09 July 2020 :
Billy Joe Wardlow was executed, the first execution in the Lone Star State following a five-month delay during the coronavirus pandemic. He was sentenced to death in Titus County on Feb. 13, 1995 in the June 14, 1993 robbery and murder of Carl Cole, 82. He was just 18, and, confessing to the crime, said he wanted to steal Cole’s pick-up truck so he and his girlfriend, Tonya Fulfer, could escape their abusive families. After his conviction, Wardlow waived his appeals, saying he could no longer live in the terrible conditions on Texas death row. But he later reversed course and in the past two decades, his lawyers have fought to overturn his sentence by raising claims that prosecutors withheld evidence, that the state deprived him of a fair trial and that his trial lawyer didn’t do a good enough job. In recent months, the legal wrangling has focused on whether it was constitutional when the jury determined that Wardlow—who was not yet 21 at the time of his trial—would be a future danger to society if he spent the rest of his life in prison. As his lawyers described it in an early 2020 court filing: “He was an 18-year-old boy who committed a terrible murder but was sentenced to death as much for false testimony by the prosecution’s prison expert as for the murder itself—false testimony about “future dangerousness” that misled the jury into thinking that the prison system could not protect others from an immature, impulsive boy’s potential violent outbursts. Future dangerousness has always been controversial. Practically anything, even the mere facts of the crime itself, can be proof of it. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected that appeal, but still Wardlow avoided his first execution date, originally planned for April, after a local court called it off (see April 7) due to the coronavirus pandemic, instead rescheduling for July 8. Wardlow becomes the 3rd inmate to be put to death this year in Texas, the 570th executed in Texas since the state resumed executions in 1982, the 7th of the year in the United States, and the No. 1519 since the US reintroduced the death penalty in 1976 and executions resumed in 1977.