On Tuesday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Suzanne Basso competent to be executed. Basso, 59, is awaiting execution in Texas due to her part in the 1998 murder of Louis “Buddy” Musso, a mentally handicapped man.
Though it is unclear whether Basso will continue her appeal all the way to the Supreme Court, her bizarre behavior during her incarceration has raised eyebrows as to her own potential mental handicaps. “She would pretend to be different things,” said Colleen Barnett, who prosecuted Basso. “One setting she would pretend to be blind. One setting she would pretend she couldn’t walk. One setting she had the voice of a little girl. I don’t know how to describe her.”
Basso’s lawyer has argued that she is not mentally competent enough to face execution because she suffers from delusions. A state judge last month noted in a ruling that Basso was prone to lying, seeking attention, and manipulating psychologists; in the past, she’s made a variety of false claims, including that she’s a triplet and that she once had a romantic relationship with Nelson Rockefeller. Basso’s attorney, Winston Cochran, claims that at least one psychiatrist has suggested that further psychological testing “would provide a more reliable evaluation.” “Why rush to judgment?” he asked.
The crime for which Basso is in prison was brutal. She enticed Buddy Musso to move with her to Texas from his home in New Jersey. After taking over his social security benefits and purchasing insurance policies for him for which she would be the beneficiary, Basso and five others, including Musso’s son, tortured the man for days before killing him and dumping his body. Basso, the group’s ringleader, bathed Musso in a solution of bleach and pine cleaner and scrubbed with a wire brush. Musso’s autopsy showed he had more than 17 cuts to his head, 28 cuts and cigarette burns on his back, a fractured skull and neck, 14 broken ribs, and two dislocated vertebrae.
Basso made herself the prime target of investigators when she filed a missing persons report on Musso shortly after his body was found, apparently hoping to distance herself from the crime.
If the execution proceeds, Basso would be only the 14th woman to be executed in the U.S. since 1976, whereas nearly 1,400 men have been executed in the same time period.
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