Texas Cancels Executions Due To Coronavirus
Austin, TX – The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has stayed two executions that were scheduled for March, citing resource problems in connection with the novel coronavirus.
“We have determined that the execution should be stayed at the present time in light of the current health crisis and the enormous resources needed to address that emergency,” the court said on Thursday when they issued an order to stay the execution of 59-year-old Tracy Beatty, the Texas Tribune reported.
Beatty murdered his 62-year-old mother, Carolyn Click, 15 years ago and was scheduled to be executed on March 25.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared a state of emergency on March 19 that included closing schools, bars, gyms, and dining rooms at restaurants, the Associated Press reported.
Abbot’s emergency order also included a prohibition against gatherings of more than 10 people, as social distancing continues to be recommended nationwide.
It’s the order to avoid public gatherings that has thrown a monkey wrench in the execution works, the Associated Press reported.
Executions involve significantly more than 10 people in close proximity to one another when you count attorneys, the victim’s loved ones, the condemned inmate’s family, and the correctional officers and physicians required to put the inmate to death.
Beatty’s execution was the second to be stayed in the same week because of coronavirus, the Associated Press reported.
On Monday, the court stayed the execution of John William Hummel, who was scheduled to die on March 18.
Hummel was convicted of beating his father-in-law to death with a bat and stabbing his pregnant wife in 2009, the Associated Press reported.
Shortly after the ruling on Hummel, Beatty’s attorneys filed their request for a stay, citing the “unprecedented proportions” of the coronavirus pandemic, the Texas Tribune reported.
Prosecutors argued that nothing has shown the pandemic would impact the state’s ability to put a prisoner to death.
“There has been no evidence that the ‘enormous resources needed to address that emergency’ will also include the handful of TDCJ personnel who will carry out Beatty's execution,” Smith County District Attorney Jacob Putman argued in a court filing, the Texas Tribune reported.
As of Thursday, Texas had reported 143 residents infected with coronavirus and three deaths, according to the state website tracking the pandemic.
There is no news on what will be done about two planned executions in April, and whether another five between April and September will go forward as planned, the Texas Tribune reported.