World: US state executes inmate 40 years after double murder

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A septuagenarian was executed Wednesday morning in the US state of Arizona nearly 40 years after he was sentenced to death for a double murder, and another execution is scheduled for the evening in Texas.

An execution chamber at the penitentiary in Lucasville, Ohio © CAROLINE GROUSSAIN An execution chamber at the penitentiary in Lucasville, Ohio

Murray Hooper, a 76-year-old African American, was given a lethal injection 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).

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According to prosecutors, on New Year's Eve 1980, Murray 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 the three assailants. The three were sentenced to death in 1983, but the other two died in custody before being executed.

Murray Hooper had maintained his innocence but never obtained an acquittal.

In Texas, prison authorities planned to execute Stephen Barbee, 55, later Wednesday by lethal injection.

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.

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

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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, meaning the execution is set to go forward.

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

Prison authorities responded that they had agreed to all of Barbee's requests, including having his chaplain hold his hand during the injection.

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

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

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How one beheading 50 years ago led France to end the death penalty .
On a biting cold morning on November 28, 1972, a Frenchman was guillotined for a murder he did not commit, in a case that so traumatised his lawyer he would spend the rest of his life campaigning to end the death penalty. "I swore to myself on leaving the courtyard of la Sante prison that morning at dawn, that I would spend the rest of my life combatting the death penalty," Badinter told AFP in 2021.Roger Bontems, 36, was beheaded for being an accessory to the brutal murder of a nurse and a guard during a break-out attempt at a prison in eastern France.

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