HOUSTON – A Texas inmate seeking to halt his execution over allegations of religious liberty violations and disregard for his medical needs is scheduled to die Wednesday night for killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend and 7-year-old son more than 17 years ago .
Stephen Barbee, 55, is scheduled to receive a lethal injection at Huntsville State Penitentiary. He was convicted of the February 2005 death of Lisa Underwood, 34, and her son Jayden. Both were suffocated at his home in Fort Worth. They were later found buried in a shallow grave in nearby Denton County.
Barbee’s lawyers have asked the US Supreme Court to stay his execution, arguing that his religious rights are violated because the state prison system, following a high court ruling on what spiritual advisers can do while are in the execution chamber, do not create a written policy on the subject.
In March, the US Supreme Court said states must accommodate the wishes of death row inmates who want their religious leaders to pray and touch them during their executions. Texas prison officials did not formally update their policy, but said they would review inmate requests on a case-by-case basis and grant most reasonable requests.
Earlier this month, US District Judge Kenneth Hoyt in Houston issued a preliminary injunction, saying the state could only execute Barbee after it published a clear policy on spiritual advisors that protects inmates’ religious rights. Last week, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit vacated Hoyt’s injunction, saying it was too broad.
On Tuesday, Hoyt issued a new injunction specifically focused on protecting Barbee’s rights. The Texas Attorney General’s Office immediately appealed to the Fifth Circuit, which would have to issue a ruling before the Supreme Court could take up the matter.
The Texas Attorney General’s Office said in an earlier court filing that Barbee’s claims are moot since state prison officials allow his spiritual adviser to touch him and pray aloud during his execution.
Also on Tuesday, Hoyt denied a separate request by Barbee’s lawyers to stay the execution due to claims that the inmate’s right to avoid cruel and unusual punishment would be violated. His lawyers say Barbee has physical restrictions limiting movement in his shoulders and arms and would experience “intolerable pain and suffering” if he is executed in the normal manner with arms outstretched on the gurney so IVs can be placed to give to light. lethal injection.
In a court filing earlier this month, attorneys for the Texas Attorney General’s Office assured Hoyt that prison officials would make arrangements for Barbee to allow her arms to remain bent and, if necessary, find another place. to place intravenous lines.
On Monday, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles unanimously refused to commute Barbee’s death sentence to a lesser sentence or grant a four-month reprieve.
Prosecutors said Barbee killed his ex-girlfriend and her son because he did not want his wife to know that Underwood was seven months pregnant, presumably by him. DNA evidence later revealed that Barbee was not the father. Underwood owned a Fort Worth bagel shop named after her son. She and her son were reported missing after failing to turn up at a baby shower.
Barbee confessed to police that he killed Underwood and his son, but later recanted. Barbee said the confession was forced and he has since maintained that he is innocent and that he was framed by his business associate.
His trial, including sentencing, took less than three days to complete in February 2006.
Barbee will receive a lethal injection on the same day Arizona plans to execute Murray Hooper for killing two people during a burglary at a Phoenix home on New Year’s Eve 1980. Hooper will be executed at 11 am CST on Wednesday.
If Barbee is executed, he would be the fifth inmate to be executed this year in Texas. He is the last inmate scheduled to be executed in the state this year.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.