This week, the State of Texas is scheduled to carry out its first execution of the year. On Wednesday, January 20, Richard Masterson is scheduled to be put to death for the 2001 murder of Darin Honeycutt in Houston. According to the Houston Chronicle, during his 2002 trial, Masterson told jurors that he would be a future danger. Future dangerousness is one of two special issues jurors in Texas must consider during the punishment phase of a death penalty trial. At various times, Masterson sought to expedite his own execution but later opted to continue his appeals.
In his coverage of recent appeals on Masterson’s behalf, Allan Turner of the Houston Chronicle writes:
…the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected a petition for Masterson that argued former Harris County assistant medical examiner Dr. Paul Shrode wrongly interpreted results of Honeycutt’s autopsy, calling a likely natural death a homicide. The appeal also asserted that Masterson’s confession to police was obtained while he was profoundly depressed as a result of withdrawal from addictive drugs.
The court rejected the petition because its claims could have been presented earlier in the appeals process but did not rule on its merits.
An additional petition – still pending – challenges the constitutionality of a new Texas law that protects the identity of any person or entity providing the drugs used in lethal injections. The law was passed by the 84th Texas Legislature and went into effect on September 1, 2015. Another attorney for Masterson is filing appeals with federal courts.
On January 15, 2016, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles denied Masterson’s petition for clemency.
According to Fox News, Pope Francis is closely following this case.
At this time, eight additional executions are scheduled to take place in Texas through June of this year.