Texas Should Not Have Executed Robert Pruett

Update: Robert Pruett was executed by lethal injection on Thursday.
Robert Pruett is scheduled to be executed by the State of Texas Thursday. He has never had a chance to live outside a prison as an adult. Taking his life is a senseless wrong that shows how badly the justice system fails juveniles.
Mr. Pruett was 15 years old when he last saw the outside world, after being arrested as an accomplice to a murder committed by his own father. Now 38, having been convicted of a murder while incarcerated, he will be put to death. At a time when the Supreme Court has begun to recognize excessive punishments for juveniles as unjust, Mr. Pruett’s case shows how young lives can be destroyed by a justice system that refuses to give second chances.
Mr. Pruett’s father, Sam Pruett, spent much of Mr. Pruett’s early childhood in prison. Mr. Pruett and his three siblings were raised in various trailer parks by his mother, who he has said used drugs heavily and often struggled to feed the children. Wh…

Missouri executes Roderick Nunley

Roderick Nunley
Roderick Nunley
BONNE TERRE, Mo. (AP) - Missouri executed Tuesday evening Roderick Nunley, 50, for the kidnapping, rape and fatal stabbing of 15-year-old Ann Harrison in 1989.

Nunley was pronounced dead at 9:09 p.m., according to the Missouri Department of Corrections.

Nunlley becomes the 6th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Missouri and the 86th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1989; only Texas (528), Oklahoma (112), Virginia (110), and Florida (90) have executed more individuals since the death penalty was re-legalized in the USA on July 2, 1976.

Nunley becomes the 20th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1414th overall since the nation resumed executions on january 17, 1977.

Nunley was sentenced to death for the 1989 kidnapping, rape and murder of 15-year-old Ann Harrison in Kansas City. He was charged along with Michael Taylor, who was executed last year.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Tuesday denied a clemency request for Nunley, filed by death penalty opponents, asserting that racial bias played a role in the case because a prosecutor refused a plea deal that would have given Nunley life in prison without parole.

Nunley was black, as was Taylor, while the victim was white.

The U.S. Supreme Court, meanwhile, denied several appeals from Nunley's attorney, including one claiming that the death penalty amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

Retired Kansas City detective Pete Edlund said the only thing cruel and unusual was how long Nunley and Taylor remained on death row.

"They just take forever to do the deed," Edlund told The Associated Press. "The delay in executing these 2 is just nuts because it didn't have anything to do with their guilt. It was legal mumbo jumbo nonsense." 

"Despite openly admitting his guilt to the court, it has taken 25 years to get him to the execution chamber," Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said in a statement. "Nunley's case offers a textbook example showing why society is so frustrated with a system that has become too cumbersome."

According to police reports and court documents, Nunley and Taylor had been using cocaine the night of March 21, 1989, and then stole a car during the early morning hours of March 22.

They saw Ann Harrison standing in her driveway waiting on a school bus. When they pulled up to her, Taylor grabbed her, pulling her inside the car.

Nunley then drove to his mother’s house in Grandview, a suburb of Kansas City, where Harrison was taken blindfolded into the basement. He said in court that Taylor raped Harrison while he did nothing to prevent it, and that they both later agreed to kill her to prevent her from testifying against them in court.

Harrison was stabbed multiple times and left in the trunk of the stolen car to die. Both the car and her body were discovered three days later in a nearby neighborhood.

Nunley pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in 1991, in the hopes of receiving a life sentence, but after a three-day sentencing hearing he was sentenced to death.

In 1994, Nunley filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea, which was rejected. His attorneys had argued that he suffered from a “dependent personality disorder” and that his judgment was impaired due to his cocaine use when Harrison was murdered. They also accused the Jackson County prosecutor’s office of having a track record of racial discrimination when pursuing the death penalty in cases where the defendant was African American and the victim was white.

Late Friday, the Missouri Supreme Court rejected Nunley’s request to withdraw the execution warrant, and a motion on Monday to reconsider that decision was also rejected.

Meanwhile, Nunley’s attorney, Jennifer Herndon, has filed another appeal based on the state’s refusal to disclose where it gets its execution drug, although that maneuver failed to halt other executions carried out in Missouri this year.

The Marshall Project, which has put forth several articles critical of the death penalty, recently had an article that was critical of Herndon.

Sources: KCUR.org, Marshall Griffin, AP, DPN, Rick Halperin, Sept. 1, 2015

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