Texas man executed for 2003 strangling death of his mother
HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — A man who killed his mother and buried her body in her backyard was executed Wednesday in Texas despite his lawyers’ appeals that he should not be put to death because he had a history of mental illness.
Tracy Beatty, 61, received a lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Huntsville. He was pronounced dead at 6:39 p.m. CST after a fatal dose of pentobarbital began flowing through needles inserted into veins in his wrists. He was condemned for strangling his mother, Carolyn Click, after they argued in her East Texas home in November 2003.
Immediately before the procedure started, a prison chaplain placed his right hand on Beatty’s chest and said a brief prayer. Then asked by the warden if he had a final statement, Beatty, who was strapped to the death chamber gurney, choked up and sobbed as he began speaking to his wife who was looking through a window a few feet from him.
“I just want to thank ...” he said, his voice breaking. “I don’t want to leave you, baby. See you when you get there. I love you.” He mouthed a kiss to her.
Beatty, who had a long white beard and long gray-white hair, also offered thanks to fellow death row inmates and named several of them. “I love you, brothers. See you on the other side.”
As the powerful sedative took effect, Beatty took two deep breaths, mumbled something unintelligible, and began snoring. Seventeen minutes later a physician pronounced him dead.
Authorities said Beatty had buried his 62-year-old mother’s body beside her mobile home in Whitehouse, about 115 miles (180 km) southeast of Dallas, and then spent her money on drugs and alcohol.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday morning declined an appeal from Beatty’s lawyers to halt the execution.
Beatty had three prior execution dates.
His attorneys had argued that Beatty was prevented from receiving a full examination to determine whether he is intellectually disabled and possibly ineligible to be put to death. They had requested prison officials allow Beatty to be uncuffed during mental health evaluations by experts. The experts argued that having Beatty uncuffed during neurological and other tests was crucial to evaluating his mental health and making an informed decision about intellectual disability.
In their Supreme Court petition, Beatty’s lawyers said one expert who examined the inmate determined that he was “clearly psychotic and has a complex paranoid delusional belief system” and that he lives in a “complex delusional world” where he believes there is a “vast conspiracy of correctional officers who ... ‘torture’ him via a device in his ear so he can hear their menacing voices.”
Citing security and liability concerns, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice put in place an informal policy last year that would require a court order to allow an inmate to be unshackled during an expert evaluation.
Federal judges in East Texas and Houston and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans previously ruled against Beatty’s request for an evaluation without handcuffs. The federal appeals court called Beatty’s request a “delay tactic.”
Last week, U.S. District Judge Charles Eskridge in Houston questioned why Beatty’s lawyers had not raised any claim relating to his mental health during years of appeals. The judge said requiring handcuffs during such an evaluation is “quite simply, a rational security concern.”
While the U.S. Supreme Court has prohibited the death penalty for individuals who are intellectually disabled, it has not barred such punishment for those with serious mental illness, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that provides analysis and information on capital punishment.
In 2019, the Texas Legislature considered but did not pass a bill that would have prohibited the death penalty for someone with severe mental illness.
Beatty had a “volatile and combative relationship” with his mother, according to prosecutors. One neighbor, Lieanna Wilkerson, testified that Click told her Beatty had assaulted her several times before, including once when he had “beaten her so severely that he had left her for dead.” But Wilkerson said Click had still been excited to have Beatty move back in with her in October 2003 so they could mend their relationship.
Mother and son argued daily, however, and Click asked her son twice to move out, including just before she was killed, according to testimony from Beatty’s 2004 trial.
“Several times (Beatty) had said he just wanted to shut her up, that he just wanted to choke her and shut her up,” Wilkerson testified.
Beatty was the fourth inmate put to death this year in Texas and the 13th in the United States. The state’s final execution this year is scheduled to take place next week.
Lozano reported from Houston.
Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70