Judge Rules Deems Awkal Severely Mentally Ill, Not Competent To Be Executed

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CLEVELAND – A death row inmate scheduled to die for gunning down his wife and brother-in-law gets his life spared by a local judge.

"Yeah, I'm crazy, you can say that, you can say that...I have nothing to lose," convicted killer Abdul Awkal, 53, told Fox 8 during a 1998 interview.

Awkal was sentenced to death for killing his wife, Latife Awkal and her brother Muhamoud Abdul Aziz inside the old Cuyahoga County Courthouse in downtown Cleveland in 1992 during a child custody battle.

"I was angry, I was enraged, they won't let me see my child and that's what broke me up," Awkal said at the time.

Friday, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Stuart Friedman ruled that Awkal is mentally incompetent and cannot be put to death. During a hearing this week, his attorneys argued that Awkal is delusional and believes the CIA is orchestrating his execution.

"He believes that they are communicating with him rather covertly and that the communications come to him in the form of messages and tickers that run at the bottom of television programs or news programs," said psychologist Robert Stinson, who testified for the defense.

Prosecutors do not believe Awkal has any mental issues.

"Are you aware that within the last month he has admitted to having lied under oath at his trial about his testimony and having lied to forensic examiners regarding his medical condition…are you aware?” asked assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor Matt Meyer.

“Yes,” responded Stinson.

The Ohio Parole Board cited Fox 8's 1998 interview as a reason to deny Awkal clemency in an 8-to-1 vote...saying he still blames the victims for what happened.

"A million times I would do it for the sake of my child…I was like paranoia, I lived like atomic bomb," he said.

The victim's brother, Ali Aziz, tells Fox 8 that he is disappointed with the judge's ruling.  He says it sends a message to all criminals that all you must do is act insane and you live.

Cuyahoga County prosecutor Bill Mason released a statement saying, “I disagree with Judge Friedman and intend to appeal. Awkal changed his story on the eve of execution and blamed the CIA for executing him, after admitting that he had lied to psychiatrists and has now successfully manipulated the court. Awkal’s case has been exhaustively reviewed for nearly 20 years by the Eighth District Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court of Ohio, a US District Court, a US Court of Appeals, and the US Supreme Court.  Unfortunately, Judge Friedman's decision will likely cause even more delay in this case and prolong the suffering of the victims' family. Delays like this are what is wrong with the death penalty.”

Governor Kasich had given Akwal a two-week reprieve and his execution was scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday.  His attorneys will now ask for a stay of execution from the Ohio Supreme Court and Governor Kasich.

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