Public Health

Execution halted after lawyer argues it could spread coronavirus

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The highest criminal appeals court in Texas delayed the execution of a Texas inmate on Monday after his lawyer argued that gathering so many people could create a risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus.

The appeals court said it would postpone the Wednesday execution of John William Hummel “in light of the current health crisis and the enormous resources needed to address the execution.” The execution was stayed for 60 days, the Associated Press reports.

Hummel was convicted of fatally stabbing his pregnant wife and killing his father-in-law with a baseball bat. Evidence suggested he also killed his 5-year-old daughter with the bat, but he was not convicted of capital murder in that case, according to the AP story.

In his supplemental motion for a stay, Hummel’s lawyer had pointed out that executions involve a substantial number of people. They include correctional officers, a spiritual adviser, family members of the inmate and the victims, attorneys, prison officials, physicians, witnesses and journalists.

“Gathering all these people in one location presents a substantial risk of transmission of COVID-19/Coronavirus if anyone is infected,” lawyer Michael Mowla wrote in the motion.

Texas had previously delayed executions on Sept. 11, 2001, and in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, according to Mowla’s motion.

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