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Texas’s oldest death row inmate executed in police officer’s death

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — Texas’s oldest death row inmate was executed Thursday for killing a Houston police officer during a traffic stop nearly 32 years ago.

Carl Wayne Buntion, 78, was executed at the state prison in Huntsville. He was convicted of the June 1990 fatal shooting of Houston police officer James Irby, a member of the force of nearly 20 years.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied Buntion’s attorneys’ request to halt his execution.

Buntion was on parole for just six weeks when he shot Irby, 37. Buntion, who has multiple convictions, was a passenger in the van Irby towed over. In 2009, an appeals court overturned Buntion’s conviction, but another jury sentenced him to death three years later.

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Before his death, James Irby talked about retiring and spending more time with his two children, aged 1 and 3 at the time, his wife Maura Irby said.

Maura Irby, 60, said: ‘He’s ready to fill out the paperwork and stay home and open a feed shop. “He wanted to be the dad who was at every ball game and the dad’s daughter who danced. He’s a super guy, the love of my life. ”

Prior to his execution, various federal and state courts had also rejected an appeal by Buntion’s attorneys to block his death sentence. The Texas Amnesty and Amnesty Commission on Tuesday denied his request for clemency.

Buntion’s lawyers said he was responsible for Irby’s death and “deserved severe punishment for that crime.”

But they argued that his execution was unconstitutional because the jury found him to be a danger to society in the future – one of the reasons he was sentenced to death – proven. is incorrect, and his execution would also 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-long delay undermines the rationale for the death penalty… Any deterrent effect there is attenuated by the delay,” said his attorney, David Dow. and Jeffrey Newberry, wrote in court documents.

With his execution, Buntion became the oldest person to be executed in Texas since the Supreme Court lifted the death penalty ban in 1976. The oldest prisoner executed in modern America is Walter Moody Jr., when he was 83 years old. was killed in Alabama in 2018.

Buntion is also the first prisoner to be executed in Texas in 2022. Although Texas is the nation’s busiest death penalty state, it’s been nearly seven months since it carried out an execution. There have only been three executions in each of the past two years, partly due to the coronavirus pandemic and delays in legal questions over Texas’ refusal to allow spiritual counselors to touch prisoners and pray loudly during death chamber.

In March, the US Supreme Court said states must meet a requirement for faith leaders to pray and touch prisoners during executions.

Texas prison officials agreed to Buntion’s request to allow his spiritual advisor to pray loudly and touch him while he was executed.

Maura Irby said she believed Buntion would die of old age on the day of his death.

Irby said: ‘I stuffed too much of that into a big box and closed the lid in my mind, because I didn’t think anything was going to happen to it.

While the execution evoked painful memories for her, Irby said it also reminded her of the work she did in public safety after her husband’s death, including helping to make legislation. allow victims to make impact claims at court hearings.

Irby said she and her two children hope that with the execution, a traumatic chapter in their lives can finally come to an end.

“So I hope Jimmy finally rests in peace and then we can all breathe a sigh of relief and just keep him in our prayers now and in our hearts, ‘ said Irby.

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