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Texas: Gov. Abbott should grant death row inmate Rodney Reed a reprieve, before it’s too late

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Convicted murderer Rodney Reed is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Nov. 20, but Gov. Greg Abbott has the power to stop it.
As it stands, there’s no indication that Abbott will. He has only stopped one execution since becoming governor 5 years ago.
Reed was sentenced to death in 1998, after being convicted of the brutal 1996 rape and killing of a 19-year-old woman from central Texas, Stacey Stites. And though the governor has yet to weigh in on this specific case, he supports capital punishment, as do most voters in the state. According to a June 2018 poll from the University of Texas/Texas Tribune, fully three-fourths of Texans strongly or somewhat support the death penalty.
But the question at hand has nothing to do with the death penalty, per se. Granting a reprieve would simply be the right thing to do — and a necessary precaution against the doubts that would linger, if Reed is executed as scheduled.
Reed has consistently maintained his innocence, and legitimate questions …

Missouri executes John Middleton

Missouri inmate John Middleton has been executed after a series of final hour requests for stays and a delay were rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.

His execution for three murders in Northwest Missouri in 1995 was scheduled to have happened at 12:01 Wednesday morning but was delayed through the day by various court filings.

After the Missouri Supreme Court strongly rejected Middleton’s claim that he was incompetent to be executed, his three requests for stay to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito were rejected.

John Middleton, 54, died from an injection of pentobarbital, the sixth execution in Missouri this year. Only Florida and Texas, with seven each, have performed more executions.

Middleton was convicted of killing Randy "Happy" Hamilton and Stacey Hodge in early June 1995, then Alfred Pinegar several days later.

Middleton was a small-time meth dealer in sparsely populated northern Missouri in the mid-1990s. After several drug suspects were arrested on June 10, 1995, he allegedly told a friend: "The snitches around here are going to start going down."

A day later, according to court records, Middleton and his girlfriend met Hamilton and Hodge on a gravel road. Prosecutors said Middleton shot and killed them both and hid the bodies in the trunk of Hamilton's car.
Pinegar, another meth dealer, was shot in the face on June 23, 1995. His body was found in a field near Bethany.

Acquaintances say Middleton told them he killed all three. Police also had eyewitness accounts of Middleton purchasing ammunition in the hours before Pinegar's death. Middleton was convicted in 1997.

Middleton's girlfriend, Maggie Hodges, is serving life in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in all three deaths.

In February, a man whose name has not been disclosed because he fears retribution signed an affidavit saying that two rival meth dealers drove him to a rural area soon after Pinegar's death and accused him of being a snitch. He said the men showed him Pinegar's body, saying: "There's already been three people killed. You want to be number four?"

The witness said the two dealers then beat him unconscious with a baseball bat and raped his girlfriend.

Harrison County Sheriff Josh Eckerson agreed to take a new look at the case but said his investigation found no evidence to back up the claims. He is convinced that Middleton was the real killer.

The execution Wednesday evening occurred several hours after it was originally scheduled, at 12:01 a.m. A federal judge granted a stay of execution late Tuesday, citing a need for a hearing to determine if Middleton was mentally ill. A federal appeals court overturned the stay and neither the U.S. Supreme Court nor the Missouri Supreme Court would halt the execution. Middleton's appeals on claims that he was innocent were also turned away, and Gov. Jay Nixon denied a request for clemency.

Middleton becomes the 6th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Missouri and the 76th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1983.

Middleton becomes the 25th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1384th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977. By this date last year, the USA had carried out 20 of its 39 national executions for the year.

Sources: MissourinetThe Huffington Post, Rick Halperin, July 16, 2014

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