Texas has executed its oldest death row inmate

Texas, in the southern United States, executed its oldest death row inmate on Thursday, more than 30 years after the murder for which he was convicted, despite pleas for clemency from opponents of the death penalty.

Carl Buntion, 78, received a lethal injection at 6:24 p.m. local time in Huntsville, Texas jail before he was pronounced dead at 6:39 p.m., according to a Texas Corrections Service document.

Tennessee, which was also set to put its oldest death row inmate to death on Thursday, postponed the execution at the last moment, according to a tweet from state Governor Bill Lee.

“I feel remorse for what I did,” Carl Buntion said in his final words. “I’m ready to go.”

In front of the Huntsville prison, some demonstrators shouted “execution is not the solution”, while dozens of people had gathered to, on the contrary, support her, noted an AFP correspondent on the spot. The family of the victim, a policeman, was also present.

Appeals dismissed

Carl Buntion’s lawyers had told AFP that they had filed a final appeal with the United States Supreme Court, without success.

Carl Buntion’s defenders no longer sought to prove his innocence. But in Texas, a large conservative state in the South, the most executed in the United States, a person can only be sentenced to death if a jury finds that he poses a future danger to others.

However, Mr. Buntion, who suffered in particular from osteoarthritis, dizziness, hepatitis and cirrhosis, could “no longer be dangerous”, had pleaded his lawyers in an appeal, since rejected, to the commission of pardons and Texas parole.

In June 1990, this man, raised by an alcoholic and violent father, had already been convicted 13 times and was on parole for a sexual assault on a child.

During an intervention for a common traffic violation in Houston, Carl Buntion had shot and killed policeman James Irby.

Sentenced to the death penalty, he had seen this verdict overturned in 2009 by the highest Texas court, which had considered that the defense had not been able to be properly heard by the jurors.

But in 2012, he was again sentenced to death.

Carl Buntion had been isolated in his cell 23 hours a day for 20 years.

Last year, the US Supreme Court refused to reverse his conviction, but the progressive judge Stephen Breyer considered that the duration of his confinement called into question the constitutionality of the death penalty.

“Extremely disappointing”

In Tennessee, Governor Bill Lee announced Thursday afternoon that the execution of Oscar Smith would not take place that evening “due to an oversight in the preparation for the lethal injection”, granting a ” temporary reprieve” while the matter is settled.

Oscar Smith, 72, was convicted of the 1989 murder of his estranged wife and her two sons.

All of Oscar Smith’s appeals had been rejected so far. His lawyers had made a final appeal to the Supreme Court. His execution, originally scheduled for 7 p.m. local time, was to be the first in Tennessee since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“After a thorough review of Oscar Smith’s clemency application and a careful review of the case, the sentence from the State of Tennessee will stand and I will not intervene,” Bill Lee said Tuesday.

A decision then deemed “extremely disappointing” for Mr. Smith’s lawyer. The latter “claims his innocence for more than thirty years”, told CNN Amy Harwell, who affirms that new DNA analysis techniques on the murder weapon prove his denials.

In Texas, the execution of Carl Buntion should be followed by that of Melissa Lucio, accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter in 2007, scheduled for April 27.

Sentenced after a controversial trial, she is supported by many elected Democrats and Republicans, as well as reality TV star Kim Kardashian, who helped publicize what her defenders call a miscarriage of justice.

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