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News Scan

Execution on Track in Texas Tonight: Michael Graczyk of the Associated Press reports Beunka Adams today will become the fifth person executed in Texas this year. A federal district judge granted a reprieve earlier this week, but the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the death warrant Wednesday after the Texas attorney general's office appealed the ruling. The U.S. Supreme Court today refused to halt the execution and review his case. In 2002, Adams and Richard Cobb robbed a convenience store and took one male customer and two females clerks with them to a remote area. Kenneth Vandever and one woman were forced into the trunk while Adams raped the other woman. Then all three victims were forced to kneel as they were shot. Vandever was killed. The women were kicked and shot again before Adams and Cobb fled, believing the women were dead. Both survived, and one ran to a house to get help. Evidence also tied Adams and Cobb to a string of robberies that happened around the same time.  Update: The updated version of the AP story (same link) indicates the execution was completed, and Adams was pronounced dead at 6:25 CDT.

Stay Granted to Louisiana Double-Murderer: Bill Lodge of The Advocate (LA) reports a federal judge on Wednesday granted a stay for the May 9 execution of Todd Kelvin Wessinger in Louisiana for killing two restaurant workers in 1995. U.S. District Judge James J. Brady granted the stay while he reviews claims made by Wessinger's attorneys that he suffered childhood seizures and physical and emotional abuse, developed substance addictions, and was traumatized by the deaths of his children. His appellate attorneys also allege that his trial attorney should not have called a doctor to the trial witness stand without first reviewing the doctor's report about his interviews with Wessinger. Brady did not say when he would announce his decision.

Illinois Senate Passes Constitutional Amendment for Victim's Rights: Dave McKinney of the Chicago Sun-Times reports a measure known as Marsy's Law, named after a California murder victim, passed out of the Illinois Senate 55-1. The measure would guarantee victims of violent crimes and families of murder victims or minors, among other things, the right to be informed about court proceedings, to make victim-impact statements during sentencing, to get "timely" notification when prosecutors are seeking a plea deal, and to have their safety considered at bail hearings. Illinois' Constitution currently contains victims-rights language, but there is no means by which victims or their families can enforce those rights by seeking relief from the courts. The measure now moves to the House. If successful, Illinois would become the fourth state with such language in its Constitution.

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