Single-drug execution method used for first time in Huntsville Unit
Hearn first to be executed with single drug in Texas
Published: Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 00:07
Protestors gathered outside the Huntsville Unit last Wednesday as a 33-year-old Texas man became the first death-row inmate to be executed using a single-drug lethal injection.
Yokamon Hearn was convicted for the 1998 shooting of a 26-year-old man at a Dallas car wash. According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Hearn and three accomplices forced the victim into his own car and drove him to a deserted area where they shot him 12 times, resulting in his death. Hearn was 19 at the time of the shooting.
Hearn was executed at around 6 p.m. by injection of a single dose of the sedative pentobarbital.
Until last year, the state used a combination of the sedative sodium thiopental, the muscle relaxant pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride, which stops the heart.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice announced two weeks ago that they were making changes the three-drug injection method used since 1982. A spokesperson for TDCJ told the Los Angeles Times the state stopped using pancuronium bromide “because the agency’s stockpile of the second drug expired and we were unable to obtain another shipment.” Texas replaced sodium thiopental with pentobarbital last year after the U.S. supplier of the first drug stopped distributing the drug during international protests.
Ohio, Arizona, Idaho and Washington currently use a single-drug procedure for lethal injections.
Hearn’s lawyers previously tried to appeal his death sentence based on mental disabilities that would disqualify him from the death penalty under earlier Court rulings. They also claimed Hearn was not adequately represented by trial lawyers who handled his initial appeals because they failed to look into his alleged mental issues. Earlier on the day of his execution, Hearn’s appeals were rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“We collectively as a family were heartbroken,” Hearn’s aunt, Demetria Johnson, said in response to the Court’s decision. “Even though there was a crime committed, today makes it a second crime and now it’s a crime, against me.”
Several opponents of the death penalty lined up across the street from the prison holding signs that read “Executions are Racist and Anti-Poor” and “Perry is a Serial Killer”.
“Killing them isn’t going to solve the problems,” protestor, Shirley Farrell, said. It isn’t a deterrent. We need other programs in place to help some of these young menand women. Other members of the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, a protest group outside of Houston, were also present speaking out against what one member called a “lynching”.
“A lot of people use the excuse that they don’t want to pay taxes to pay for people in prison for a long time,” protestor Liliana Castrillon said. “An execution is way more expensive than keeping someone in prison. Money should never be a reason to decide if someone should be alive or not.”
The news of the execution also drew Sam Houston State University students to the protest.
“I’m interested to see how the new drug works,” said junior criminal justice major Bailey Blankenship. “We’ll see if they try to rule it out as no-go and use another way or stop the death penalty altogether.”
Although she chose not to witness the execution, Johnson, with tears streaming down her face, described her nephew as a kind-hearted person and the first baby she ever held.
“Even in his last hour knowing that he was going to die at six ‘o’ clock, he was strong man,” Johnson said. “He never wavered in his fate. I never heard his voice crack.”
In spite of the execution, Johnson found a positive side to her experience through Hospitality House, a local non-profit organization that helps families of inmates.
“I’m so impressed by the kindness that they’ve shown my family,” Johnson said. “Someone cares outside the walls. Those people don’t judge us, they just help us in our situation.”
According to TDCJ, Hearn’s execution was the sixth in Texas this year and the 482nd for the state since it began lethal injections in 1982. Texas leads the nation in the number of executions since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.