Texan authorities hail execution drug that critics say causes agony - Americas - World - The Independent

Texan authorities hail execution drug that critics say causes agony

Prisoner who was said to be mentally impaired is first to be killed using controversial method

Authorities in Texas have defended the state's first execution of a death row inmate using a single lethal injection of the sedative pentobarbital, instead of the cocktail of three drugs used in the past, saying it went "without incident".

The prisoner, 33-year-old Yokamon Hearn, who had been convicted of carjacking and fatally shooting a Dallas area stockbroker in 1988, was declared dead at the Huntsville penitentiary on Wednesday, 25 minutes after the sedative was injected into his body.

Hearn was executed in spite of a last-minute appeals to the Supreme Court and pleas for a stay from anti-death penalty advocates because of concerns over the use of the single drug. Opponents of the death penalty say inmates die slower and suffer more by the single-drug method. The case had also been controversial because of claims by Hearn's lawyers that he had suffered mental impairment because of alcohol abuse by his mother when she was carrying him before birth.

Texas and three other US states – Ohio, Arizona, Washington and Idaho – have been forced into changing the drug mix in the execution chamber after one of the three, thiopental sodium, was taken off the market in 2010. The European Union had placed a ban on the export of the drug to the US, precisely because the primary customers were states exercising capital punishment. Hearn was the first inmate to be killed in Texas using the method. The French government joined others yesterday criticising Texas for Hearn's execution. "France condemns the execution of a citizen of the United States who suffered from mental problems," a foreign ministry spokesman said, adding that "this execution was contrary to recognised international guarantees." A spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said the execution had been "carried out without incident" in spite of fears that the administration of pentobarbital might present risks.

Authorities did not address concerns held by opponents of the death penalty that the single drug method could increase the pain suffered. He added: "The one-drug protocol has been adopted by several states, and has been upheld as constitutional."

Among witnesses to the execution were family members of the victim, Frank Meziere, who was 23 when he was forced into his Ford Mustang by Hearn and three accomplices and taken to open ground outside Dallas and killed with 10 bullets to the head. "We did not come today to view this execution for revenge or to even the score," the family said afterwards. "What this does is give our family and friends the knowledge that Mr Hearn will not have the opportunity to hurt anyone else." On Tuesday, Georgia said it too was switching to using pentobarbital only in its execution chamber. It postponed an execution scheduled for Wednesday to prepare to switch to the single drug.

Hours before the killing of Hearn, the UN special rapporteur on arbitrary executions in Geneva, Christof Heyns, appealed to Texas to reconsider. "There is evidence to suggest that he… suffers from psychosocial disabilities," he said, noting that experts had testified that the alcohol abuse by his mother had caused him to be affected by "structural brain dysfunction".

But Jason January, the former assistant district attorney who prosecuted Hearn, said to stop the punishment because of fetal alcohol syndrome "would be a free pass for anyone whose parents drank". He added: "A lot of people have tough backgrounds and work their way out and don't fill someone's head with 10 bullets."

Crime scene: The path to death row

Yokamon Hearn was 19 years old when he committed the crime for which he would eventually be sentenced to death. The victim, 23-year-old Frank Meziere, was cleaning his car when Hearn and his friends forced him to drive at gunpoint to an industrial area in a south Dallas neighbourhood, where he was shot 10 times in the head.

Hearn pleaded not guilty at his 1998 trial, but a jury took only 50 minutes to convict him of murder carried out in the course of a kidnapping – a capital offence.

In one appeal, Hearn's lawyers argued that his mother drank alcohol when she was pregnant, leaving him with mental impairments that disqualify him from execution. But tests showed Hearn's IQ was too high for him to be considered mentally impaired. In another, his lawyers claimed the trial attorneys failed to investigate his troubled childhood.

State attorneys contested both appeals, arguing that information about Hearn's background had been "thoroughly investigated and addressed at trial".

When asked if he wanted to make a final statement, Hearn said: "I'd like to tell my family that I love y'all and I wish y'all well. I'm ready."

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig is believed to be donning skies as 007 for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
News
i100
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Manager with some Agile experience

£45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsf...

Data/ MI Analyst

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are cur...

KS1 Teacher Cornwall

£23500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd...

Corporate Communications Manager - London - up to £80,000

£60000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Corporate Marketing Communications M...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week