Will the U.S. Finally End the Death Penalty?

In the past, abolition efforts have faced a backlash—but Gavin Newsom’s moratorium may be different.
The American death penalty is extraordinarily fragile, with death sentences and executions on the decline. Public support for the death penalty has diminished. The practice is increasingly marginalized around the world. California, with its disproportionately large share of American death-row inmates, announces an end to the death penalty. The year? 1972. That’s when the California Supreme Court declared the death penalty inconsistent with the state’s constitutional prohibition of cruel or unusual punishments—only to have the death penalty restored a year later through popular initiative and legislation.
On Wednesday, again, California walked back its commitment to the death penalty. Though not full-fledged abolition, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a moratorium on capital punishment lasting as long as his tenure in office, insisting that the California death penalty has been an “abject…

Travis Mullis, On Texas Death Row For Stomping Infant To Death, Files Request To Fast-Track His Execution

Travis Mullis, 25, (left) killed his three-month-old son Alijah (right) in 2008.
Mullis has waived all his appeals and fired his attorneys.

Travis Mullis, a 31-year-old Texas man who stomped his 3-year-old baby to death, has filed a request to fast-track his path to the death chamber, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Mullis made headlines when he was sentenced to death row in 2011 after he stomped his little baby to death by the Galveston seawall in a ghastly culmination of what his attorneys said was a series of "stupid decisions." 

His attorneys had previously pointed out that Mullis was an "emotional mental health quadriplegic," detailing his horrific upbringing and the result of his childhood scars on his mental being.

According to the documents, Mullis' mother died when he was a toddler, and between the ages of 3 and 6, he was sexually abused repeatedly. He spent years in and out of institutions, and when he was 18, Mullis' adoptive mother kicked him out to live on his own. This is when he moved to Texas and settled with a woman he had met online on the outskirts of Houston.

But by 2008, Mullis and his girlfriend found themselves without any money and without a home, at which point a couple which had been living in a trailer invited them to come live with them.

At one point during his stay, Mullis took the couple's 8-year-old daughter to a schoolyard where he tried molesting her. When the child began crying, Mullis panicked, later ruing the fact that he had "screwed" himself by "stepping over the line."

Partly to avoid eviction, and partly to introspect his next course of action, Mullis drove to Galveston with his 3-month-old sleeping in the back seat.

Alijah’s mutilated body was found at 9am on January 20 2008 by a couple on a wildlife trail along Seawall Boulevard, Galveston Island and was later identified by his mother, Karen Kohberger, 32.

Kohberger was initially questioned by police, coming under suspicion having failed to report her son as missing, Chron.com reported. 

She said Mullis had woken, agitated, at 4am on the morning of the killing. He told her he was having flashbacks of childhood sexual abuse and was worried he might hurt Alijah.

Nonetheless, when he left their trailer to get his car fixed at around 6am Kohberger told him to take the boy with him, to make sure he would return.

Later claiming he needed to clear his head, Mullis drove to the isolated murder location and ended his baby boy’s short life, before abandoning the body on the roadside and going on the run.

Four days later Mullis turned himself in at a Philadelphia police station, telling officers he was wanted in Texas for the slaying.

He faced a second charge after taking an 8-year-old girl from the mobile home he and Kohberger were sharing with friends and trying to make her take off her pants.  

In his confession Mullis alleged that it was the guilt of that earlier incident which led him to kill his son, having driven to the murder location with Alijah because he needed to think.

He said he had reached 'breaking point with stress,’ in the car when the baby started crying, adding that: ‘I knew that the only way to stop him crying was to kill him.’

He tried strangling Alijah at first but stopped when he heard him gurgling. ‘It scared me and I began to freak out even more,’ he said.

So Mullis put the baby on the pavement next to the car and stomped repeatedly on his head, stopping only when he felt the small skull collapse.

None of the killer’s family turned up to support him during his capital murder trial. Jurors heard five days of testimony before finding him guilty and he was sentenced to death.

Assistant Galveston County District Attorney Donna Cameron said: ‘The monster is sitting right here in this courtroom and his name is Travis Mullis. There is no medication, there is no treatment for the evil that he is.’

She rejected the pleas of the defence team that Mullis was suffering psychological problems having been diagnosed with bipolar disorder as a teenager, making him ‘unable to feel emotion’. 

"I make stupid decisions, what can I say. I did it on impulse and killed him right after," Mullis told the Chronicle.

Mullis has waived appeals and won't seek the counsel of his attorneys, having fired them. He says he doesn't want to be excused because he committed serious crimes which should lead to death. All he wants, Mullis says, is that his suffering be reduced by fast-tracking his path to death.

"I'm 100 % guilty of my crime nobody contests that," Mullis said. "The fight is over my sentence. I'm accepting of my death sentence. My lawyers are against the death penalty for anyone."

Sources: inquisitr.com, Mohit Priyadarshi, July 28, 2018; Mail Online, Laura Cox, April 26, 2012

Texas death row inmate seeks to drop appeals

Death row, Polunsky Unit, Livingston, Texas
Death row inmate who stomped baby's head in Galveston asks to be executed. Travis Mullis was sentenced to death row in 2011.

