UPCOMING EXECUTIONS 2014

Oklahoma Postpones Execution After First Is Botched- Clayton Lockett, stay for Warner


April 29, 2014

McALESTER, Okla. — What was supposed to be the first of two executions here Tuesday night was halted when the prisoner, Clayton D. Lockett, began to twitch and gasp after he had already been declared unconscious and called out “man” and “something’s wrong,” according to witnesses.

The administering doctor intervened and discovered that “the line had blown,” said the director of corrections, Robert Patton, meaning that drugs were no longer flowing into his vein.

At 7:06 p.m., Mr. Patton said, Mr. Lockett died of a heart attack.

Mr. Patton said he had requested a stay of 14 days in the second execution scheduled for Tuesday night, of Charles F. Warner.

It was a chaotic and disastrous step in Oklahoma’s long effort to execute the two men, overcoming their objections that the state would not disclose the source of the drugs being used in a newly tried combination.

  It did not appear that any of the drugs themselves failed, but rather the method of administration, but it resulted in what witnesses called an agonizing scene.

“This was botched, and it was difficult to watch,” said David Autry, one of Mr. Lockett’s lawyers.

A doctor started to administer the first drug, a sedative intended to knock the man out, at 6:23. Ten minutes later, the doctor said that Mr. Lockett was unconscious, and started to administer the next two drugs, a paralytic and one intended to make the heart stop.

At that point, witnesses said, things began to go awry. Mr. Lockett’s body moved, his foot shook, and he mumbled, witnesses said. 

At 6 :37, he tried to rise and exhaled loudly. At that point, prison officials pulled a curtain in front of the witnesses and the doctor discovered a “vein failure,” Mr. Patton said.

The appeals for disclosure about the drug sources, supported by a state court in March, threw Oklahoma’s highest courts and elected officials into weeks of conflict and disarray, with courts arguing over which should consider the request for a politically unpopular stay of execution, the governor defying the State Supreme Court’s ruling for a delay, and a legislator seeking impeachment of the justices.

The planned executions of Mr. Lockett, 38, and Mr. Warner, 46, dramatized the growing tension nationally over secrecy in lethal injections as drug companies, saying they are fearful of political and even physical attack, refuse to supply drugs, and many states scramble to find new sources and try untested combinations. Several states have imposed secrecy on the suppliers of lethal injection drugs, leading to court battles over due process and the ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Lawyers for the two convicts said the lack of supplier information made it impossible to know if the drugs were safe and effective, or might possibly violate the ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Officials swore that the drugs were obtained legally from licensed pharmacies, and had not expired. Gov. Mary Fallin, expressing the sentiment of many here, said: “Two men that do not contest their guilt in heinous murders will now face justice.”

But that question was overshadowed by Tuesday night’s disastrous mishap, which is certain to generate more challenges to lethal injection, long considered the most humane of execution methods.

 Mr. Lockett was convicted of shooting a 19-year-old woman in 1999 and having her buried alive. Mr. Warner, condemned for the rape and murder of an 11-month-old girl in 1997, was to be executed two hours later. .

The two men spent Tuesday in adjacent cells, visited by their lawyers and, in Mr. Warner’s case, family members. The hulking white penitentiary here in a small town of southeast Oklahoma, amid prairies now green from soaking spring rains, is the prison from which Tom Joad is paroled in the opening pages of John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath.”

In keeping with the untried drug protocol announced by the Corrections Department this month, Mr. Lockett was first injected with midazolam, a benzodiazepine intended to render the prisoner unconscious and unable to feel pain. This was followed by injections of vecuronium bromide, a paralyzing agent that stops breathing, and then potassium chloride, which stops the heart.

This combination has been used in Florida, but with a much higher dose of midazolam than Oklahoma is planning to use. Without effective sedation, the second two drugs are known to cause agonizing suffocation and pain.

Oklahoma and other states have turned to compounding pharmacies — lightly regulated laboratories that mix up drugs to order. Opponents have raised questions about quality control, especially after the widely reported dying gasps of a convict in Ohio for more than 10 minutes, and an Oklahoma inmate’s utterance, “I feel my whole body burning,” after being injected with compounded drugs.

