Texas Looks Set to Execute Suzanne Basso

By Brett Snider, Esq. on February 05, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Texas is set to execute the 14th woman in the U.S. since the Supreme Court upheld state use of the death penalty in 1976.

After almost four decades of uninterrupted capital punishment in the Lone Star State, Suzanne Basso is scheduled to be put to death on Wednesday evening for horrible crimes she committed in 1998. The Associated Press reported that Basso's request for a stay of execution was denied by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, leaving the U.S. Supreme Court as Basso's final option for clemency.

What does this historic execution mean for a state which has literally put thousands to death?

Texas Capital Punishment and Gender

In the last 12 years, only two women have been put to death in the Lone Star State and only three total nationwide. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 59-year-old Basso falls in the 10% of murder arrests for women and in the even smaller 2.1% where the death penalty was imposed at trial.

Basso was charged and convicted of the murder of a mentally disabled man in 1999, and according to The Guardian, she was the only one of her five co-defendants charged with the death penalty. This may be due to the fact that Basso was alleged to have been the "ringleader" of a group that tortured the man to death, or allegations that she hoped to cash in on the man's life insurance.

The Guardian reports that Basso will be the third woman executed by Texas since 2002, with the last being in June 2013.

Stays of Execution and the Fifth Circuit

Unfortunately for Basso, there hasn't been much luck for petitioners hoping that the Fifth Circuit will stay their executions in the last few years.

Beunka Adams was executed in April 2012, after a federal stay of execution was overturned by the Fifth Circuit -- failing to use an ineffective assistance of counsel claim to stall his death. The court denied the use of Martinez v. Ryan to grant habeas relief and confirmed that the new SCOTUS ruling wasn't a portal for death row inmates' freedom.

Even after the Lone Star State ran out of FDA-approved sources of the execution drug pentobarbital, the Fifth Circuit allowed the execution of Michael Yowell, despite his Eighth Amendment arguments. In Yowell's case, the court was unimpressed by the speculation that Texas' lethal injection protocol might be more painful, stating the petitioner lacked necessary "demonstrated risk."

Basso's final appeal to the Fifth Circuit posed that the Texas court's determination that she was competent to appeal was unreasonable. However, since there was no clear and convincing evidence as to her incompetence, the Fifth Circuit sided with the Texas court's findings as reasonable.

The death row female has a possibility of a stay of execution from the U.S. Supreme Court by 6:00 p.m. CST, The Guardian reports. Otherwise, she'll likely become the next Texas woman to meet her end at the hands of the state.

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