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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 executes Danny Bible

Danny Bible
Texas executes 'ice pick killer' for 1979 rape and murder

Texas on Wednesday executed a man dubbed the "ice pick killer" for the weapon he used to murder a woman in 1979, after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a last-minute appeal from his lawyers, who argued his veins were too compromised for a lethal injection.

Danny Bible, 66, was put to death at the state's death chamber in Huntsville. His execution was the 12th this year in the United States and the 7th in Texas, which has executed more inmates than any state since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

Bible, 66,  made no last statement, a prisons official said. His execution occurred in a typical time frame for a lethal injection procedure.

Bible was convicted of the rape and murder of Inez Deaton, 20, who went to his home to use his phone and was stabbed 11 times with an ice pick. Her body was dumped near a Houston bayou.

The crime went unsolved for nearly 20 years, until Bible confessed to the murder and other sexual assaults that included raping an 11-year-old girl in Montana. He had gone on a rape and murder spree that included the 1983 killing of his sister-in-law, her infant son and her roommate, court records show.

After a plea deal for a 25-year sentence in those killings, Bible served 8 years and was paroled. After his early release under a program that Texas has since abandoned, he raped a woman in Louisiana and was apprehended in Florida. Soon afterward, he admitted to the ice pick murder.

"Bible has killed at least 4 people, including an infant," Texas said in a court filing. "Unlike many offenders, he remained violent as he aged, committing his most recent rape in his late forties."

Bible's lawyers said there was undeniable evidence his recent medical deterioration has rendered his veins inaccessible or incapable of sustaining a lethal injection.

Over the years, Bible contracted coronary disease, diabetes and hypertension, they said.

2 executions of inmates with compromised veins have been botched recently, 1 in Ohio and another in Alabama. Their lawyers warned courts the men were too frail and their veins were not suitable.

In both cases, the states were unable to place intravenous lines and called off their executions while the inmates were on death chamber gurneys.

Bible becomes the 7th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in texas and the 552nd overall since the state resumed capital punishment on December 7, 1982.

Bible becomes the 12th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1,477th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

Source: Reuters & Rick Halperin, June 27, 2018


Texas ‘ice-pick killer’ executed after failed appeals for death by firing squad or nitrogen gas


Texas' death chamber
The man known as the “ice-pick killer,” accused in a series of murders and rapes, was put to death by lethal injection in Texas on Wednesday evening following unsuccessful appeals for other execution methods that his attorneys said would be more humane for the elderly and sick prisoner.

Attorneys for Danny Bible, 66, argued that death by lethal injection would be inhumane and could result in a botched execution given Bible’s plethora of medical problems. They proposed two alternatives: death by firing squad or by nitrogen hypoxia — execution methods that are not legal in Texas but have been allowed in a handful of states.

But Bible’s legal team was unable to persuade a federal judge and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit to halt his execution until state officials were able to establish new protocols for one of the proposed alternatives. Hours before Bible was executed, his attorneys asked the Supreme Court to step in. The high court denied his petition.

Bible was pronounced dead at 6:32 p.m. Central Time, the Associated Press reported. The serial rapist and child molester was sentenced to die in 2003 for raping and murdering a young wife and mother in Houston more than two decades earlier.

Despite his attorneys’ fears, Bible’s execution occurred without complications. He declined to give a final statement and stared at relatives of two of his victims who watched through a window, according to the AP. After the drugs were administered, he muttered that it was “burning” and that it “hurt.”

Bible’s attorneys said he was suffering from heart failure, coronary artery disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Parkinson’s, diabetes and several other illnesses. They argued that scars from several surgeries would make it difficult, if not impossible, to access a vein for a lethal injection. And even if the execution team managed to insert the needle, Bible’s veins were likely to rupture once doses of saline and pentobarbital begin to flow, according to a complaint filed this month in federal court in Houston.

Once Bible, who uses a wheelchair, is strapped to a gurney and lying flat, he will gasp for air and choke, attorneys argued.

But according to the AP’s account of the brief execution, prison technicians were able to insert the needles in his left and right hand. Bible died 15 minutes after the lethal dose was administered.

The Texas Attorney General’s Office, which represents state prison officials, called Bible’s request for delay “dilatory and substantively meritless” and said that although Bible’s attorneys cited problematic and botched executions in other states, no such breakdowns have occurred in Texas. The Supreme Court, the state attorney’s office argued, also should not overlook the fact that Bible has evaded justice for two decades.

“He should not be rewarded with a stay of execution simply because his evasion of authorities resulted in him reaching an older and more infirm age by the time of his execution,” the state argued.

In his ruling denying Bible’s request, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt wrote that Texas allows only one method of execution: lethal injection. Switching to one of the proposed options would require a new law and new protocol.

“Bible’s proposed alternatives are neither feasible nor readily implemented,” Hoyt wrote.

Texas' death house and holding cells
Bible was sentenced to death for the  killing of Inez Deaton, a 20-year-old wife and mother of a toddler, in Houston in 1979. Bible raped her, stabbed her 11 times with an ice pick and dragged her body to a bayou, court records say. The case was unsolved for two decades, during which Bible committed numerous violent crimes, including killing his sister-in-law, her baby and his sister-in-law’s roommate, and raping his five young nieces.

In 1998, while in custody for another rape in Louisiana, Bible confessed that he had killed Deaton, court records say.

Death by firing squad is allowed only in Utah, Oklahoma and Mississippi. Utah had avoided the method for several years, but the state reversed its policy in 2015 by making death by firing squad a backup execution method. Utah carried out the country’s most recent execution by firing squad in 2010, when the state put convicted murderer Ronnie Lee Gardner to death. That was also the last execution that Utah has carried out.

In Oklahoma, death by firing squad is a last resort if other methods were deemed unconstitutional. Mississippi joined the two states last year.

A handful of states, including Oklahoma, Mississippi and Alabama, allow execution by nitrogen hypoxia, which involves placing a condemned person in a gas chamber and depriving them of oxygen. In March, Oklahoma made an unprecedented decision to use nitrogen gas to execute death row inmates after state officials had been unable to obtain lethal-injection drugs.

Bible is the 12th man executed in the country this year.

Source: The Washington Post, Kristine Phillips, Mark Berman, June 27, 2017


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

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