Death Penalty | KERA News

Death Penalty

Abel Ochoa
TDC

Texas is preparing to execute Abel Ochoa on Thursday for fatally shooting his family members in their living room.

In 2002, Ochoa walked out of his Dallas bedroom, high on crack, and shot his 7-year-old and 9-month-old daughters, wife, father-in-law and two sisters-in-law, court records state. The only survivor was one of his wife’s sisters, who ran to a neighbor’s house after being shot.

John Gardner was sentenced to death for the 2005 murder of his estranged wife, Tammy Dawn Gardner.
TDCJ / The Texas Tribune

Texas, the state that has put to death more people than any other by far, is scheduled to carry out the nation’s first execution of the decade Wednesday.

John Gardner is set to be executed for the 2005 Collin County murder of his soon-to-be ex-wife. Tammy Gardner was shot and killed in her home weeks before the couple’s divorce was finalized, according to court records. She had called 911 before she died to say her husband had shot her.

Lydell Grant
Jon Shapley / Houston Chronicle via Associated Press

Authorities said they will begin the process to exonerate a Houston man who was convicted in a 2010 fatal stabbing that investigators now believe was committed by someone else.

Travis Runnels
TDCJ

Texas officials didn't dispute that prosecutors introduced false testimony at Travis Runnels’ 2005 capital murder trial in Amarillo. Instead, they argued the state should still execute him even if they did.

Travis Runnels was sentenced to death for the 2003 murder of prison employee Stanley Wiley.
TDCJ

Texas officials aren’t disputing that prosecutors introduced false testimony at Travis Runnels’ 2005 capital murder trial in Amarillo. Instead, they argue the state should still execute him even if they did.

Rodney Reed was sentenced to death for the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites in Bastrop.
Courtesy KXAN

Texas' highest criminal court Friday afternoon halted Rodney Reed's execution and sent his case back to the trial court to further review his claims of suppressed evidence, false testimony and, biggest of all, that he is innocent of the murder that landed him on death row more than 20 years ago.

People hold hands while praying during a protest against the execution of Rodney Reed on Nov. 13 in Bastrop.
Nick Wagner / Austin American-Statesman via AP

Protesters rallied in support of Rodney Reed’s campaign to stop his scheduled Nov. 20 execution.

The protesters rallied Wednesday afternoon outside the Bastrop County district attorney’s office in Bastrop, about 30 miles southeast of Austin. They heard from speakers that included the Rev. Al Sharpton and members of the Texas death row inmate’s family.

Edward Moore wipes his eyes while Rodrick Reed, brother of death row inmate Rodney Reed, rallies supporters outside the Texas governor's mansion in Austin Nov. 9, 2019.
Paul Weber / Associated Press

Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has joined the fast-growing calls from Texas lawmakers and A-list celebrities to take a closer look at the death sentence of Rodney Reed.

Cruz called efforts to halt the execution of Reed “a remarkable bipartisan coalition” on Friday night, the day before hundreds of people rallied outside the Texas Governor’s Mansion in support of Reed.

Illustration by Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / The Texas Tribune

Patrick Murphy's execution was again halted Thursday because Texas death row inmates' final access to spiritual advisors of their faith differs for Christians and Buddhists.

Courtesy KXAN

As the execution date nears for a Texas man whose guilt has long been shrouded in doubt, all eyes are shifting from the courts to the governor’s mansion.

Mark Lambie/The El Paso Times via AP

The 21-year-old suspect in the fatal shooting of 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso pleaded not guilty Thursday during a brief initial hearing.

Police have said Patrick Crusius of Dallas confessed to the Aug. 3 mass shooting and that he targeted Mexicans.

Associated Press

A Texas death row inmate is set to be executed Wednesday for fatally stabbing an 89-year-old woman and her daughter more than 16 years ago in their Fort Worth home.

Convicted killer Larry Swearingen is scheduled to be executed Wednesday. It was almost 20 years ago that Swearingen was found guilty of the abduction, rape and strangulation of Montgomery County college student Melissa Trotter.

Associated Press

The Justice Department said Thursday that it will carry out executions of federal death row inmates for the first time since 2003.

Five inmates who have been sentenced to death are scheduled to be executed starting in December.

Associated Press

A Jewish death row inmate who was part of the "Texas 7" gang of escaped prisoners has filed an appeal claiming the former county judge who oversaw his trial was anti-Semitic and frequently used racial slurs.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice will no longer share the last written words of death row inmates after criticism from a Houston lawmaker.