A Brazoria County man on death row for stomping his 3-month-old baby to death by the Galveston seawall filed a motion this week asking to waive his appeals and fire his attorneys, hoping to fast-track his path to the death chamber.

Travis Mullis, the 31-year-old Alvin transplant sent to death row in 2011, previously sought to forfeit his appeals and in recent months repeatedly raised the possibility of doing so again.

"I support my death sentence and want it carried out ASAP," he told the Chronicle in a letter earlier this year. "I was sentenced to death not indefinite detention."

So-called "volunteers" - inmates seeking to cut off appeals and offer themselves up to die - account for only about 10 % of executions, according to the nongovernmental Death Penalty Information Center. But earlier this week, another Texas prisoner fought to waive appeals, and in recent months the high-profile case of Scott Dozier has garnered national media attention as Nevada struggles to find the drugs to help the condemned man carry out his death wish.

The crime that landed Mullis on death row was an impulsive outburst that capped a string of what he called "stupid decisions" and an unequivocally wretched life.

His mother died when he was still a baby and, growing up, he was sexually abused from ages 3 to 6, according to court records. He spent years in and out of institutions and when he turned 18, his adoptive mother kicked him out of the house. He moved to Texas, settling outside Houston with a woman he'd met online.

By 2008, he and his girlfriend found themselves broke and without a place to stay, so they started crashing in a trailer with a couple who agreed to take them in.

But early one morning that January, Mullis took the couple's 8-year-old daughter to a schoolyard and tried to pull her pants down. The girl started crying and Mullis brought her home but decided that he was "screwed" because he'd "stepped over the line," he told the Chronicle.

Worried that the girl would tell her parents and he'd would be evicted, on Jan. 29 Mullis drove to Galveston to ponder his predicament with his 3-month-old sleeping in the backseat.

But the child started crying, and Mullis wanted him to be quiet.

So, first, he molested the boy, then stomped his skull until it gave way.

"I make stupid decisions, what can I say," he told the Chronicle. "I did it on impulse and killed him right after."

He fled to Pennsylvania but turned himself in to Philadelphia police four days later, offering up a detailed confession. During trial, his attorneys outlined his rough life, describing their client as an "emotional mental health quadriplegic" who was "unable to feel emotions."

After he was sent to death row, Mullis waived his direct appeal as well as the later state post-conviction appeal, according to court records. But in federal court, he revived his claims again - until recently. He told the Chronicle he didn't like what his lawyers were saying about him and disagreed with their claims regarding his mental health.

"I'm 100 % guilty of my crime nobody contests that," he said. "The fight is over my sentence. I'm accepting of my death sentence. My lawyers are against the death penalty for anyone."

His legal team did not respond to a request for comment.


In some ways, said Robert Dunham of the Death Penalty Information Center, Mullis fits the profile of those most apt to waive their appeals and volunteer for execution.

Texas' death house, The Walls Unit, Huntsville.
"Almost all the volunteers are white males, they almost all have had horrific upbringings, frequently involving serious sexual abuse," he said. "And for most of them it is more painful for them to see the mitigating evidence presented than it is to terminate the proceedings and be killed."

Texas has had more volunteers than any other state, Dunham said, which isn't surprising given the sheer volume of executions in the state.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, the most recent volunteer was Barney Fuller, a Houston County man who shot up his neighbors' home with an AR-15 then went inside and shot them both in the head. He was executed in 2016.

More commonly, prisoners volunteer at some point in the process and change their minds later. Roughly 146 of more than 1,470 executed prisoners volunteered to die, according to DPIC data. 31 of those were in the Lone Star State.

But over the past year, it's not a death case in Texas but one in Nevada - which hasn't executed anyone in more than a decade - that's garnered attention.

Dozier has repeatedly, in several interviews, voiced his desire for death. The 47-year-old was sentenced to die for the 2002 murder and dismemberment of Jeremiah Miller.

But his case has generated national press because of the complications surrounding the state's efforts to kill him. Nevada has struggled to maintain supplies of its death drugs, and earlier this year sparked controversy by proposing an untested lethal injection protocol using the powerful opioid fentanyl.

Dozier was set to die earlier this month, but a court called off the date at the last minute after one of the drugmakers filed a lawsuit objecting to its products' use in the procedure.

Mullis likely won't face those hurdles, though, as Texas has always managed to procure the drugs it needs for the Huntsville death chamber. Moving forward, Dunham said, he could have a competency hearing to determine that he's legally able to waive appeals. Records show he's been found competent in the past.

The condemned killer's latest handwritten filing asks the court to toss previous expert testimony and hold a hearing on competency, but Mullis ends by assuring the court he's serious about his intent to die.

"This motion to waive is final and will not be withdrawn under any circumstances," he wrote. "No additional review or consultations with counsel will change this decision to exercise the right to waive appeals."

Source: Houston Chronicle, July 27, 2018

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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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Will the U.S. Finally End the Death Penalty?