NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee and Texas plan to execute two men Thursday who are the oldest people on death row in each of their states.
Tennessee plans to execute Oscar Franklin Smith, 72, by lethal injection for the brutal 1989 triple murder of his ex-wife and two teenage sons. He would be the first person executed in the state since the start of the pandemic.
Nearly 750 miles to the southwest, Carl Wayne Buntion, 78, is to be put to death in Texas by the same means for the 1990 murder of Houston police officer James Irby.
The men could be killed simultaneously. Smith’s execution is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. CDT in Nashville, while Buntion’s is scheduled for after 6:00 p.m. CDT in Huntsville, Texas.
No further executions are scheduled for the same day until at least 2026, according to state records. There have only been five other occurrences of two scheduled executions on the same day since 2015.
The last execution in Texas was in September 2021. The slowdown in executions has been notable in the state, which often has five times as many executions per year as the next five states combined.
Tennessee’s last execution was in February 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic. The state reinstated capital punishment in 2018 after a nine-year hiatus.
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Tennessee set to execute Oscar Franklin Smith
Smith was one of 47 people on death row in Tennessee on Wednesday. He was convicted of murdering 35-year-old Judith Robirds Smith and her sons Chad Burnett, 16, and Jason Burnett, 13, in a Nashville home on October 1, 1989.
A former stagehand, Smith was 40 when he shot his ex-wife in the neck and then stabbed her repeatedly. He shot his eldest son in the left eye, then in the upper chest and left torso. Her youngest son was stabbed in the neck and abdomen, then gutted. The three victims were found with their throats slit.
During the investigation, a bloody handprint – two fingers missing – was found on a sheet next to Robirds Smith’s body. Smith, who had recently filed for divorce from his wife, had lost two fingers.
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Prior to the murders, Smith was also engaged in a custody battle with her over their 3-year-old twins. Their mother had also filed several domestic violence charges against him in recent months – not only on her behalf but also for her teenage sons.
Smith denied involvement in the murders.
On Thursday, Smith will receive his final chosen meal: a double bacon cheeseburger, deep apple pie and vanilla ice cream, the Tennessee Department of Corrections said.
Texas set to execute Carl Wayne Buntion
Buntion, the oldest person on Texas death row in the Lone Star State, was one of 199 people awaiting execution on Wednesday.
Buntion had been on parole for just six weeks when he killed 37-year-old Irby during a traffic stop in June 1990. Buntion was a passenger in the car Irby parked on a motorcycle.
Irby was shot in the head and back while talking to the driver of the car.
Buntion tried to get out of the car and drive away and was ordered back by the officer. Witnesses in another car saw the shooting and screamed, and Buntion opened fire on Irby and another 18-year-old Houston police officer, wounding them.
He fled on foot and eventually surrendered to the police.
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Buntion has never denied the shooting, but said it was in self-defense.
He was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in 1991, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned his death sentence in 2009. A jury in 2012 committed him to death row following of a new trial.
In October, the United States Supreme Court denied an appeal by Buntion’s lawyers.
Contributor: Molly Davis, Tennessean; The Associated Press
Follow Natalie Neysa Alund on Twitter @nataliealund.
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