Mr. Lockett and Mr. Warner were scheduled to be executed in March, but officials said they had been unable to buy the drugs, and the executions were delayed. Oklahoma later said it had found a federally approved manufacturer to provide the drugs, but refused to identify it.

Oklahoma’s attorney general, Scott Pruitt, derided the lawsuits over drug secrecy, calling them delaying tactics. Many legal experts, especially death penalty opponents, say otherwise.

“Information on the drug that is intended to act as the anesthetic is crucial to ensure that the execution will be humane,” said Jennifer Moreno, a lawyer with the Berkeley Law School’s Death Penalty Clinic.

Elsewhere, Texas has refused to reveal where it obtained a new batch of compounded drugs; a challenge is before the State Supreme Court. Georgia passed a law last year making information about lethal drug suppliers a “confidential state secret”; a challenge is also pending in that state’s top court.

This month, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear suits attacking drug secrecy in Missouri and Louisiana.

But three of the justices expressed interest and the issue seems likely to be considered by the Supreme Court at some point, said Eric M. Freedman, a professor of constitutional law at Hofstra University who considers the secrecy a violation of due process.

In March, it appeared that Mr. Lockett and Mr. Warner had won the right to know more about the drugs when an Oklahoma judge ruled that the secrecy law was unconstitutional. But the judge said she did not have the authority to grant the men stays of execution, sending the inmates into a Kafkaesque legal maze.

The state has an unusual court system, sending criminal appeals to a top criminal court and civil matters to its Supreme Court. The Court of Criminal Appeals repeatedly turned back the Supreme Court’s order to rule on a stay, while the attorney general insisted that the executions would go ahead.

Last Monday, the Supreme Court said that to avoid a miscarriage of justice, it would delay the executions until it had time to resolve the secrecy matter.

The next day, Governor Fallin, a Republican, said the Supreme Court had overstepped its powers, and directed officials to carry out both executions on April 29. An outraged legislator, Representative Mike Christian, said he would seek to impeach the justices, who were already under fire from conservative legislators for striking down laws the court deemed unconstitutional.

A constitutional crisis appeared to be brewing. But last Wednesday, the Supreme Court announced a decision on the secrecy issue — overturning the lower court and declaring that the executions could proceed.

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Oklahoma executions back on, as court rules to keep lethal-drug sources secret


April 25, 2014

CNN) — Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner’s executions are back on the schedule for next week after Oklahoma’s high court lifted their stays, saying they had no right to know the source of the drugs that will be used to kill them.

The inmates, who are being held at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, where they are slated to be executed by lethal injection Tuesday, had challenged the state’s so-called secrecy provision, which forbids disclosing the identities of anyone involved in the execution process or suppliers of any drugs or medical equipment.

Lockett and Warner also challenged the state Department of Corrections’ failure to divulge which drugs would be used, but the department disclosed what drugs it intended to use before the high court’s decision: midazolam, which causes unconsciousness, along with pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride, which shut down breathing and the heart.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court said the only remaining issue, then, is whether the state’s failure to disclose its source for the drugs prevents the prisoners from challenging their executions using the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The court decided it did not.

“This court holds that the secrecy provision … does not violate the inmates’ constitutional right of access to the courts,” the Wednesday ruling said.

Attorney Seth Day, who represents both men, called the ruling unacceptable and told CNN affiliate KFOR that there was no way to know if the prisoners’ executions “would be carried out in a constitutional and humane manner.”

“It’s not even known whether the lethal injection drugs to be used were obtained legally, and nothing is known about their source, purity, or efficacy, among other questions,” he told the station. “Oklahoma’s extreme secrecy surrounding lethal injection undermines our courts and democracy.”

Attorney General Scott Pruitt applauded the decision, saying the state had a longstanding precedent of keeping the drug sources secret to avoid “schemes and intimidation used by defense counsel and other anti-death-penalty groups.”

