Who is Stephen Barbee? Texas man, 55, executed for killing pregnant ex-GF and her 7-year-old son in 2005
Stephen Barbee, who suffocated Lisa Underwood, 34, and her son, Jayden, to death before burying their bodies, was executed via lethal injection
AUSTIN, TEXAS: The execution of a Texas man, Stephen Dale Barbee, who murdered his pregnant ex-girlfriend and her child took place via lethal injection on Wednesday, November 16. Barbee did make a last-ditch effort to postpone the execution but the court rejected his appeals.
In 2006, Barbee, 55, was found guilty of killing Lisa Underwood and her 7-year-old son Jaydon in February 2005 by suffocating them to death before burying the bodies in Denton County. After initially admitting to the gruesome murders, he later changed his mind, saying that he had simply assisted co-defendant Ronald Royce Dodd in hiding the bodies after they had been killed. He pleaded with the US Supreme Court to stop his execution because of an alleged infringement of his right to religious freedom. He was scheduled to die by lethal injection at 6 pm CT on Wednesday, November 16.
The defense team for the convicted murderer claimed that despite a high court decision earlier this year, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) lacks a clear, written protocol on what spiritual advisors may do in the execution chamber, which they claim violates Barbee's religious liberties. According to a court decision from March, states must grant requests from death row convicts for their religious counselors to pray over them and touch them while they are put to death.
The TDCJ stated at the time that it would not alter its initial policy but would instead examine relevant petitions on an individual basis. Texas could only execute Barbee after it revised "a clear policy" in accordance with the Supreme Court's decision, according to a preliminary injunction given by US District Judge Kenneth Hoyt earlier this month. “TDCJ is now operating under an unwritten policy where prison officials may unilaterally decide whether to allow an inmate’s requested accommodation … the accommodation may be withdrawn at the will or caprice of any prison official at the last moment,” Hoyt’s ruling read as per New York Post. Hoyt's ruling was rejected by a federal appellate court last Friday on the grounds that it was too broad.
On November 15, Hoyt made a second decision, this time stating that the opinion only pertained to Barbee. “[TDCJ] may proceed with the execution of Stephen Barbee only after it publishes a clear policy that has been approved by its governing policy body that (1) protects Stephen Barbee’s religious rights in the execution chamber … and, (2) sets out any exceptions to that policy, further describing with precision what those exceptions are or may be,” the new injunction read.
Barbee's lawyers simultaneously asked Hoyt to halt the execution on the grounds that he would suffer excruciating bodily pain if restrained to the gurney commonly used in Texas executions which were denied by the judge. In support of their motion, Barbee's attorneys said that his continued mobility limitations, which force him to use a wheelchair, would prevent him from being able to straighten his arms to take the fatal injection by IV. Hoyt, however, dismissed the case claiming that the prison warden had previously agreed that Barbee would be allowed to enter the execution chamber.