Texas is scheduled to carry out its sixth execution of 2012, tonight in Huntsville. It would be the state's 483rd post-Furman execution since 1982. Texas accounts for more than 37% of the nation's executions. Texas' last execution was on April 26.
There is extensive controversy about the scheduled execution of Yokamon Hearn. The AP report is, "Carjacker Will Be Texas' 1st Single-Drug Execution," via the New York Times.
An inmate who once bragged about the headlines generated by the carjacking and murder that sent him to death row will be noted in Texas history for a different reason: Yokamon Hearn will be the first prisoner executed under the state's new single-drug procedure.
Hearn, 33, is set to die Wednesday for the March 1998 fatal shooting of Frank Meziere, a 23-year-old suburban Dallas stockbroker who was abducted at gunpoint while he cleaned his car at a self-service car wash in Dallas. Meziere was driven to an industrial area and shot 10 times before his body was dumped on the side of a road.
Hearn will be the sixth Texas prisoner executed this year, but the first since the Texas Department of Criminal Justice announced its switch to single-drug lethal injections amid a drug shortage that has left states scrambling for acceptable alternatives.
Texas said last week it will now use a single dose of pentobarbital, instead of using the sedative in combination with two other drugs. Ohio became the first state a year ago to use a single drug, and several other states have since made the switch. Courts have upheld the practice, despite death penalty opponents' claims that it takes prisoners take longer to die with a single drug.
Hearn has not made an appeal based on method of execution or claims of innocence. Instead, his appeals have focused on his mental capacity, the competence of his attorneys and whether recent lower federal court rulings improperly blocked his current lawyers from pursuing appeals.
In 2004, a federal court spared Hearn less than an hour before he could have been taken to the Huntsville death chamber so that it could consider arguments that he was mentally impaired and therefore ineligible for the death penalty.
That appeal subsequently was rejected, and attorneys more recently told the U.S. Supreme Court that while tests show Hearn's IQ is considerably higher than levels determining mental impairment, he suffers from a fetal alcohol disorder that should disqualify him from execution.
As I pointed out in a post on Monday, the real issue in Hearn's case now is the failure of his trial and initial post-conviction appeal lawyers to examine his life history for mitigating factors to present to the jury during the punishment phase of his trial. A 2012 Supreme Court ruling, Martinez v. Ryan held that prisoners who have compelling claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel, can have those claims heard even if an ineffective state habeas lawyer's failure to raise those claims would have otherwise barred them from being heard in federal court.
Hearn's execution would be the 244th execution conducted under the administration of Rick Perry. He became Governor of Texas upon the resignation of George W. Bush in December 2000. 152 men and women were executed in five years under Governor Bush's tenure.
To date, there have been 23 executions in the nation this year; a total of 1,300 post-Furman executions since 1977. According to TDCJ, eight additional executions have been scheduled for 2012 by state district courts.
I'll have more on the Hearn case and the case of Warren Hill in the next post. Both cases are receiving extensive media coverage and international attention.
Earlier coverage of Yokamon Hearn's case begins at the link; coverage of Texas' switch to a single-drug lethal injection procedure is also available.