Texas, in the southern United States, executed its oldest death row inmate on Thursday, more than thirty years after the murder of which he was convicted, despite appeals 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.
“I am remorseful for what I did,” Carl Buntion said in his final words, “I’m ready to go. A “spiritual advisor” was able to be at his side and touch him during the execution, authorities said, a first in Texas.
In front of the high red brick walls of the prison of Huntsville, some demonstrators shouted “the execution is not the solution”, while tens of people had gathered for, on the contrary. The family of the victim, a policeman, was also present. Carl Buntion’s lawyers had indicated 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 state in the conservative South, the one that executes the most in the United States, a person can only be sentenced to death if a jury judges that he represents a future danger to others. However, Carl 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, with the commission of pardons and releases Texas conditionals.
Locked up 23 hours a day
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 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”.
Execution postponed at the last moment in Tennessee
Tennessee, which was also set to put its oldest inmate to death on Thursday, postponed the execution at the last moment, according to a tweet from state governor Bill Lee. The latter announced Thursday afternoon that the execution of Oscar Smith would not take place in the evening “due to an oversight in the preparation of the lethal injection”, granting a “temporary reprieve” the time to settle the matter.
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. “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 on Tuesday. A decision then deemed “extremely disappointing” for Oscar Smith’s lawyer. The latter “claims his innocence for more than thirty years”, told CNN Amy Harwell, who claims that new DNA analysis techniques on the murder weapon prove his denials.
In Texas, the execution of Carl Buntion should be followed by that, scheduled for April 27, of Melissa Lucio, accused of having killed her 2-year-old daughter in 2007. 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 his defenders call a miscarriage of justice.