If executions set for Alabama, Texas and Florida were carried out as scheduled, it would have marked the first time in more than eight years that three convicted killers were put to death in the U.S. on the same day.
But Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday accepted the recommendation of the state’s parole board and granted clemency for Thomas “Bart” Whitaker. And late Thursday, the execution of Doyle Lee Hamm, 61, was postponed in Alabama after medical staff had difficulty connecting an intravenous line, prompting officials to determine that there was not enough time to prepare the inmate before a death warrant expired at midnight
Hamm was scheduled to die by lethal injection at 6 p.m. Thursday, but the U.S. Supreme Court delayed the execution while it considered Hamm’s request to block it. The court ruled about 9 p.m. that officials could proceed with the execution. But Alabama Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn said staff did not think they could get the intravenous line connected before the death warrant expired at midnight Thursday. Dunn said it was a “time issue.”
Whitaker, 38, faced lethal injection for masterminding the fatal shootings of his mother and brother at their suburban Houston home in 2003. His father, Kent, also was shot at the home but survived and led the effort to spare his son from execution.
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According to statistics kept by the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center, it is not uncommon for multiple executions to be scheduled in one day, but it is unusual for them all to be carried out. That’s because punishments often are halted by courts and execution dates often are withdrawn or rescheduled.
States have carried out three or more executions 13 times since capital punishment was reinstated in the U.S. in 1977. The most recent time was on Jan. 7, 2010, when executions took place in Louisiana, Ohio and Texas.
Four prisoners were put to death Dec. 9, 1999, in Oklahoma, Indiana, Texas and Virginia.
In Florida, Eric Scott Branch was given a lethal injection Thursday evening. Branch, 47, was condemned for the 1993 rape and fatal beating of a college student.
The number of executions in the U.S. peaked at 98 in 1999 and has trended downward since. So far in 2018, three prisoners have been executed in the U.S, all in Texas. Last year, 23 prisoners were executed in the nation, three more than the previous year.