Citing a life-long history of psychiatric disorders and addictions, Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty called on Governor Nixon to grant clemency to Michael Worthington based on his diminished mental capacities at the time of the crime. Mr. Worthington was executed on August 6th for the 1995 murder of Melinda Griffin.
Experts have verified that Mr. Worthington suffered from several disorders including Bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Tourette’s Syndrome, obsessive compulsive disorder and severe frontal lobe dysfunction, likely caused from significant head injuries, substance abuse and congenital abnormalities. In addition, Mr. Worthington’s extensive addiction to drugs and alcohol (that was introduced by his father at an early age) also affected his ability to reflect on his actions. Mr. Worthington’s background also reveals significant physical and sexual abuse as a child and a family history of mental illness.
“Despite a well-documented history of mental disorders and extreme abuse, the court that sentenced Mr. Worthington to death was unaware of the extent of his problems,” said Rita Linhardt, Chair of MADP board. “His lawyers failed to present any meaningful mitigating evidence that could have impacted Mr. Worthington’s sentence.”
Even though he claimed no memory of the events, Mr. Worthington pled guilty to first degree murder, with no plea bargain, to the murder of Melinda Griffin. Mr. Worthington also waived his right to a jury during the penalty phase.
In the crucial penalty phase before the judge, the trial counsel, by his own admission, failed to adequately present evidence of how Mr. Worthington’s disadvantaged background and afflictions affected his behavior and lessened his moral culpability. It was only after he was sentenced to death that medical experts became aware of the extensive history of Mr. Worthington’s mental disorders, including a family background of mental illness, depression and suicide attempts.
“The death of Melinda Griffin was a tragic waste of life and we grieve with her family,” said Mrs. Linhardt. “However, considering the extent of Mr. Worthington’s mental disorders, it is inappropriate to impose the highest level of punishment. He can be adequately held accountable for his crimes by spending the rest of his life in prison.”