Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Flight to Texas Execution 'Not Life Threatening'

Texas prisoner David Martin Long had a date with the nation's busiest executioner (who had already dispatched 31 souls in 1999) on Wednesday, December 8, 1999. But Long decided to go out on his own terms: prison guards found him unconscious from a drug overdose Monday morning. Long had apparently hoarded his anti-psychotic drugs and took them in a nearly successful suicide attempt.

Texas prison officials promptly rushed Long to a Galveston hospital, where he was placed on life support in the intensive care unit. Dr. Alexander Duarte, the physician in charge of the case, told the New York Times that Long's condition improved from critical to serious Tuesday and he was taken off the ventilator. Dr. Duarte said Long still required oxygen and continual medical care. Under normal circumstances, he said, he would probably keep Mr. Long in the intensive care unit for another day or two.

But the circumstances were far from normal. On Wednesday the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Mr. Long's final appeal. State prison officials approached Dr. Duarte and asked him to sign an affidavit stating that Mr. Long could be safely transported to Huntsville, a request that he refused. But Dr. Duarte did sign another affidavit stating that Mr. Long's health had improved, that he had suffered no seizures and was responding to questioning -- but that transporting him could be risky without proper medical care.

Under Texas law, when a prisoner has exhausted all appeals and, as in this case, the Board of Pardons and Parole has rejected clemency, the governor has two options: reject clemency or grant a 30 day stay. With Texas' "Compassionate Conservative" presidential hopeful Gov. G.W. Bush Jr. stumping in New Hampshire, the decision on Mr. Long's fate technically fell to Lt. Gov. Rick Perry, who declined to delay the execution. But Gov. Bush's spokeswoman said the governor agreed that the execution should proceed.

A prison official identified only as "Mr. Sullivan" by the New York Times said, "The Texas Department of Criminal Justice determined that transporting [Mr. Long] to Huntsville is not life threatening...."

And so a state airplane, staffed by medical personnel to ensure that the condemned man arrived in good health, was dispatched to Galveston for the 25 minute flight back to the state's death chamber in Huntsville. And David Martin Long, 46, convicted triple hatchet killer, was duly killed--on time but probably not under budget.

"It seems like a pretty sick process when you jerk a guy out of intensive care on a ventilator," Long's attorney John Blume told the Times. "What's the huge rush?"

Source: New York Times

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login