Death Watch: Challenges, Disabilities Not Enough (So Far) To Avert Execution: Busby set to die Feb. 10 for 2004 murder in Fort Worth – News
Edward Busby Jr. is like many others the state of Texas has killed over the past 40 years.
He is a black person who grew up poor, abandoned by his parents, and surrounded by violence and drug use. He suffers from mental impairments and psychological problems. Occasionally people like him are spared the death penalty because of their life stories. However, no such relief has come about for Busby so far. The state plans to execute him on February 10th.
Busby and his companion, Kitty Latimer, had been smoking crack in a Fort Worth hotel room for two weeks on the morning of January 30, 2004 when they decided they needed a car to get out of town. The couple kidnapped 77-year-old Laura Crane from a grocery store parking lot, locked her in the trunk of her car, and headed north on I-35. After Crane knocked on the trunk lid, they stopped and Busby, allegedly on Latimer’s instructions, wrapped Crane’s head in duct tape to suffocate her.
After Busby was arrested for capital murder, he was given a court appointed attorney. The attorney waited until the eve of his trial, 19 months later, to put a case together. The basic facts were not in doubt and the guilt part of the process was quickly over. The vital work for Busby’s attorney was during the sentencing phase, when he envisaged a damage control defense – information that would humanize Busby and convince the jury that he did not deserve to die.
The attorney called six witnesses in this defense. Two were Busby’s sisters; They testified that their father was an abusive drunk man. Three were teachers who testified that until the age of 17, Busby could neither read nor write, could not count, and had difficulty taking basic care of herself. The last witness was a psychologist whose testimony was so damned that it may have come from a prosecutor. The psychologist said Busby has an antisocial personality disorder and is a threat to society. He said it was “not very pleasant to run into Mr. Busby in the parking lot of a supermarket” – a reference to the abduction of Laura Crane. The jury gave Busby the death.
The psychologist also testified that Busby had an IQ of 77. Attorney David Dow, who was appointed to represent Busby on his federal complaints, has argued that his IQ is actually 74. This is critical because the US Supreme Court has set the “intellectual disability” threshold A score of 70 plus or minus 5; the mentally handicapped cannot be executed. In addition to that argument, Dow has alleged that Busby’s former attorneys did an ineffective job of failing to present evidence of the miserable conditions of his upbringing and that Kitty directed Latimer Crane’s murder.
The judges have already dismissed these arguments, but Dow recently dismissed the intellectual disability lawsuit in a state court. He also argues in federal court that the execution of Busby without a spiritual advisor by his side – a longstanding practice the state ended in 2019 – would violate his first adjustment rights. Dow has requested a stay of execution so that the courts have time to resolve these issues. Busby’s attorneys have also requested that Governor Greg Abbott and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles commute his sentence or give him a 120 day notice. (For more information about the movement to end executions in Texas, visit the Texas Coalition for the Abolition of the Death Penalty website.)
If Busby’s execution continues, he will be the first person to be killed by Texas this year after Blaine Milam’s last-minute execution was suspended in January.