex-wife and his children, according to Bailey’s report.
“Mr. Overstreet describes his current state as being outside the norm of reality. His belief that he is not alive allows his further belief that to be executed is a good occurrence which will lead to a better, more blissful/peaceful state of being,” Bailey wrote in his evaluation.
Overstreet also exhibits signs of constantly racing thoughts, believes that he is surrounded by imposters or doppelgangers assuming the shape of people he knows and shows signs of seeing or hearing people or objects that are not actually present in the room, the report said.
Overstreet sees mechanical spiders that evaporate before he can smash them, hears the voices of angels, demons and people he knows, and smells burning hair when an imposter is in the room and trying to deceive him, the report said.
Overstreet thinks he is aware and competent. In a letter to Judge Jane Woodward Miller in June, he wrote that he didn’t want to attend the hearings in South Bend because his family might show up and he feared for their safety.
“The lawyers said they claim I’m ‘not’ competent. I am fully functional and completely aware of everything,” Overstreet wrote in the letter.
After the letter was sent, the state requested the court either abandon the hearing or allow their psychologists to evaluate Overstreet to determine if he wanted to proceed with the hearing. His attorneys responded by stating his fears for his family were not from any threat from the court staff or public, but from shape-shifting demons, according to court documents.
Bailey’s evaluation said that Overstreet thinks he is competent but that he is delusional due to his mental illness.
“His beliefs are inflexible. This is very consistent with what we see with the development of psychosis,” Bailey wrote.
History of issues
Overstreet has a history of behavior problems and mental illness that started as early as childhood, long before he murdered 18-year-old Kelly Eckart in 1997.
Overstreet’s father was abusive, beating him with belts or other objects on any part of his body, including the head and face, the report said. His father would beat Overstreet even if his siblings had done something wrong because he was the oldest.
As a child, Overstreet had severe headaches and nosebleeds, but doctors weren’t able to determine a cause. He frequently walked in his sleep and would sometimes leave the house. By first grade, Overstreet told his family he would see shadows that would follow him and could hear voices that made him feel creepy. His mother told him the shadows were demons, and he needed to pray, and his grandmother dismissed the visions because she had seen several angels throughout her life, the report said.
Throughout junior high and high school, Overstreet’s grades dropped and his headaches became more frequent and more severe. He underwent medical testing and saw psychologists, but they found nothing physically wrong with his brain. Diagnoses by doctors varied, including explanations such as difficulty transitioning through adolescence, anxiety disorder and schizoid disorder.
In January 1985, Overstreet was arrested and charged after bringing a gun to school. He was expelled from school and sentenced to one year probation. At age 19, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy but was cited for failing to adapt to the military environment. Previously, he had tried to enlist in the National Guard but blacked out during a physical examination.
He was referred to a psychiatrist for evaluation, who determined he had adjustment disorder and schizotypal personality disorder and was discharged from the Navy after six weeks.
The next year he entered Valle Vista Hospital after chasing his brother around the house with a knife. He told the doctor he couldn’t keep a job and had been fired repeatedly because of his attitude to co-workers. The doctor described him as disheveled, with a low frustration tolerance and poor personal control, insight, communication and socialization.
In the following years, Overstreet was arrested multiple times.
He led police on a chase reaching 95 mph in 1989 and was arrested with a blood-alcohol content of 0.20 percent, more than twice the legal limit to be considered too intoxicated to drive.
He was arrested again in 1990 after breaking multiple car windows in the parking lot of an apartment complex and had a blood-alcohol content of 0.18 percent. Two months later, he was again arrested for public intoxication and speeding. He was arrested one more time in May 1997 for operating a vehicle while intoxicated, four months before he abducted and killed Eckart.
Before his trial in 2000, Overstreet was evaluated by three doctors, who offered different diagnoses of paranoid type schizophrenia, schizotypal personality disorder and paranoid type schizoaffective disorder. By 2004, one of the original doctors changed his diagnosis to paranoid schizophrenia, and three more psychologists also found the same diagnosis after their own reviews.
During his examinations in February and May 2013, Bailey again diagnosed Overstreet with chronic, paranoid schizophrenia. Symptoms of the disorder most often include auditory hallucinations such as hearing voices, visual hallucinations and delusions that may be complex and bizarre.
Although Overstreet is taking twice the typical dose of one anti-psychotic medication and a near maximum dose of another, they are not working to eliminate his symptoms, the report said.
“Due to suffering from severe chronic and progressive mental disorder, his perception of reality is distorted; his cognition ability is significantly impaired. Therefore, Mr. Overstreet does not have ability to produce a rational understanding of why the State of Indiana wants to execute him,” Bailey wrote in his conclusion.