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June 27, 2013

Texas' 500th execution since 1982 draws protests

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — The 500th lethal injection execution carried out in Texas drew an emotional crowd of protesters outside the death chamber in Huntsville, many of whom challenged the fairness of the sentence for the condemned -- a black woman.

Though hundreds of males have been put to death in Huntsville since lethal injection was introduced in 1982 — including the first, Charlie Brooks, a black Dallas man convicted in the abduction and murder of a used car salesman — Kimberly McCarthy was only the fourth woman executed in the state.

McCarthy, 52, was put to death Wednesday for the 1998 stabbing death of her 71-year-old neighbor, Dorothy Booth.

Protesters said they believe McCarthy’s sentence, handed down by a primarily white jury, was in error and her trial was unfair.

Members of the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, New Black Panther Party, National Black United Front, Dallas Peace Center, and others voiced their opposition to the death penalty.

“Murderers, murderers!” protesters chanted as reporters, McCarthy’s family, and Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials entered the death chamber shortly before 6 p.m.

Many of the protesters said they were angered by perceived racial bias in the courts system, which they said resulted in far more executions of minorities than whites.

Tempers in the crowd of a few hundred flared when Krystal Muhammad, chairwoman of the Houston chapter of the New Black Panther Party, tuned her anger on a university student in the crowd who asked, “But didn’t she (McCarthy) kill someone?”

“The white jury said they did. The white jury always says they’re guilty,” said Muhammad, whose eyes welled with tears.

Hoisting a microphone, National Black United Front national chairman Kofi Taharka said capital punishment must be abolished.

“The death penalty should be shut down before they murder more,” Taharka said to the crowd. The 45-minute, roller coaster of emotions outside the Walls ended with a prayer circle and a hymn. Members of the circle held hands and prayed that Texas and its leadership would end the death penalty.

Details for this story were provided by The Huntsville (Texas) Item.

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