Inmate’s attorneys now using coronavirus as an excuse to halt execution of death sentences

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HUNTSVILLE, TX. – This one is a bit weird.

Law Enforcement Today has learned that a court in Texas has stopped an execution scheduled for this coming week due to…the coronavirus. This is the second execution the court has stopped, having halted an execution scheduled earlier this week for a second inmate scheduled to receive his death sentence.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued a stay for next Wednesday’s scheduled execution of Tracy Beatty, 59, who was convicted over 15 years ago of killing his mother. Earlier this week, the same court stopped the execution of John Hummel for the same reason.

“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.

The stay is in effect for 60 days, at which time a new execution date can be set.  

Beatty’s attorney filed a motion shortly after Hummel’s stay of execution order was issued Monday, asking the court to halt his execution due to the “unprecedented proportions” of the pandemic.

The virus has killed thousands of people worldwide, including three in Texas. As of Wednesday, 95 people in Texas had tested positive for COVID-19.

Prosecutors objected to halting Beatty’s execution, as they had objected to the stay granted Hummel. Smith County District Attorney Jacob Putman disputed the notion that the coronavirus would negatively impact the state’s ability to carry out an execution.

“There has been no evidence that the ‘enormous resources needed to address that emergency’ will also include the handful of TDCJ [Texas Department of Criminal Justice] personnel who will carry out Beatty’s execution,” he wrote.

Currently there are seven other execution set for Texas through September, with two scheduled for April.

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Murdered officer's grave desecrated before headstone even placed

According to Hummel’s attorney Michael Mowla, he said that putting Hummel to death “may itself assist in spreading COVID-19.” Talk about a stretch!

Mowla bases that ridiculous assertion on the fact that people take part in or witness the execution in the death chamber, located at the state penitentiary in Huntsville. Those individuals may include correctional officers, attorneys, physicians and family members or friends of the inmate and of the victims.

“Gathering all these people in one location presents a substantial risk of transmission of COVID-19/Coronavirus if anyone is infected,” Mowla wrote in a petition to the appeals court last week.

According to CBS News, Mowla declined to comment after the appeals court issued the stay on Monday.

Hummel, 44, was convicted in 2011 of capital murder for the fatal stabbing of his pregnant wife, Joy Hummel, 45 and fatal bludgeoning of his father-in-law, Clyde Bedford, 57, with a baseball bat in 2009.

Inmate's attorneys now using coronavirus as an excuse to halt execution of death sentences
John Hummel, Texas DCJ Photo

Evidence presented at trial showed Hummel also used the bat to beat Jodi Hummel, his 5-year-old daughter to death before he lit the home on fire in the Fort Worth suburb of Kennedale. For some unknown reason he was only convicted of capital murder in the deaths of his wife and father-in-law.

Prosecutors alleged that Hummel killed his family because he was trying to start a relationship with a woman he had met at a convenience store. Sounds like if anyone is deserving of being put to death it’s this dirtbag.

The department of criminal justice had been ready to carry out the execution as officials had put a screening process in place for people who would have witnessed it, according to agency spokesman Jeremy Desel.

Witnesses to the execution would have been subject to the same screening that department employees are required to go through before entering a prison unit. The screening involves questions based on travel, potential exposure to the coronavirus and health inquires, Desel said.

For a large majority of people, coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, including fever and cough. For older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe problems including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover with in a couple of weeks. More severe cases can take three to six weeks to recover.

Desel noted that the death chamber is not a heavy traffic area and is completely isolated from all other parts of the prison in Huntsville, Desel said.

“But it is thoroughly cleaned, consistently and constantly. We are taking precautions throughout the prison system,” he said.


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