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The Basso Execution

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Very few women are sentenced to death and very few are executed.  The primary reason, quite simply, is that women commit far fewer murders than men, and even fewer are the type of especially heinous crimes for which the death penalty is imposed.

But there are a few.  As noted in today's News Scan, Suzanne Basso was executed in Texas yesterday, and rightly so.  After the break, I have copied an excerpt from the opinion of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on direct appeal.
In July of 1997, 59-year-old Louis "Buddy" Musso, the victim in this case, first met either the appellant or her son, James "J.D." O'Malley, at a church carnival in New Jersey. Musso, though mentally retarded, lived independently, held a job at a local grocery store, and handled his own financial affairs. In June of 1998, Musso left New Jersey to live with the appellant in Jacinto City, Texas. Shortly after Musso moved in with the appellant, Al Becker, Musso's Social Security representative payee and friend of twenty years, began having difficulty contacting Musso. Becker had numerous telephone conversations with the appellant, but the appellant eventually refused to allow him to communicate directly with Musso. Concerned about Musso's welfare, Becker sought assistance from various Texas state agencies, but was not able to gain any further information about Musso's situation.

In July of 1998, the appellant unsuccessfully attempted to designate herself as Musso's representative payee of his Social Security benefits. On an application for a life insurance policy on Musso, the appellant was named beneficiary, and she had described herself as Musso's "wife to be." After Musso's death, police found certificates of insurance for policies in Musso's name, including one that provided $65,000 in the event of Musso's death from violent crime. They also discovered a document entitled Musso's "Last Will and Testament," which purported to leave Musso's entire estate to the appellant while "no one else [was] to get a cent."

In the days leading up to his death, Musso suffered tremendous abuse at the hands of the appellant and her five co-defendants. The appellant would take Musso to the apartment of co-defendants Bernice Ahrens, Craig and Hope Ahrens (Bernice's son and daughter), and Terence Singleton (Hope's fiancé), where Musso was forced to remain seated or in a kneeling position on a plastic mat in the hallway for hours. Whenever Musso attempted to get off the mat, O'Malley would beat or kick him. O'Malley, Singleton, Bernice, and Craig beat Musso, and O'Malley, while wearing combat boots, kicked him repeatedly. The appellant beat Musso with a baseball bat on the buttocks, back, and groin area, and both she and Hope struck him with a belt and buckle. After hearing that Musso had been "misbehaving" while she was away from the apartment, the appellant, who weighed over 300 pounds, repeatedly jumped on top of Musso while he was on his hands and knees, causing him to fall flat on the ground. At one point, Musso requested that someone there call an ambulance. Even though Hope, as she later admitted, recognized the extent of Musso's injuries, he received no medical attention. Someone (the evidence suggests either O'Malley or Singleton and Craig) bathed Musso in a solution of bleach and Pine-Sol cleaning fluid, using a wire brush on his body. Apparently, his killers were giving Musso this kind of "bath" when he died.

On the morning of August 28, 1999, Musso's body was found dumped near a roadway in Galena Park. Because Musso's clothes lacked any blood stains, and his only shoe was on the wrong foot, investigators believed that his body had been dressed after he died. The medical examiner reported an extraordinary number of injuries to Musso's body and was unable to count the "hundreds" of bruises that covered Musso from head to toe. The palms of Musso's hands and the soles of his feet were bruised, while his back and buttocks showed numerous lash marks indicative of his having been whipped. Musso's severely blackened eyes resulted from a "hinge fracture" to his skull, which probably was caused by a blow to the back of the head. He had sustained broken bones in his nose, ribs, and throat. Marks on his back appeared to be cigarette burns, but may have been caused by a hot poker, and the medical examiner noted areas of skin abrasion possibly attributable to contact with a cleaning solution or scrub brush. The cause of death was believed to have been a skull fracture from an unknown object, which left a large, X-shaped laceration in Musso's scalp.

Before the execution, Basso's lawyer was making noises about the lack of evidence that she personally committed the killing.  Excuse me, but so what?  In a conspiracy, the person who does the dirty work is not necessarily the most culpable.  This sentence was well deserved.

The AP story is here.  Pentobarbital remains the way to go for lethal injection whenever it can be obtained.

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