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Texas performs rare execution of woman

06 February 2014, 07:02

Washington - Texas performed a rare execution of a woman on Wednesday, putting to death a prisoner convicted of the brutal murder of a mentally disabled man 15 years ago.

Suzanne Basso, 59, was only the 14th woman to be put to death in the United States in more than three decades, after losing a last-ditch appeal to the US Supreme Court.

She was pronounced dead at 18:26 (00:26 GMT Thursday) at Huntsville Prison, 11 minutes after lethal drugs flowed into her veins, a prison spokesperson told AFP.

The wheelchair-bound killer, who weighed 160kg at the time of her arrest in September 1999, was sentenced to die for the horrific slaying of Louis "Buddy" Musso in 1998, whom she murdered in an attempt to benefit from his life insurance.

Victim left bloodied and battered

Musso was burned with cigarettes and beaten with belts, baseball bats and hobnailed boots by Basso and five accomplices.

His body, bloodied and battered beyond recognition, was found dumped in a roadside ditch near Houston in August 1998, according to court documents.

Despite a series of appeals that led all the way to the US Supreme Court, Basso's death sentence had been reconfirmed several times.

Basso's mental health questioned

Anti-death penalty advocates had condemned Basso's looming execution on the grounds that her physical and psychological state - she had shown signs of suffering from mental illness - meant she posed no threat to society.

In a Supreme Court briefing, Basso's lawyer Winston Cochran pointed to her "long history of delusional thinking and mental disorders", adding that prison doctors had diagnosed her with clinical depression.

"She had a horrible childhood. She's been delusional since way back then. She was molested, she grew up in poverty; all school records show she had mental health problems," Cochran said in an interview.

‘Singled out for appearance’

He said his client's death sentence should have been reversed years ago due to only "sporadic" evidence, suggesting she had been singled out for her physical appearance and her attitude.

"She was grossly obese, a sour personality, unattractive. Right from the beginning, they said 'we're going to with the theory that she's the ring leader'," the attorney added.

And of the six defendants, Basso was the only one who got the death penalty despite lack of proof over how Musso was killed.

Women rarely executed

As of 1 January 2013 the 60 female prisoners on death row accounted for just 2% of the total inmate population awaiting execution in the United States.

"The numbers are very small because generally women do not often commit the kind of aggravated murder for which the death penalty is sought," said Richard Dieter, who heads the Death Penalty Information Centre.

There have been 571 recorded executions of women since the first in 1632. That represents just under 3% of the total executions carried out since 1608.

Women accounted for 10% of murder arrests but barely more than 2% of death sentences for first-degree murder.


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