A 66-year-old Texas death row inmate who confessed to four slayings and at least nine rapes is set for lethal injection Wednesday evening amid concerns from his lawyers that multiple health issues make it likely his execution will be botched and cause him unconstitutional pain.
No one disputed Danny Paul Bible's guilt for a Houston woman's slaying nearly 40 years ago that went unsolved for two decades before a jury convicted him of it and sentenced him to death. But instead of lethal injection, Bible's lawyers proposed he be rolled in his wheelchair in front of a firing squad or be administered nitrogen gas to cut off oxygen to his brain until he stops breathing. His deteriorating health left his veins unsuitable for IVs to be inserted by Texas prison technicians to carry a lethal dose of pentobarbital, the inmate's lawyers argued.
If either of those alternatives wasn't possible -- and state attorneys said neither was -- Bible's lawyers urged his punishment be stopped.
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"He has a number of medical problems getting progressively worse," Margaret Schmucker, one of Bible's attorneys, said Tuesday. "They're not going to be able to find a vein."
Bible's appeal went to the U.S. Supreme Court after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday refused his civil rights lawsuit seeking a reprieve, restraining order and injunction.
The lawsuit was a "meritless tactic" to delay his "well-deserved execution," Assistant Texas Attorney General Stephen Hoffman said in a court filing.
It would be the seventh execution this year in Texas, the country's most active death penalty state, and the 12th nationally.
Lethal injection is the only execution method allowed in Texas and changing that would require approval of the state Legislature, which isn't scheduled to meet again until next year.
A handful of death penalty states allow nitrogen hypoxia, although the method hasn't been used. Three Utah inmates have been executed by firing squad, the most recent in 2010. Utah now allows that method if drugs for execution are unavailable.
Bible's lawyers sought a reprieve, a restraining order and an injunction to block his execution, arguing Bible had no suitable sites on his body for IVs and that severe tremors accompanying his Parkinson's disease would complicate insertion of needles. They also warned of a problematic execution like ones in recent years in Ohio and Alabama.
Hoffman pointed out IVs have been used recently to draw blood from Bible as part of his medical care.
Bible, a drifter with a record of violence in several states, was arrested in Fort Myers, Florida, in 1999 for a Louisiana rape. He told detectives in West Baton Rouge, Louisiana, about four Texas killings, including a 4-month-old boy, and at least nine rapes, five of them northeast of Houston in San Jacinto County.
The four slayings included Inez Deaton, 20, whose 1979 killing in Houston was unsolved. Deaton, a friend of Bible's cousin, was found on the banks of a Houston bayou and had been raped and fatally stabbed with an ice pick. A jury in 2003 decided he should die.
The three other killings, all in North Texas on the same day in May 1983, included Bible's sister-in-law Tracy Powers and her 4-month-old son, Justin, in Parker County, and her roommate, Pam Hudgins, in Palo Pinto County. He pleaded guilty to Hudgins' death and was sentenced to 25 year in prison, served seven and was released to Montana in 1992 on a form of parole known as mandatory supervision.
At his trial for Deaton's slaying, Harris County prosecutors presented evidence of robberies, thefts, assaults and abductions, including the rape of an 11-year-old girl in Montana and his confessions to repeated sexual assaults of young nieces from 1996 to 1998.
"Some criminals' actions are so heinous, they earn the label `worst of the worst,"' Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said.