“These death row inmates have not contested their guilt for murdering two innocent victims nor have they contested their sentences of death. The legal wrangling of the attorneys for Lockett and Warner has served only to delay their punishment for the heinous crimes they committed,” he told KFOR.

Lockett was convicted in 2000 of a bevy of crimes, including first-degree murder, first-degree rape, kidnapping and robbery in a 1999 home invasion and crime spree that left Stephanie Nieman dead and two people injured. In 2003, Warner was convicted for the 1997 first-degree rape and murder of his then-girlfriend’s 11-month-old daughter, Adrianna Waller.

The constitutionality of lethal injection drugs and drug cocktails has made headlines since last year, when European manufacturers — including Denmark-based Lundbeck, which manufactures pentobarbital — banned U.S. prisons from using their drugs in executions. Thirty-two states were left to find new drug protocols.

“The states are scrambling to find the drugs,” Richard Dieter, executive director of the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center, said in November. “They want to carry out these executions that they have scheduled, but they don’t have the drugs and they’re changing and trying new procedures never used before in the history of executions.”

If Lockett and Warner are executed next week, they would be the 194th and 195th inmates Oklahoma has executed since 1915.

US – UPCOMING EXECUTIONS MAY 2014


Dates are subject to change due to stays and appeals

April 23

May
13 TEXAS Robert Campbell
21 TEXAS Robert Pruett
21 MISSOURI Russell Bucklew
28 OHIO Arthur Tyler
29 TEXAS Edgardo Cubas (Foreign National) – STAYED

FLORIDA – UPCOMING EXECUTION – APRIL 23 Robert Hendrix EXECUTED


last meal of pork chops, sausage gravy and biscuits, German chocolate cake and a soft drink

April 23,2014

Florida: The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to postpone the execution or Robert Hendrix, who is scheduled to die by lethal injection today at 6 p.m. for the murder of a young Lake County couple nearly 24 years ago.

 Florida executed a man by lethal injection at 6:21 p.m. Wednesday at Florida State Prison in Starke. He was convicted of the 1990 murders of Elmer and Michelle Scott at their Lake County home.
The U.S. Supreme Court denied Hendrix’s last-minute request for a stay without comment. He ate a last meal of pork chops, sausage gravy and biscuits, German chocolate cake and a soft drink, state corrections officials said.
Prosecutors said Hendrix killed the couple because Elmer Scott intended to testify against him. But Hendrix’s attorney said there was no forensic evidence linking his client to the murders and that the witnesses against him were unreliable.
Hendrix becomes the fourth person executed in Florida this year and the 16th since Gov. Rick Scott took office in 2011.

April 22, 2014

Robert HendrixRobert Hendrix (photo prison)

In August 1990, the night before his trial in the armed burglary case was to begin, Hendrix shot Scott in the face in his trailer home, hit him in the head with the gun and stabbed him in the neck, prosecutors have said. He then used a knife to cut the throat of Scott’s wife, Michelle, who fought back before Hendrix shot her three times, they added.

Scott had already made a plea deal with prosecutors in the armed burglary case in which he and Hendrix broke into a house but only Scott was caught. His cooperation led investigators to arrest Hendrix. In the weeks leading up to his trial, prosecutors say, Hendrix told friends he would kill Scott rather than return to prison

But Scott and his attorney, Harry Brody, said the case is plagued by problems.

“There isn’t any real forensic evidence placing him at the scene,” Brody said. “He maintains the state hasn’t proven anything.”

Prosecutors say that on the night of the murders, Hendrix’s live-in girlfriend, Denise Turbyville, drove him from Orange County, where they lived, to the Scotts’ trailer in neighboring Lake County and dropped him off. Michelle Scott welcomed Hendrix into the trailer, and told him Elmer Scott was in the bathroom shaving and would be out shortly. When Elmer Scott came out, Hendrix asked to use the bathroom. When he left the bathroom, Hendrix fired shots at Elmer Scott and then grabbed a knife and attacked Michelle Scott, according to prosecutors.

