Death penalty | Texas Public Radio

Death penalty

Last weekend Moreese Bickham was laid to rest. He was 98 and was known as the oldest survivor of Death Row. Bickham was buried in his hometown in Mississippi with military honors, he was a World War II navy veteran.

Bickham was sentenced to capital punishment in 1958 after admitting to shooting and killing two law officers in a situation that could be considered self-defense. Bickham said he saw the racism of the death penalty firsthand when at his trial the judge insisted that only white males would sit in the jury.

John Allen Rubio sits on Death Row in Texas. He was convicted of the 2003 murder of three children that were in his care. Rubio with his common law wife Angela Camacho say they believed the children were possessed by the devil. Prosecutors say Rubio committed the murders because they were homeless and so poor he didn’t want to take care of them any longer. The murder shocked the border community of Brownsville at the time and it’s a news story that’s still remembered. But former Brownsville Herald reporter Laura Tillman wanted to go deeper in the telling of this crime.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice

Texas has executed roughly 30 death row inmates in Huntsville that had been diagnosed with severe mental illness, that’s according to a study provided by the group the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.  

The group’s executive director, Kristin Houle, said that is primarily because the Texas judicial system has not created a categorical exemption for inmates with mental disorders like paranoid schizophrenia.

From Texas Standard:

So far this year, the State of Texas has executed three death row inmates. Ten more are scheduled to die before the end of July. At each execution are the prison warden, representatives from the press and families of prisoners and their victims. There's also a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

"The commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' has absolute value and concerns both the innocent and the guilty," Pope Francis said Sunday, urging that the death penalty be abolished.

A nearly unanimous Supreme Court Wednesday reinstated death sentences for three convicted Kansas murderers. The decision cast doubt on the impression that a majority of the justices might now be willing to strike down capital punishment in its entirety.

The death penalty is in decline no matter the measure, a new study released by the Death Penalty Information Center has found.

The report found that 28 people were executed this year, the lowest since 1991. The number of death sentences dropped by 33 percent.

Only six states executed convicts during the year, and Texas, Missouri and Georgia accounted for 86 percent of the executions.

The last execution scheduled in the U.S. for the year is set for Tuesday in Georgia. But capital punishment has gown rare in America, to the point of near extinction.

Even though polls show that 60 percent of the public still supports the death penalty, and even though the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld it as constitutional, the number of executions this year so far is almost the same as the number of fatalities from lightning strikes — 27 executions versus 26 deaths by lightning.

The death penalty reared its head again at the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday. It was the first time the court publicly considered a death case since last term, when a constitutional challenge to lethal injection procedures erupted into a rare, nasty and vituperative debate among the justices. This time, the issues were far more technical but still a matter of life and death.

From Texas Standard:

There is an execution scheduled for Wednesday in Oklahoma – but Texas is tied to the case.

According to a court filing, the lawyer for an Oklahoma death row inmate is claiming that his client shouldn't have to use an alternative to pentobarbital, one of the chemicals in the lethal injection cocktail. The filing argues that Texas is compounding its own pentobarbital and has sold the lethal injection drug to at least one other death penalty state: Virginia.


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