From Texas Standard:

Texas news outlets often report on death penalty stories, given that the state leads the nation in prisoner executions. But rarely do reports tell the stories of women on death row. Those women are housed in a prison in Gatesville, and as I wait for the guards to bring over inmate Linda Carty, I notice the room is very different from the crammed spaces where I’ve interviewed men on death row. There’s still glass separating us, but this room is spacious and well-lit.

Patrick Murphy was ready to die on March 28, and the State of Texas was ready to kill him. It was the U.S. Supreme Court that stepped in and granted the surprise execution stay. That’s why Murphy is alive today.

When the state of Texas tried to execute Patrick Murphy on March 28, the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in. The high court ruled that the execution was unconstitutional. But it wasn't because of any concerns about due process or the morality of the state taking a life. The issue was religious freedom.

East Texas Town Reflects On James Byrd Jr.'s Dragging Death Ahead Of Last Execution

Apr 23, 2019
Louvon Byrd Harris, 61, and Mylinda Byrd Washington, 66, hold up photographs of their brother James Byrd Jr. in Houston. James Byrd Jr. was the victim of what is considered to be one of the most gruesome hate crimes in recent Texas history.
Associated Press

A technology company was almost ready to bring up to 300 new jobs to Jasper, Texas, but in the final stages of recent negotiations, a potential deal-breaker emerged: the community's history as the place where three white men dragged a black man behind a pickup, killing him.

From Texas Standard:

On Tuesday, a new Texas Department of Criminal Justice policy went into effect, banning any religious adviser from being in the execution chamber with an inmate. The decision came after the U.S. Supreme Court, last week, postponed the execution of Patrick Murphy, a member of the Texas Seven group.

The court said his execution had to wait until Texas decided on its policy about the presence of spiritual advisers during executions. The state had originally denied Murphy’s request to have a Buddhist priest, which Murphy appealed because Texas had allowed advisers from other faiths to be in the execution chamber. In his opinion, Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote that Texas needed to find a way to accommodate all faiths so as not to discriminate, or allow no advisers at all. TDCJ decided on the latter.

Updated 12:59 p.m. ET

A closely divided Supreme Court ruled Monday that a death row inmate with a rare medical condition is not entitled to an alternative method of execution just because the one the state uses could cause him several minutes of great pain and suffering.

Two Supreme Court decisions just hours before a scheduled execution. Two decisions just seven weeks apart. Two decisions on the same issue. Except that in one, a Muslim was put to death without his imam allowed with him in the execution chamber, and in the other, a Buddhist's execution was temporarily halted because his Buddhist minister was denied the same right.

The two apparently conflicting decisions are so puzzling that even the lawyers are scratching their heads and offering explanations that they candidly admit are only speculative.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the execution of a Buddhist inmate on death row because prison officials wouldn't let his spiritual adviser be present in the execution chamber, even though they provide chaplains for inmates of some other faiths.

Illustration by Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / The Texas Tribune

Hours after his execution was originally scheduled to begin, the U.S Supreme Court stopped the death of one of the infamous "Texas Seven."

The Supreme Court on Wednesday clarified the circumstances in which someone with a mental disability may be put to death.

The government can execute a prisoner even if he doesn't remember committing his crime, the court said. But it can't execute the prisoner if he doesn't understand why he has been "singled out" to die, the high court said in its 5-3 decision. If someone with dementia can't understand the reason for his execution, the court held, killing the prisoner is unconstitutional.

Finding that a Texas court hadn't followed its instructions, the U.S. Supreme Court has declared that a Texas man who killed a store clerk during a botched robbery attempt "is a person with intellectual disability" and therefore cannot be put to death.

U.S. Supreme Court Again Reverses Death Sentence Decision For Texas Inmate

Feb 19, 2019

The U.S. Supreme Court has for the second time struck down the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals' way of determining if a death row inmate is intellectually disabled and eligible for execution.

Death Row inmate Domineque Ray hoped that when he took his final breath, he could find comfort in the presence of his Muslim spiritual adviser. But the Alabama prison where Ray was awaiting execution wouldn't allow it. Prison officials would only allow their own Christian chaplain to offer the prisoner solace from inside the execution chamber. They said it would be a security risk to let someone into the room who wasn't an employee of the state's corrections department.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that executing people with intellectual disabilities is cruel and unusual punishment.
Illustration by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., The Texas Tribune

 

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