Brody said the two main witnesses against Hendrix, Turbyville and Roger LaForce, who claimed Hendrix told him details about the murders while they shared a cell in the Lake County Jail, are unreliable. According to Brody, both had a self-interest in testifying for prosecutors.

Turbyville pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder and was sentenced to 75 years in prison instead of facing the possibility of the death penalty for a first-degree murder charge. LaForce was a confidential informant for a narcotics task force and stood to gain a lighter sentence for his assistance, Hendrix’s attorneys say.

“These two main witnesses were terribly compromised,” Brody said.

Brody also said the presiding judge had a conflict of interest, Hendrix’s trial lawyer was ineffective at presenting mitigating circumstances during sentencing and that Hendrix was shackled during his trial, leading jurors to a biased impression that he was dangerous.

The conflict of interest claim arises from Hendrix’s assertion that an attorney of Hendrix’s girlfriend had consulted with the presiding judge about the case before the judge joined the bench. The girlfriend, Turbyville, was a star witness for the prosecution. Appellate courts have dismissed the allegation. Hendrix’s attorneys also claimed the judge had presided over a criminal case against LaForce.

During sentencing, Hendrix’s attorneys failed to call witnesses who could have testified that Hendrix was regularly beaten by his father and had a serious drug addiction, factors that could explain his unbalanced mental state, according to court papers filed by Hendrix.

Through the Attorney General’s Office, family members of the victims didn’t respond to a request for an interview.

Prosecutors contend Hendrix’s claims of error during the trial are without merit.

“Hendrix fashions a cumulative error claim but fails to identify where any court has ever found error in any of his claims that would entitle him to relief,” Assistant Attorney General Mitchell Bishop said in a recent court filing.

If the execution is carried out, Hendrix would be the fourth person executed in Florida this year and the 16th since Gov. Rick Scott took office in 2011. A petition is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, and Hendrix has filed a request for a stay of execution with the Florida Supreme Court.

 

 

 

 

Missouri inmate seeks execution stay after Oklahoma drug secrecy case – William Rousan


April 22, 2014

Lawyers for a Missouri death row inmate on Tuesday were seeking to halt his execution over concerns about the state’s secret lethal injection drugs a day after an Oklahoma court stopped two executions there over similar issues.

William Rousan, 57, is scheduled for execution at 12.01am CST on Wednesday. Rousan was convicted of murdering 62-year-old Grace Lewis and her 67-year-old husband, Charles Lewis, in 1993 in a plot to steal the farm couple’s cattle.

Attorneys for Rousan have argued that Missouri’s secret execution drugs could cause undue suffering. The eighth US circuit court of appeals on Monday rejected Rousan’s appeal, and the case was headed to the US supreme court.

The action follows a decision issued on Monday by the Oklahoma supreme court that halted the executions of Clayton Lockett, scheduled for Tuesday, and Charles Warner, scheduled for April 29. The court said the inmates had the right to have an opportunity to challenge the secrecy over the drugs Oklahoma intends to use to put them to death.

Lawyers for death row inmates in several states have raised a series of arguments against the use of compounded drugs for executions. Many states have turned to the lightly regulated compounding pharmacies for supplies because makers of drugs traditionally used in lethal injections have largely stopped making them available for executions.

But the lawyers argue that drugs obtained for lethal injections from compounding pharmacies could lead to undue suffering, which would amount to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the US constitution. They also say they should have information about the legitimacy of the supplier, and details about the purity and potency of the drugs.

Prison officials have rejected those arguments and have been refusing to reveal where they are getting the drugs.

But Louisiana and Ohio this year have seen executions delayed because of concerns about suffering that might be caused by untraditional drug supplies. The family of one inmate executed in Ohio in January has filed suit against the state because, according to some witnesses, he took an unusually long time to die and appeared to be in pain.

Last year, Missouri started classifying compounding pharmacies as part of its execution team and said the identities of the pharmacies were thus shielded from public disclosure.

Okla. Supreme Court halts execution in a last minute decision


April 21, 2014

One day before Clayton Lockett was scheduled to be executed for the 1999 shooting death of 19-year-old Stephanie Nieman, a sharply divided Oklahoma Supreme Court granted a stay.

