In brief: November 2022

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In Texas, Tracy Beatty was killed early last month despite valid questions about whether his crime qualified for the death penalty. Beatty was found guilty of strangling his mother, Carolyn Click, in 2003 after a violent argument. But, as the Texas Tribune reports, Texas law requires that to charge a defendant with capital murder, special circumstances must be involved, such as killing a police officer or committing the murder during a robbery. Beatty was convicted of killing his mother during a home burglary, even though he lived with her at the time. In addition, his lawyers had requested psychological evaluations of Beatty, who had mental health challenges, but officials refused to unshackle him during the exams, which prevented a full assessment. Beatty was 61.

One week later, on November 16, Texas killed Stephen Barbee after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked a federal judge’s injunction at the request of the Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice, KFDX 3 News reported. The injunction stipulated that the execution couldn’t proceed unless the state published a clear policy on a prisoner’s religious rights in the execution chamber. Barbee had requested that his spiritual advisor be present and able to lay hands on him during the execution. Barbee was sentenced to death in 2006 for killing Lisa Underwood and her 7-year-old son, Jayden. Barbee was 55.

In Arizona, there were issues with last month’s execution of 76-year-old Murray Hooper, AZ reported.”Witnesses reported seeing execution team members attempt and fail to insert IVs into both of Hooper’s arms before finally resorting to inserting a catheter into [his] femoral vein near his groin,” the paper said. It noted that the May execution of Clarence Dixon and the June killing of Frank Atwood were similarly problematic, with the executioners struggling to insert IV lines. AZ quoted KPNX TV’s anchor Mark Curtis, who witnessed Hooper’s execution, saying that Hooper turned to the viewing gallery during the struggle and asked, “Can you believe this?”. Hooper was sentenced to death for the murders of 46-year-old William Redmond and his 70-year-old mother-in-law Helen Phelps in a murder-for-hire crime.

Oklahoma killed Richard Fairchild on November 17, its seventh execution since October last year and its fifth this year. Its killing spree will continue through 2023 and 2024, with ten men scheduled to be executed each year, approximately one man per month until January 2024. Fairchild was sentenced to death for killing his girlfriend’s 3-year-old son Adam Broomhall, in 1993

A poll released by Gallup this month found that support for the death penalty “is essentially unchanged from readings over the past four years and remains lower than any other measurement since March 1972 (50%).” Gallup speculates that the decline in support since its 80% peak in 1994 is at least partly due to the rising number of men and women sentenced to death who have been exonerated. Republicans support capital punishment at 77%, followed by Independents at 55% and Democrats at 34%. Only 41% of adults aged 18-34 favor the death penalty, compared with 59% of those 35 and older, Gallup found.

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