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Tennessee execution: Billy Ray Irick tortured to death, expert says in new filing

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Editor's note: Reporter Dave Boucher was one of seven state-required media witnesses at Irick's execution. 
Billy Ray Irick felt searing pain akin to torture before he died in a Tennessee prison in August, but steps taken in carrying out his execution blocked signs of suffering, according to a doctor who reviewed information about the lethal injection.
In new court filings entered late Thursday amidst an ongoing legal challenge of Tennessee’s lethal injection protocol, Dr. David Lubarsky said statements from people who witnessed the execution indicated the controversial drug midazolam failed to ensure Irick could not feel pain during his death.
As a result, the death row inmate “experienced the feeling of choking, drowning in his own fluids, suffocating, being buried alive, and the burning sensation caused by the injection of the potassium chloride,” Lubarsky wrote in the filing.
The document also says the state did not follow its own lethal injection protocol, raising questio…

Texas: Judge sets execution date for man who had family killed for $1 million inheritance

Thomas Whitaker
A Sugar Land man convicted in a murder-for-hire scheme to off his own family in hopes of snagging a plump $1 million inheritance is now slated for execution early next year, according to court papers filed this month. 

A Fort Bend County judge on Wednesday signed the papers that could send Thomas Whitaker, who used the cover of a faked burglary to mask the murder of his mother and brother, to the Huntsville death chamber on Feb. 22.

"This is a case in which retributive justice plays no part," attorney James Rytting said late Monday. "The victim in this case is a father who does not want his child to die. It seems that this case shows that the only victim's right that counts is the right of vengeance - you don't have a right to mercy."

Just after a 2003 celebratory dinner marking his supposed graduation from Sam Houston State University - a milestone that never happened - Whitaker arranged for two friends to wait at the family home for a burglary set-up.

When the family of four returned home from the restaurant, a gunman opened fire as they walked through the door, killing 51-year-old Patricia Whitaker and 19-year-old Kevin. Only Whitaker's father survived the attack. 

Afterward, as police probed the killings, Whitaker stole $10,000 from his father and fled to Mexico.

When authorities picked him up 15 months later, his father hired an attorney to argue against the capital case. 

The pair of slayings came after three years of planning and at least one previous murder attempt, according to court papers. 

Triggerman Chris Brashear pleaded guilty to murder a decade ago and took a life sentence, while the getaway driver - Steve Champagne - agreed to a 15-year plea deal.

But a Fort Bend jury settled on a death sentence for the mastermind behind the plot, and after more than a decade of legal battles, the condemned man lost out in the Supreme Court last month. 

He does not have any pending appeals, Rytting said. 

Fort Bend County District Attorney John Healey declined to comment. 

Source: chron.com, Keri Blakinger, November 6, 2017


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