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April 21, 2022

Texas completes execution of its oldest death row inmate, while elderly condemned in Tennessee gets temporary reprieve

As detailed in this AP story, "Texas’ oldest death row inmate was executed Thursday for killing a Houston police officer during a traffic stop nearly 32 years ago." Here is more:

Carl Wayne Buntion, 78, was executed at the state penitentiary in Huntsville. He was condemned for the June 1990 fatal shooting of Houston police officer James Irby, a nearly 20-year member of the force. The U.S. Supreme Court had declined a request by Buntion’s attorneys to stop his execution.

Buntion had been on parole for just six weeks when he shot the 37-year-old Irby. Buntion, who had an extensive criminal record, was a passenger in the car that Irby pulled over. In 2009, an appeals court vacated Buntion’s sentence, but another jury resentenced him to death three years later....

With his execution, Buntion became the oldest person Texas has put to death since the Supreme Court lifted its ban on capital punishment in 1976. The oldest inmate executed in the U.S. in modern times was Walter Moody Jr., who was 83 years old when he was put to death in Alabama in 2018.

Buntion was also the first inmate executed in Texas in 2022. Although Texas has been the nation’s busiest capital punishment state, it had been nearly seven months since it carried out an execution. There have been only three executions in each of the last two years, due in part to the coronavirus pandemic and delays over legal questions about Texas’ refusal to allow spiritual advisers to touch inmates and pray aloud in the death chamber.

In March, the U.S. Supreme Court said states must accommodate requests to have faith leaders pray and touch inmates during executions. Texas prison officials agreed to Buntion’s request to allow his spiritual adviser to pray aloud and touch him while he was put to death.

Meanwhile, as discussed in this other AP piece, a much different outcome transpired in a nearby state with similar execution plans:

Tennessee’s governor on Thursday called off what was to have been the state’s first execution since the start of the pandemic, granting a temporary reprieve to the oldest inmate on death row for what was called an “oversight” in preparations for the lethal injection.

Republican Gov. Bill Lee didn’t elaborate on what exactly forced the surprise 11th-hour stop to the planned execution of 72-year-old Oscar Smith. The inmate was to have received a three-drug injection only a short while later in the evening at a Nashville maximum security prison.

“Due to an oversight in preparation for lethal injection, the scheduled execution of Oscar Smith will not move forward tonight. I am granting a temporary reprieve while we address Tennessee Department of Correction protocol,” Lee said in a statement. “Further details will be released when they are available.”

Kelley Henry, an attorney with the federal public defender’s office representing Smith, called for an independent entity to investigate, saying no execution should happen until questions are answered about what had occurred. Henry said the governor did the “right thing” by stopping the execution which would “certainly have been torturous to Mr. Smith.”

Smith was convicted of the 1989 killings of his estranged wife and her two teenage sons. Shortly before the governor intervened, the U.S. Supreme Court had denied a last-hour bid by Smith’s attorneys to block the execution plan.

Dorinda Carter, a Department of Correction spokesperson, said the state Supreme Court would need to reschedule the execution. She said Smith would be removed from death watch and returned to his cell on death row. She declined to provide additional information and referred questions to the governor’s office.

It was to have been Tennessee’s first execution since the start of the pandemic. Hours earlier, Smith had been served what was supposed to be his last meal, including a double bacon cheeseburger and apple pie, and was notified his spiritual adviser could be present in the execution chamber.

April 21, 2022 at 09:06 PM | Permalink

Comments

Not arbitrary at all!

Posted by: AFPD | Apr 22, 2022 12:44:09 PM

What an affront to justice that it took 32 years.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Apr 25, 2022 10:18:15 AM

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