Texas Execution Information Center

Execution Report: Stephen Barbee

Continued from Page 1

A jury found Barbee guilty of capital murder in February 2006 and sentenced him to death. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction and sentence in December 2008.

Ronald Royce Dodd, who had a previous conviction for harassment by telephone, pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was released in March 2016. Since then, he has been arrested twice and has received two convictions for misdemeanor domestic assault.

In his appeals, Barbee claimed that his attorney violated his Sixth Amendment right to effective counsel by confessing his guilt during closing arguments without his consent. A federal appeals court declined to overturn his conviction based on that claim in 2018. Barbee was then scheduled for execution in 2019. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals then issued a stay of execution so that it could consider Barbee's Sixth Amendment claim. After considering briefings filed by Barbee's attorneys and the state, the court dismissed the appeal.

Another execution date scheduled for Barbee in 2021 was stayed while Texas reworked its protocol for allowing spiritual advisors in the death chamber during a prisoner's execution. The state's long-standing practice of allowing a Christian or Muslim prison chaplain in the chamber was challenged in 2019. As of 2022, after a series of changes in policy and challenges to those policies that reached the U.S. Supreme Court, Texas now allows a personal spiritual advisor selected by the prisoner into the chamber.

Barbee challenged his third and final execution date based on further complaints about the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's spiritual advisor policy. Early in November, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt issued a stay of execution, stating that TDCJ's unwritten policy allows prison officials to unilaterally and capriciously decline to accommodate a condemned prisoner's requests and that Texas could not perform executions until it produced a clear written policy that complied with recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings. Hoyt's ruling was overturned by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on the grounds that it was too broad. Hoyt then reissued his opinion on Tuesday (15 November), but confined it specifically to Barbee. Hoyt also rejected a claim from Barbee, who used a wheelchair and had limited motion in his joints, that being strapped to the gurney in the standard position, with his arms and legs straightened, would cause him "extreme physical pain." Hoyt noted that the warden at the Huntsville Unit had already stipulated months earlier that Barbee's disability would be accommodated.

The state of Texas immediately appealed Hoyt's ruling staying Barbee's execution to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which overturned it in a four-sentence order issued Wednesday afternoon. The U.S. Supreme Court of Appeals declined to take Barbee's case.

Barbee's execution began on schedule at 6:00 p.m., but the process of inserting IV lines took an unusually long time. Prison spokeswoman Amanda Hernandez stated that this had to do with Barbee's inability to straighten his arms. The procedure requires that two lines are inserted, and they are normally placed on the prisoner's hand and inside the elbow. The line went into Barbee's hand without trouble. The second line was ultimately inserted into Barbee's neck at 6:49 p.m.

Lisa Underwood's mother and friends watched Barbee's execution from a viewing room adjacent to the death chamber. Some of Barbee's friends watched from another room. His spiritual advisor held his hand and prayed with him before he made his last statement.

In his last statement, rather than reflecting on his actions or showing remorse to his victims' loved ones, Barbee gave a short gospel sermon. "God knows the truth. He is the truth, the way, and the life," Barbee said. He thanked his minister, friends, and supporters, expressing love to three of them by name. "I want everyone to have peace in their heart that only Jesus can give us ... I'm ready to go home. I'm ready, Warden, send me home." He repeated that he wanted everyone to have peace, to spend eternity with Jesus, and that he was ready. The lethal injection was then started. He was pronounced dead at 7:35 p.m.


By David Carson. Posted on 17 November 2022.
Sources: Texas Department of Criminal Justice, court documents, public records, Associated Press, Huntsville Item, Texas Tribune.

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