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"Texas continues to march to a different beat," as other states drop the death penalty, says Longmire, a criminal justice professor at nearby Sam Houston State University. He calls the execution total "staggering."
McCarthy, convicted of killing a 71-year-old neighbor during a 1997 robbery, is among eight inmates scheduled for execution over the next four months. She would be the first woman put to death in the U.S. in three years and the 13th since the Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to resume.
McCarthy, 52, was condemned for using a butcher knife and candelabra to beat and fatally stab retired college professor Dorothy Booth at the victim’s Lancaster home. Evidence showed the former nursing home therapist used the knife to sever Booth’s finger to steal her wedding ring.
McCarthy, who is linked to two other slayings, has had her execution date pushed back twice this year. Her attorney, Maurie Levin, has been trying to halt her execution again, contending black jurors improperly were excluded from her trial by Dallas County prosecutors. But the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals this week rejected the latest appeal, saying the claims should have been raised previously.
Levin said there has been a "pervasive influence of race in administration of the death penalty and the inadequacy of counsel — a longstanding issue here."
Even remarkable incidents in the death ritual can become mundane in the steady procession.
In 2000, Ponchai Wilkerson stunned officials when he spit out a small handcuff key he had kept hidden in his mouth as he prepared to die.
"In another state you live with that for a long time," said Willett, who became warden at the Huntsville Unit in 1998 and oversaw 89 executions. Here in Texas, another one is coming a few days later and you’ve forgotten that one before."
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