Carl Buntion was sentenced to death for the killing of a Houston police officer in 1990. File photo credit: Texas Department of Criminal Justice
Texas will carry out its first execution of the year on Thursday with the lethal injection of a man who killed a Houston police officer during a traffic stop more than three decades ago.
Carl Buntion, who will be executed at Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville, is the oldest man on the state’s death row at age 78. He was sentenced in 1991 for the shooting death of James Irby, a 37-year-old motorcycle officer.
The officer was killed in 1990 after pulling over a vehicle in which Bontillon and John Killingsworth were riding for a traffic violation. According to state records, Bontion shot Irby once in the head and then twice in the back as he lay on the ground.
Bontion shot three other people as he fled the scene and entered a nearby warehouse, where he was later arrested. Killingsworth was sentenced to prison on drug charges after police found heroin in the car.
The Houston Chronicle reported that Bonthian’s twin brother was killed by police in 1971, and he vowed to avenge his death.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Parole voted against recommending clemency for Buntion.
Defense attorneys had sought a reduced sentence, saying their client would not be a danger to the future because of his age and poor health. Because of that, they argued, Bunitian’s execution would violate the Eighth Amendment’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment.
“The spectacle of executing a frail elderly man who requires specialized care, including the use of a wheelchair to perform basic functions, is deeply disturbing and would be another stain on Texas and its notorious use of the death penalty,” Kristin Houlé Cuellar, executive director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, told Newsweek.
“Carl Wayne Bountiful has spent more than 30 years on death row and he poses no threat to anyone. There is no legitimate purpose for executing him now. Bountyon should be allowed to spend the rest of his days in prison.”
Erby’s widow, Mora, said she hopes to feel some relief after Buntion’s execution.
“I wish we could close the book,” she told KTRK-TV.” There’s nothing weighing on us that we can’t predict ……. I feel relieved.”
Bonthion is one of two people scheduled to be executed Thursday. In Tennessee, 72-year-old Oscar Smith will also be lethal by lethal injection for killing his estranged wife and her two sons in 1989. Earlier this week, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee denied his request for clemency after his appeals failed in lower appellate courts and the Tennessee Supreme Court.
Like Bountiful, Smith is the oldest person on death row in the state.
If both men are executed, they will be the fifth and sixth people to be executed in the United States this year.