A Texas execution of a 59-year-old woman is only the 14th time a female has been put to death in the United States in over three decades, reports the AFP via Yahoo! News today. The state of Texas had not executed a woman since 1998. Since 1976, the year the Supreme Court allowed capital punishments to resume, only four women have been put to death in Texas. Wednesday's execution makes five.
In 1998, Suzanne Basso killed 59-year-old Louis “Buddy” Musso, whom she had met at a church carnival. Musso was mentally impaired but able to care for himself. He later moved in with Basso in her home in Jacinto City, just east of Houston.
“She lured him to Texas with the idea they’d get married,” recalled Colleen Barnett, who prosecuted Basso for the murder.
Basso was already married, but schemed to make herself the beneficiary of Musso’s life insurance policy and the death recipient of Musso’s Social Security disability benefits.
Musso’s body was found in a ditch by a jogger. He had been bathed in bleach and scrubbed down with a wire brush. An autopsy showed he had at least 45 cuts to his body, cigarette burns on his back, and multiple fractures. Many of the injuries were sustained in the months prior to his killing.
“It was just horrible, horrible, horrible,” Barnett said. “When you talk about the death penalty, what the death penalty was made for, it was for a case like this.”
Barnett said Basso herself suffered from delusions.
“She would pretend to be different things,” Barnett said of the wheelchair bound killer. “One setting she would pretend to be blind. One setting she would pretend she couldn’t walk. One setting she had the voice of a little girl… I don’t know how to describe her.”
At a recent appeals hearing, Basso’s attorney Winston Cochran argued that she is not mentally competent enough to face execution. Basso testified from a jail bed – the result of being paralyzed years ago from a severe jail beating.
As of January 2013, there were 60 female prisoners on death row waiting to be executed. That number represents just two percent of the total inmate population awaiting execution.
"The numbers are very small because generally women do not often commit the kind of aggravated murder for which the death penalty is sought," said Richard Dieter, who heads the Death Penalty Information Center.
Since the first in 1632, there have been 571 recorded executions of women – only three percent of the total executions.