USA: Three executions and one stopped in just two days
In the USA, executions were scheduled in four states on November 16 and 17. Three death sentences were carried out – the last execution was stopped.
On Wednesday morning, 76-year-old Murray Hooper was executed by lethal injection in the US state of Arizona. He was sentenced to death for being one of three men who killed a 46-year-old man and his 70-year-old mother-in-law in 1980. It was a contract killing by a Chicago-based criminal organization. Hooper claimed innocence – that he had been framed.
According to media reports, not for the first time in Arizona, the execution date had difficulty placing intravenous access and took 25 minutes to finally insert a catheter into Hooper’s femoral vein near his groin. He “seemed a little concerned that it was taking so long,” an eyewitness said. “Why is it taking so long?” reportedly asked Hooper. After the tubes were finally placed and the pentobarbital administered, it took about 10 to 12 minutes for Hooper to be pronounced dead, according to witnesses.
On Wednesday night in Huntsville, Texas, 55-year-old Stephen Barbee was executed with a lethal injection, an overdose of pentobarbital. He was sentenced to death for the murder of his 34-year-old ex-girlfriend and their 7-year-old son. Barbee had reportedly wanted to cover up the fact that the expected baby of his 7-month pregnant former girlfriend might have been his.
A DNA test later revealed that Barbee was not the father. He had confessed to police that he killed his ex-girlfriend and her son, but later recanted. Barbee said the confession was coerced. Since then, he maintained his innocence and claimed his business partner had framed him. The execution of the death sentence took an unusually long time – Barbee was pronounced dead about an hour later than usual in Texas.
Apparently there were problems with the placement of intravenous lines: within minutes of being strapped to the execution table, an IV was placed in his right hand, but it took another 35 minutes for an additional line in the left side of his neck to work. His lawyer had recently tried to stop the execution because he feared the process would lead to “torture” because of Barbee’s disability.
On Thursday morning, Richard Stephen Fairchild was executed by lethal injection in the U.S. state of Oklahoma – on his 63rd birthday. He was sentenced to death for killing his girlfriend’s three-year-old son after he wet the bed. Prosecutors alleged Fairchild held the child’s body with both sides against a red-hot stove and then threw it onto a table. The child did not regain consciousness and died later that day.
Strapped to a gurney in the death chamber, Fairchild thanked his attorneys and prison staff and apologized to family of the victims. “Today is a day for Adam, justice for Adam,” Fairchild said. “I am at peace with God. Do not grieve for me, for I am going home to meet my heavenly Father.”
With the execution of Richard Fairchild, the state of Oklahoma has already executed seven people since resuming executions in October 2021. Execution dates have been set for more than half of the 40 people currently on Oklahoma’s death row over the next two years after the state’s appeals court issued a moratorium in 2015 following a botched execution and two drug mix-ups in the death chamber.
The state of Alabama called off the scheduled execution of Kenneth Smith on Thursday night after the Supreme Court allowed the execution to proceed in a matter of hours, but prison officials determined they did not have enough time to kill the man before his death sentence expired at midnight.
It was the second time in less than two months that Alabama brought a prisoner into the execution chamber, strapped him to a gurney and began placing intravenous tubes – only to stop the execution and return him to his cell. In Smith’s case, his lawyers had successfully convinced an appeals court to halt Thursday’s execution so they could argue that Alabama’s problems with inserting the intravenous tubes could result in Smith suffering an unlawful “cruel” death.
However, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed that decision and cleared the way for the execution in an order without merit. The order noted that the three liberal members of the Supreme Court – Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson – had voted to uphold the appeals court’s temporary stay.