The State of Texas is scheduled to put Suzanne Basso to death on February 5, 2014. She was convicted in 1999 in Harris County of the 1998 murder of Louis “Buddy” Musso, an intellectually disabled man from New Jersey who came to Texas after meeting Basso and her son, J.D. O’Malley. Five co-defendants, including O’Malley, were convicted of playing a role in the murder. None of these six individuals have admitted to being the actual killer. Prosecutors alleged that Basso expected to benefit from Musso’s life insurance policies, though there is no evidence that she could have collected funds from any such policies.
Attorneys for Suzanne Basso failed to present any mitigating evidence during the penalty phase of her trial and conducted virtually no investigation into her background. Had they done so, they would have uncovered pervasive evidence of her impoverished and abusive childhood, including sexual abuse at the hands of relatives. The jury also did not hear about Basso’s long history of delusional thinking and mental illness.
The judge who presided over the trial denied a request by defense counsel for funds to hire Mark Cunningham, a nationally recognized mitigation expert.
Dr. Paul Shrode, an assistant medical examiner who performed the autopsy on the victim, provided inconsistent testimony as to his cause of death. Dr. Shrode also gave unreliable testimony in a death penalty case in Ohio, which eventually resulted in a commutation by the Governor. Earlier this year, Suzanne Basso’s attorney learned that Dr. Shrode falsified his credentials while testifying in El Paso, Texas in 2010 and was later discharged as medical examiner for El Paso County. The fact that this important information regarding a key witness against Suzanne Basso was not disclosed to her attorney is extremely disconcerting.
Take action now!
Call upon the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Rick Perry to commute the death sentence of Suzanne Basso or at least grant a 90-day reprieve to give her attorney time to pursue her claim of incompetency to be executed and investigate issues related to the inconsistent testimony of the assistant medical examiner.
Talking Points for Your Appeals to the Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Perry
- No mitigating evidence was presented to the jury, and attorney requests for funding to conduct a mitigation investigation and hire a nationally renowned mitigation expert were denied by the judge who presided over the trial. The jury was not able to consider evidence of her impoverished and abusive childhood, including sexual abuse at the hands of relatives.
- Suzanne Basso has a long history of mental illness and delusional thinking, which calls into question her current competency to be executed.
- Her attorney has requested a 90-day reprieve in order to investigate forensic issues related to the now-discredited assistant medical examiner’s testimony regarding the victim’s cause of death.
Letters/faxes to the Board must clearly reference “ATTENTION CASE Suzanne Basso #999329” and should arrive by January 31, 2014.
Contact information for Governor Perry and the Board of Pardons and Paroles (please call or send your appeals by email or fax):
Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
8610 Shoal Creek Blvd.
Austin, TX 78757-6814
Phone: (512) 406-5852
Fax: (512) 467-0945
Salutation: Dear Board Members
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711-2428
Fax: (512) 463-1849
Main number: (512) 463-2000
Information and Referral Hotline: (800) 843 5789 [for Texas callers]
Citizen’s Opinion Hotline: (800) 252-9600 [for Texas callers]
Information and Referral and Opinion Hotline: (512) 463-1782 [for Austin, Texas and out-of-state callers]
Online Contact: http://www2.governor.state.tx.us/contact
Salutation: Dear Governor Perry