Texas to execute man for murdering pregnant ex-girlfriend and 7-year-old son

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Stephen Barbee, 55, was convicted of the February 2005 death of Lisa Underwood, 34, and her son Jayden. Both were suffocated at their home in Fort Worth

Texas will execute a man for murdering his pregnant ex-girlfriend and her 7-year-old son

FILE – This undated photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice shows Stephen Barbee, a Texas death row inmate. Barbee, who is seeking to halt his execution over allegations of violations of religious liberty and disregard for his medical needs, is scheduled to die on Wednesday night, November 16, 2022, for killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend and their 7-year-old son. more than 17 years ago (Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP, File)

An inmate from Texas who is seeking to halt his execution over allegations of violations of religious liberty and disregard for his medical needs is scheduled to die Wednesday night for killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend and their 7-year-old son more than 17 years ago.

Stephen Barbee, 55, is scheduled to receive a lethal injection at Huntsville State Penitentiary. He was convicted of the February 2005 death of Lisa Underwood, 34, and her son Jayden. Both were asphyxiatedat his home in Fort Worth. They were later found buried in a shallow grave in nearby Denton County.

Barbee's lawyers have asked the US Supreme Court to stay his execution, arguing that their religious rights are being violated because the state prison system, following a high court ruling on what spiritual advisers can do while in the execution chamber, fails to create a written policy on the issue.

In March, the US Supreme Court said states must accommodate the wishes of death row inmates who want their religious leaders to pray and touch them during their executions. Texas prison officials did not formally update their policy, but said they would review inmate requests on a case-by-case basis and grant most reasonable requests.

Earlier this month, US District Judge Kenneth Hoyt in Houston issued a preliminary injunction, saying the state could only execute Barbee after it published a clear policy on spiritual advisors that protects inmates' religious rights. Last week, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit vacated Hoyt's injunction, saying it was too broad.

Texas to execute man for murdering his pregnant ex-girlfriend and 7-year-old son

If Barbee is executed, it would be the fifth inmate executed this year in Texas. He is the last inmate scheduled to be executed in the state this year. EFE/Paul Buck/File

On Tuesday, Hoyt issued a new injunction specifically focused on protecting Barbee's rights. The Texas Attorney General's Office immediately appealed to the Fifth Circuit, which would have to issue a ruling before the Supreme Court could take up the matter.

The Texas Attorney General's Office said in an earlier court filing that Barbee's claims are moot since state prison officials allow his spiritual adviser to touch him and pray aloud during his execution.

Also on Tuesday, Hoyt denied a separate request by Barbee's lawyers to stay the execution due to claims that the inmate's right to avoid cruel and unusual punishment would be violated. His lawyers say Barbee has physical restrictions that limit movement in his shoulders and arms and would experience “intolerable pain and suffering” if he is executed in the normal manner with his arms outstretched on the gurney so IVs can be placed to give lethal injection.

In a court filing earlier this month, attorneys for the Texas Attorney General's Office assured Hoyt that prison officials would make arrangements for Barbee to allow her arms to remain bent and, if necessary, find another place. to place IVs.

On Monday, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles unanimously refusedto commute Barbee's death sentence to a lesser sentence or grant a four-month reprieve.

Texas to Execute Man for Murdering his pregnant ex-girlfriend and his 7-year-old son

The Texas Attorney General's Office said in an earlier court filing that Barbee's claims are moot since state prison officials allow his spiritual adviser to touch him and pray aloud during his execution. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)

Prosecutors said Barbee killed his ex-girlfriend and her child because he did not want his wife to know that Underwood was seven months pregnant, presumably by him. DNA evidence later revealed that Barbee was not the father. Underwood owned a Fort Worth bagel shop named after her son. She and her son were reported missing after failing to turn up at a baby shower.

Barbee confessed to police that he killed Underwood and her son, but later retracted . Barbee said the confession was forced and he has since maintained that he is innocent and that he was framed by his business partner.

His trial, including sentencing, took less than three days to complete. in February 2006.

Barbee will receive a lethal injection on the same day Arizona plans to execute Murray Hooper for killing two people during a burglary at a Phoenix home on New Years Eve New from 1980. Hooper is to be executed at 11 am CST on Wednesday.

If Barbee is executed, he would be the fifth inmate to be executed this year in Texas. He is the last inmate scheduled to be executed this year in the state.

(with information from AP)

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