HUNTSVILLE, Texas — – The fate of a 62-year-old woman on death row now rests with Gov. George W, Bush, a death penalty supporter who has permitted 119 executions since taking office five years ago.
The state parole board Tuesday refused to halt the planned execution of Betty Lou Beets for the shooting death of her husband, a Dallas fire captain.
Since the parole board did not recommend that Beets' sentence be commuted, Bush's only option under Texas law is to grant a one-time, 30-day stay of execution. Beets is to die by injection Thursday.
She would be only the second woman executed in Texas since the Civil War and the fourth in the nation since the Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to resume in 1976.
Death penalty opponents have said cases like Beets' are a test of Bush's "compassionate conservatism." Since Bush took office in 1995, he has spared only one prisoner, citing flimsy evidence.
Bush, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, was campaigning in Michigan on Tuesday. A spokeswoman has said he would not make a decision in the Beets case until all legal action was over.
The fairness of the death penalty has received renewed attention since Gov. George Ryan of Illinois suspended executions until the state's death penalty procedures are examined. Thirteen inmates have been released from death row in that state since 1987.
Beets was convicted of murder for the 1983 shooting death of Jimmy Don Beets, her fifth husband, in what prosecutors said was a scheme to collect his life insurance and pension. She also was convicted of shooting and wounding husband No. 2, and charged — but never tried — in the 1981 shooting death of her fourth husband.
Her lawyer, Joe Margulies, said that while there wasn't evidence of physical abuse by Jimmy Don Beets, there was severe "emotional torment" in their relationship.
"All my momma's life, she's been abused," Beets' daughter Faye Lane told the parole board Tuesday. "I've seen it with my own eyes. And I know that if the jury heard the truth about my momma, she only could have done something like this if she'd been very scared or threatened."
The last woman executed in Texas was Karla Faye Tucker in 1998. She was put to death in the same chamber in Huntsville after being convicted of killing two people with a pickax in 1983.
Texas authorities are already preparing to execute Cornelius Goss tonight. He was convicted for the bludgeoning death of 66-year-old Carl Leevy during a house burglary in Dallas almost 13 years ago.