The decision also includes a second inmate, Charles Warner, who was convicted in the 1997 death of his roommate’s 11-month-old daughter.

He was scheduled to die on April 29.

The two death row inmates have challenged the secrecy surrounding the source of the state’s lethal injection drugs.

The decision was 5-4.

Last month, Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish struck down the state’s execution law.

The ruling said the protocol prevented the inmates from seeking information about the drugs used in lethal injections and that violated their rights under the state constitution.

The state changed its execution protocol on March 21 to allow five different potential drug combinations for execution by lethal injection.

The state informed lawyers for the inmates on April 1 that the inmates would be executed using a combination of midazolam, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride never before used in the state.

Executions have been conducted using the drug combination in Florida with lower doses.

The request filed by the convicts attorney says the inmates “have received no certifications, testing data, medical opinions or other evidence to support the state’s insistence that these drugs are safe, or to prove that they were acquired legally.”

Oklahoma and other states that have the death penalty have been scrambling for substitute drugs or new sources for drugs for lethal injections after major drug companies — many based in Europe with longtime opposition to the death penalty — stopped selling to prisons and corrections departments.

On Friday, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals denied the inmates’ request for a stay in spite of a ruling by the Supreme Court earlier in the week that the appeals court had the authority

 

Oklahoma to proceed with lethal injection amid confusion within courts – Clayton Lockett


April 21, 2014

Execution of Clayton Lockett to go ahead after judges in disagreement over which court has the power to grant a stay

Oklahoma plans to kill Clayton Lockett by lethal injection on Tuesday, after judges could not agree which court has the authority to stay his execution amid questions over the constitutionality of the state’s capital punishment law.

The Oklahoma court of criminal appeals and the state supreme court last week both declined to stay the executions of Lockett and Charles Warner, scheduled for April 29, with each court saying it did not have the authority to grant a stay.

The inmates have sued over the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s secrecy about execution drugs, and an Oklahoma county district court judge has ruled that keeping the source of the drugs confidential is a violation of their rights. The state is defending a law that allows it to keep the source of the drugs secret, on the argument that suppliers would be in danger if their identities were made public.

Lockett, 38, was convicted of killing a 19-year-old woman in 1999. He was also convicted of rape. Warner, 46, was convicted of raping and killing an 11-month-old baby in 1997.

The Oklahoma county district judge ruled in March that the secrecy surrounding the drug source violated the inmates’ right to access the courts. The state appealed that ruling on Friday to the state supreme court calling the ruling an “overbroad interpretation” of the right to access.

The inmates’ lawyers, Susanna Gattoni and Seth Day, said in a statement it would be “unthinkable” to execute them before the state supreme court considers the constitutional issues.

“The extreme secrecy surrounding lethal injection in Oklahoma makes it impossible to know whether executions would be carried out in a humane and legal manner,” the lawyers said. The lawyers appealed again Monday to the state supreme court.

The state has said Lockett and Warner will die, and that the question is how and when.

“The citizens should not see their criminal justice system derailed and subverted by criminal defendants who have completely exhausted the entire range of appeals and processes required by the US and Oklahoma constitutions due to baseless speculation of theoretical harms raised in improper venues,” the state said in a filing.

The state supreme court said it did not have the authority to stay the executions and transferred the matter to the criminal appeals court. But the criminal appeals court said it did not have the authority to grant a stay.

In transferring the case to the criminal appeals court, the state supreme court urged the judges to consider the “gravity of the first impression constitutional issues this court will be charged with in addressing” the appeals.

The appeals present claims, “which if resolved in the prisoners’ favor, might well support alterations in the execution process,” the court said in transferring the stay.

At the criminal appeals court, judge Clancy Smith dissented from her colleagues, saying: “I would grant a stay to avoid irreparable harm as the appellants face imminent execution. I would do so in consideration of the appellants’ rights, to avoid the possibility of a miscarriage of justice, and in comity with the supreme courts’ request for time to resolve the issues pending before it.”

