"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Texas executes Daniel Lee Lopez

Daniel Lee Lopez
Daniel Lee Lopez
Huntsville, Texas - Daniel Lopez, 27, was put to death by lethal injection Wednesday night for the 2009 killing of veteran police officer Stuart Alexander.

Lopez was pronounced dead at 6:31 pm, fifteen minutes after he was injected in both arms.

His final words were an apology to the victim's family and the words "I am ready. May we all go to Heaven."

The U.S. Supreme Court turned down an appeal from Lopez’s attorneys who disregarded both his desire to die and lower court rulings that Lopez was competent to make that decision.

The brief three-sentence order was issued about five hours before Lopez could be taken to the death chamber in Huntsville for lethal injection.

Lopez’s “obvious and severe mental illness” was responsible for his desire to use the legal system for suicide, illustrating his “well-documented history of irrational behavior and suicidal tendencies,” attorney David Dow, who is representing Lopez, told the court. Dow also argued the March 2009 crime was not a capital murder because Lopez didn’t intend to kill Corpus Christi Lt. Stuart Alexander.

Lopez was driving 60 miles an hour through a neighborhood in March 2009 trying to evade cops and avoid arrest for outstanding warrants when he hit and killed 20-year veteran police officer Stuart Alexander as he was laying spike strips near the highway. 

Lopez was eventually apprehended after being shot in the arm, neck, and chest. Then 21, he was indicted for 10 offenses, including the capital murder of Alexander. 

He initially pleaded not guilty, but later changed his stance. He was assigned to a psychologist, who reported that Lopez held an "increasingly firm" opinion that he'd rather a death sentence than live the rest of his life in prison. 

The state offered life in prison in exchange for a guilty plea, but Lopez pleaded not guilty and went to trial.

Central to the case was debate on whether or not Lopez intentionally ran over Lt. Alexander. At times, he told attorneys that he didn't mean to do it, that his sight was affected by shots of pepper spray deployed by other officers. 

Yet, just prior to closing arguments, attorneys informed the judge that Lopez insisted on testifying that he did in fact mean to swerve and hit Alexander. 

The court rejected Lopez's request, but the jury still found him guilty on all counts, including capital murder. 

Lopez waived his right to a state petition for habeas corpus in April 2012 and filed his federal papers that May. The brief, largely blank application asserted one solitary ground for relief: that the death penalty in Texas violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. 

He underwent a series of competency exams and hearings in 2013, and soon after received his right to waive appeal from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

His attorneys - James Rytting, David Dow, and Jeffrey Newberry - maintained that he should never have been found guilty of capital murder, as his testimony concerning his actions continuously flipped from intentional to unintentional. 

They thus contested that the district court erred in accepting Lopez's waiver, as Lopez did not understand that the conduct to which he admitted - an unintentional murder - did not fall within the definition of capital murder. Lopez, however, remained convinced he'd made the right call. In April, he told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times that he accepted his punishment. "It wasn't on purpose," he said. "I killed a police officer because I tried escaping. And it was never intentional but I feel responsible."

Lopez becomes the 10 condemned inmate to be put ot death this year in Texas and the 528th overall since Texas resumed capital punishment on December 7, 1982.

Lopez becomes the 19th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1413th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

Sources: Austin Chronicle, August 6, 2015, The Associated Press, Rick Halperin, August 12, 2015

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