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Texas Carries Out Its First Execution of the Year; Maryland Committee Passes Repeal

Last night, February 21, 2013, the State of Texas executed Carl Blue for the 1994 murder of his ex-girlfriend, Carmen Richards-Sanders, in Bryan.  It was the first execution to take place in Texas this year and the third nationwide. The State of Georgia also carried out an execution last night, putting Andrew Allen Cook to death for the killing of two college students, Michele Lee Cartagena, 19, and Grant Patrick Hendrickson, in 1995.

According to the Bryan-College Station Eagle, Blue’s attorney argued that jurors never heard evidence about Blue’s birth and upbringing. Blue was born prematurely at home in a two-room shack shared by 22 people to a 13-year-old mother.  The impoverished family warmed him in an oven for a week before taking him to the emergency room.  Evidence about his low intellectual functioning and limitations in adaptive skills also were left out of the trial, according to the appeal.  Read more about Blue’s childhood in the Austin Chronicle.

Blue received a new sentencing hearing five years after his conviction in Brazos County when Senator John Cornyn, then-Attorney General of Texas, admitted that six defendants, including Blue, must have new sentencing hearings because of race-based testimony in their original hearings.  A former state prison psychologist, Dr. Walter Quijano testified that the defendants in those cases would be more dangerous in the future because of their race (black or Hispanic).  Blue  was sentenced to die at a second punishment hearing in 2001.

Extensive coverage of Blue’s case is available in the Bryan-College Station Eagle, including interviews with his children and with the children of Ms. Richards-Sanders.

As both Texas and Georgia prepared to carry out executions, the Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings committee voted 6-5 to send Gov. Martin O’Malley’s death penalty bill to the Senate floor.   It was the first time in decades that this key committee has allowed the bill to proceed.  The full Senate is expected to vote on the bill next week.  Read more about this exciting development in the Baltimore Sun.