A hearing to decide whether a man convicted of murdering a Franklin College student is mentally competent to be executed has been delayed to next month.
The hearing for Michael Dean Overstreet was scheduled to start this week but was pushed back after attorneys, Judge Cynthia Emkes and the Indiana Supreme Court reached an agreement to delay, Emkes said.
Overstreet’s attorneys and attorneys from the Indiana Attorney General’s offices will meet with Emkes later this month to set a new schedule, she said, adding that the hearing may be reset for mid- to late February.
Overstreet was convicted of abducting college student Kelly Eckart in Franklin in 1997, then raping and killing her before dumping her body in a ravine in Brown County. He was sentenced to death.
The hearings are the last appeal Overstreet will have in an attempt to stop the execution.
Emkes, who sentenced Overstreet to death after his trial in 2000, will hear arguments on whether he is mentally capable of understanding that he is being put to death.
The Indiana Supreme Court ordered the new hearings in September after reviewing a psychiatric exam that stated Overstreet suffers from schizophrenia and does not comprehend the concept of death.
Federal laws forbid executing anyone who is mentally incompetent and therefore cannot understand the punishment.
Local, state and federal courts have upheld Overstreet’s conviction and death sentence during multiple appeals since 2000.
During the most recent appeal in July 2012, a U.S. district court denied Overstreet’s appeal, and judges said they did not hear evidence that proved Overstreet has a mental illness.