The state plans to use an untried dose of midazolam in a three-drug lethal injection method to kill Lockett and Warner.

Unable to find the drugs it needed to kill the men, the state changed its protocol in March to allow five lethal injection methods. The state can use four three-drug combinations, or a single dose of pentobarbital.

The state has typically fought legal battles when it wanted to revise the lethal injection method, according to a document the corrections department wrote to update the state board of corrections in 2012.

“As noted, Oklahoma has been required to litigate every change in the lethal injection protocol and anticipates future litigation for each new change,” the document states.

Lockett’s execution is scheduled for 6pm local time on Tuesday, at the Oklahoma state penitentiary in McAlester. His will be the state’s third execution in 2014.

 

theguardian.com)

Oklahoma Justices Send Execution Case To Lower Court


April 18, 2014

Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner have sued the state seeking more information about the drugs that would be used to kill them.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court says it is not the place for death-row inmates to go if they want a stay of execution.

Justices said Thursday that the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals should take up stay requests from 2 inmates scheduled to die in the next 2 weeks. The appeals court had said previously it didn’t have the authority because the inmates hadn’t met all technical requirements under the law.

Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner have sued the state seeking more information about the drugs that would be used to kill them. They say they need stays of execution so they can continue their challenge.

The justices wrote that the Court of Criminal Appeals erred in not taking up the request.

Death penalty abolitionists and others who seek to end the death penalty will protest the executions of two death-row inmates on the days of their executions.

The Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty will host “Don’t Kill for Me” demonstrations at the governor’s mansion followed by silent vigils on Tuesday for death-row inmate Clayton Lockett and on April 29 for Charles Warner.

The inmates have been in a legal battle with the state over the secrecy surrounding which drugs are used in executions and their origins. The executions are still scheduled to take place, despite pending litigation in the case.

Lockett was found guilty of the 1999 shooting death of a 19-year-old woman, Stephanie Nieman. Warner was convicted for the 1997 death of his roommate’s 11-month-old daughter.

(source: Associated Press)

Arthur Tyler, slated to die May 28 in controversial capital case, asks Ohio for mercy


April 18, 2014

Arthur Tyler, who has been on Ohio’s death row 3 decades for the murder of a produce vendor during a robbery in Cleveland, has asked the Ohio Parole Board to commute his sentence to life in prison with a chance of parole.
The parole board will hold a clemency hearing April 24 to hear Tyler’s pleas. The board will make a recommendation to Gov. John Kasich, who will ultimately decide Tyler’s fate.
He is scheduled to be executed May 28.
Tyler’s case has been controversial because he was 1 of 2 people convicted in the killing of Sanders Leach, but the only one sentenced to die. And there are questions as to who actually pulled the trigger.
Tyler’s co-defendant, Leroy Head, confessed almost immediately. Head admitted to police, family and friends that he shot Leach in a struggle for the gun during the March 1983 robbery attempt, according to court records.
He signed a confession, but later changed his story, telling prosecutors that Tyler fired the gun.
Tyler was convicted of aggravated murder and aggravated robbery and sentenced to die. Head pleaded guilty to the same charges and was sentenced to prison. He was released in 2008.
Tyler’s lawyers, in a brief filed with the parole board, said Tyler recognizes he shares responsibility for Leach’s death. But they urge clemency be granted, commuting his death sentence to life imprisonment with parole eligibility.
“Ideally, Arthur Tyler should be granted parole and released from prison for time served, they wrote. “As we will demonstrate, Arthur Tyler did not shoot Mr. Leach. Head falsely testified against Mr. Tyler in order to save himself from the death penalty.”
Source: Cleveland.com,

TEXAS – Execution Jose Villegas – April 16, 6 pm- EXECUTED 7.04 PM


“I would like to remind my children once again I love them,” Villegas said when asked if he had a statement before being put to death. “Everything is OK. I love you all, and I love my children. I am at peace.”

High court refuses to stop execution in Texas

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to halt the scheduled execution of a man convicted of killing three members of a Corpus Christi family.

