Houston, March 12 (Reuters): Texas plans to carry out its 300th execution tomorrow since resuming capital punishment 21 years ago in a case that critics say highlights nearly all the problems in the state’s justice system.
Delma Banks, 44, would be the 300th inmate executed in the modern era of Texas executions, which began when the state put to death Charlie Brooks in 1982. Brooks was executed six years after the US Supreme Court lifted a nation-wide death penalty ban. Texas is the US death penalty leader.
The 299th person, Bobby Glen Cook, was executed by lethal injection at the state prison in Huntsville yesterday for the 1993 robbery and shooting murder of Edwin Holder of Buffalo, Texas.
Cook, in his last statement, apologised to the victim’s family, none of whom were present, and claimed the shooting was in self-defence.
Cook had claimed Holder pulled a gun on him and that he took it away and shot Holder in self-defence. But physical evidence suggested Holder was asleep in a sleeping bag in the bed of his pickup truck when he was shot at close range.
Banks, a Black man with no prior criminal record, was sentenced for robbing and shooting to death Richard Whitehead, a White 16-year-old, on April 14, 1980, in the east Texas town of Nash. Supporters of Banks say his right to a fair trial was marred by alleged prosecutorial misconduct, bad defence lawyering and the elimination of Blacks from the jury pool.
“These are the problems that have plagued death penalty cases for a long time,” said Banks’ lawyer George Kendall. “Not just in Texas, but in many other places as well.”
Death penalty opponents including the NAACP’s Legal Defence Fund, with whom Kendall works, and Amnesty International have asked Texas to stop Banks’ execution.
In a rare move, three former federal judges, including former FBI director William Sessions, joined Banks’ defence with a friend-of-the-court brief to the US Supreme Court. Banks has filed two petitions with the court.
On Monday the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles refused to hear Banks’ request for clemency, saying it had been submitted nearly a week past a deadline for appeal.