A Texas man sentenced to die for the brutal killing of his pregnant wife, 5-year-old daughter, and father-in-law has been granted a stay of execution due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The Texas Criminal Court of Appeals halted the execution Monday, arguing it should be delayed “in light of the current health crisis and the enormous resources needed to address that emergency,” the Texas Tribune reported.
The stay of execution for 44-year-old John Hummel will reportedly be in place for 60 days. After that time, the county can move to set a new date.
Hummel’s lawyer, Michael Mowla, requested the delay Friday in a petition to the appeals court, citing the unique circumstances that the novel coronavirus has introduced. In addition to arguing that the outbreak has impacted his ability to conduct last-minute investigations, Mowla suggested that the process of putting Hummel to death “may itself assist in spreading COVID-19.”
An execution often involves the gathering of several individuals into the death chamber, including physicians, correctional officers, attorneys, and family and friends of the inmate or the victims.
“Gathering all these people in one location presents a substantial risk of transmission of COVID-19/Coronavirus if anyone is infected,” Mowla wrote, according to CBS News.
County officials strongly opposed the request, calling it speculative, and argued it should not prevent Hummel’s execution. The appeals court, though it rejected all the grounds for a delay raised by Hummel’s attorney, moved forward to grant a stay of execution anyway, citing the enormous resources currently needed to combat the virus.
Hummel was convicted on capital murder charges in 2011 for fatally stabbing his pregnant wife before beating his 5-year-old daughter and father-in-law to death with a baseball bat in 2009. Officials said he then set his house on fire.