Yesterday, January 11, the State of Texas carried out its first execution of 2017. Christopher Chubasco Wilkins was executed for the 2005 murders of Mike Silva and Willie Freeman in Fort Worth. Wilkins gave no final statement. He was 48 years old.
In October 2015, Wilkins’ execution date was withdrawn at the request of Tarrant County prosecutors, who sought the delay after the Texas Forensic Science Commission raised concerns about DNA statistics and the interpretation of mixed DNA evidence. Yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States rejected his attorneys’ final appeal which focused on ineffective counsel from his previous lawyers during his trial and in the appeals process.
Despite Wilkins’ execution, the decline in executions and death sentences continues. In an interview with Mitch Mitchell of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Kristin Houlé, executive director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, commented on the cause of this downward trend. “The reason varies by case,” she said. “Questions about DNA, faulty science, prosecutorial misconduct — all these things are giving courts more pause than they used to.”
There are two more executions set to occur in Texas this month, and six other executions scheduled to take place in Texas through the end of June.