HOUSTON (AP) — Texas’ longest-serving death row inmate faces execution Thursday for killing a Houston police officer nearly 32 years ago during a traffic stop.
Carl Wayne Buntion, 78, was sentenced to death for the fatal June 1990 shooting of Houston police officer James Irby, a member of the force for nearly 20 years.
Buntion had been on parole for just six weeks when he shot Irby, 37. Buntion, who had a lengthy criminal record, was a passenger in the car Irby stopped. In 2009, an appeals court overturned Buntion’s sentence, but another jury sentenced him to death three years later.
Prior to his death, James Irby had talked about retirement and spending more time with his two children, who were 1 and 3 at the time, his wife, Maura Irby, said.
“He was ready to fill out the paperwork and stay home and open a grocery store,” said Maura Irby, 60. “He wanted to be the dad who was there to watch all the ball games and father-daughter balls. He was a great guy, the love of my life. »
Buntion’s attorneys on Thursday petitioned the United States Supreme Court to halt his execution. Various state and federal courts have already dismissed similar appeals. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on Tuesday denied his request for a pardon.
Buntion’s lawyers say he is responsible for Irby’s death and “deserved to be punished severely for this crime”.
But they argue his execution would be unconstitutional because the jury’s conclusion that he would be a future danger to society – one of the reasons he was sentenced to death – turned out to be incorrect. Moreover, they said, his execution would serve no legitimate purpose because so much time has passed since his conviction. His lawyers describe Buntion as a geriatric inmate who poses no threat as he suffers from arthritis, dizziness and requires a wheelchair.
“This three-decade delay undermines the justification for the death penalty… Whatever the deterrent effect is, it is diminished by the delay,” his attorneys David Dow and Jeffrey Newberry wrote in court documents.
If Buntion is executed, he would become the oldest person Texas has put to death since the Supreme Court lifted a ban on capital punishment in 1976. The oldest inmate executed in the United States at the time modern was Walter Moody Jr., who was 83 years old. when he was put to death in Alabama in 2018.
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