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Texas court stays execution over COVID-19

John Hummel's execution day was postponed for 60 days. File Photo courtesy of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
John Hummel's execution day was postponed for 60 days. File Photo courtesy of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice

March 17 (UPI) -- A Texas appeals court has stayed the execution of a man convicted of killing his family, citing the effects of the coronavirus on the judicial system.

The Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas said Monday that John Hummel's lethal injection will be delayed for 60 days. He was originally scheduled to be executed Wednesday.

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The panel denied Hummel's request for a stay based on allegations that the trial court made a mistake by failing to disqualify the prosecutor's office and by not withdrawing the case's "defective execution warrant."

"However, we have also determined that the execution should be stayed at the present time in light of the current health crisis and the enormous resources needed to address the emergency," the court wrote.

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Hummel's attorney, Michael Mowla, said the spread of COVID-19 would interfere with his ability to conduct investigations and file motions to stop the execution. He also said the virus could be spread among workers and witnesses on hand for the execution.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster Friday and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has suspended visitations at all facilities to prevent the spread of the virus among prison populations.

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A jury convicted Hummel in 2011 of beating with a baseball bat and fatally stabbing his pregnant wife, Joy Hummel, and his father-in-law, Clyde Bedford. He was also accused of beating his 5-year-old daughter to death, though he was only convicted of the two adults' deaths.

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All three bodies were found in the family's burning house in Kennedale in December 2009.

The prosecution said Hummel, 35, a former Marine, wanted a new life.

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