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Justices ask review of condemned man’s sanity

– A man on Indiana’s death row for the rape and strangulation of an 18-year-old woman with her own shoelace must be given more time to prove he is too mentally ill to be executed, the Indiana Supreme Court said Wednesday.

Michael Dean Overstreet was convicted in 2000 of abducting, raping and killing Kelly Eckart of Boggstown in September 1997.

The state Supreme Court ordered the court that convicted Overstreet to review his claim, despite his previous appeals’ rejection by state and federal courts. The justices said a U.S. Supreme Court decision makes it illegal to execute people who are so severely mentally ill, they do not understand the crime they committed.

Justice Robert Rucker wrote that a report by a forensic psychologist who examined Overstreet found that he lacked that understanding.

“Overstreet does not have, and does not have the ability to produce, a rational understanding of why the state of Indiana plans to execute him,” Rucker wrote.

That, Rucker said, was adequate reason to allow Overstreet another appeal to the court that sentenced him. The court set a deadline of Sept. 13 for the petition to be submitted.

No evidence of Overstreet’s mental illness was presented during his four-week trial, though he had been diagnosed.

The defense instead tried to prove that someone else killed Eckart.

Eckart was a Franklin College freshman. She was returning home from work when she was abducted from her car.

Four days later, a hunter found her partly nude body dumped in a Brown County ravine near Camp Atterbury.