The high court, on a 5-4 vote, rejected arguments from attorneys for Jose Villegas who said the 39-year-old is mentally impaired and ineligible for the death penalty.

The ruling came Wednesday about 30 minutes after a six-hour window opened for Villegas’ lethal injection for the fatal stabbings 13 years ago of his ex-girlfriend, her 3-year-old son and her mother.

Villegas’ lawyers contended testing in February showed he had an IQ of 59, below the IQ of 70 that courts have embraced as a threshold for mental impairment. State attorneys disputed the test result and called it a late attempt to delay the punishment.

 

As usual, Execution Watch will air, starting at 6pm and have an taped interview with Jose,

Execution Watch with Ray Hill
can be heard on KPFT 90.1 FM,
in Galveston at 89.5 and Livingston at 90.3,
as well as on the net here
from 6:00 PM CT to 7:00 PM CT
on any day Texas executes a prisoner.

April 16 update

Execution Watch with Ray Hill
can be heard on KPFT 90.1 FM,
in Galveston at 89.5 and Livingston at 90.3,
as well as on the net here
from 6:00 PM CT to 7:00 PM CT
on any day Texas executes a prisoner.

April 15, 2014

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — Jose Villegas was out on bond for a sexual assault charge and was supposed to go on trial in Corpus Christi for punching a woman in the face on the same day 13 years ago that he stabbed ex-girlfriend, her son and her mother to death.

The former cook, dishwasher and laborer was arrested after a police chase and charged with capital murder for the deaths of his ex-girlfriend, Erida Salazar, her 3-year-old son, Jacob, and her mother, Alma Perez, 51.

Villegas, 38, was set for lethal injection Wednesday for the slayings. He would be the seventh Texas inmate executed this year and the fifth in as many weeks in the nation’s most active death penalty state.

His attorneys argue that the punishment should be put off so they have additional time to investigate evidence they’ve recently found that Villegas is mentally impaired and ineligible for execution. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals refused Monday to halt the punishment and lawyers for Villegas said they would take their appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Salazar’s father, returning home Jan. 22, 2001, from jury duty, found the bloody body of his wife and had a neighbor call police. He then went back inside to find his daughter, 23, and grandson also dead. Court documents show Salazar was stabbed 32 times, her son 19 times and mother 35 times. A television and car also were taken from the home.

Police spotted Salazar’s car with Villegas behind the wheel and he led them on a chase that ended when he bailed out on foot. When he was caught, officers found three bags of cocaine inside his baseball cap.

Testimony at his 2002 capital murder trial showed Villegas told police he pawned the stolen television for $75, used the money immediately to buy cocaine and hoped to commit suicide by overdosing.

“We had a confession, DNA, witnesses who saw him leaving the house afterward,” Mark Skurka, the Nueces County district attorney who prosecuted the case, said. “He killed the mom first, then his girlfriend, then the baby.”

Jurors deliberated less than 20 minutes before convicting him.

Villegas had multiple previous arrests, including burglary, making terroristic threats to kill a woman, assaults and two counts of indecency with a child for exposing himself and fondling the daughter of the woman he was accused of punching in the face. Records showed he had spent at least 200 days in jail and four years on probation.

Defense attorneys at his trial acknowledged Villegas committed the slayings but said they were not intentional and he was mentally ill. A defense psychiatrist blamed his behavior on uncontrollable rages caused by “intermittent explosive disorder.”

“Punishment was the only issue,” Grant Jones, one of Villegas’ trial lawyers, recalled this week. “I’ve been trying criminal cases over 40 years and I’d say in about 80 percent of the cases, mental health is a factor to one degree or another.”

Relatives said Salazar’s mother had urged her to leave Villegas when she learned of the sex charges against him.

Villegas would be the third Texas inmate executed with a new stock of pentobarbital from a provider corrections officials have refused to identify, citing the possibility of threats of violence against the supplier. The Supreme Court has upheld that stance.

Texas and other death penalty states have been scrambling for substitute drugs or new sources for drugs for lethal injections after major drugmakers — many based in Europe where death penalty opposition is strong — stopped selling to state corrections agencies.

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