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Two inmates convicted of murder executed in US

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An execution chamber at the penitentiary in Lucasville, Ohio./AFP
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Nov 17, 2022 - 05:32 AM

WASHINGTON — Two death row inmates convicted of murder were executed Wednesday in the United States.

One of them was a  septuagenarian put to death in Arizona nearly 40 years after he was sentenced to capital punishment over a double murder. The other man was executed in Texas for the 2006 killing of his ex-girlfriend and her young son. Both executions used lethal injection.

Murray Hooper, a 76-year-old African American, died in the Florence penitentiary, the state’s attorney general, Mark Brnovich, announced in a statement.

For “those who commit heinous crimes,” Brnovich said, “we must never forget the victims or cease to pursue what justice demands.”

US death row cases often are filled with aged convicts who have spent decades seeing their cases wind through the justice system. At the end of 2020, nearly a quarter of those on death row were over 60 years old, according to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC).

According to prosecutors, on New Year’s Eve 1980, Hooper and two accomplices broke into a house in Phoenix to rob it, tied up the three occupants and shot each of them in the head.

One man and his mother-in-law died, but his wife survived and later identified all three assailants. The three were sentenced to death in 1983, but the other two died in custody before being executed.

Hooper had maintained his innocence but never obtained an acquittal.

In Texas, prison authorities executed Stephen Barbee, 55, later Wednesday.

He was sentenced to death in 2006 for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, who was pregnant at the time, and her seven-year-old son.

As part of his final statement before dying, Barbee said, “I’m ready to go home. I’m ready warden, send me home,” according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

“I just want everyone to have peace in their heart, make eternity with Jesus, give him the glory in everything you do. I’m ready,” it quoted Barbee as saying.

Barbee initially confessed to the crime, but recanted, saying he was coerced into a false confession by police.

Since his initial conviction, he has obtained two suspended sentences.

His attorneys Tuesday filed a final appeal with the US Supreme Court, but the court rejected a stay.

The appeal had criticized local prison wardens for not having a written policy on the religious rights of prisoners in the execution chamber.

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority has little sympathy for the arguments of death row inmates, except sometimes in religious cases.

Barbee became the 15th death row inmate to be executed in the United States this year.

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