Convicted Texas killer John William Hummel received a brief reprieve when his state’s top appeals court pushed back his March 18 execution by two months due to concerns about the novel strain of coronavirus plaguing the globe.
Hummel, 44, was sentenced to death in 2011 after he was convicted of murdering his pregnant wife, Joy Hummel, and father-in-law, Clyde Bedford. Evidence suggests he may have also killed his 5-year-old daughter, but he was not convicted of her death.
Convenience store clerk Kristie Freeze testified that Hummel began flirting with her in fall 2010, according to court documents. Freeze said she knew Hummel was married, but she tried to break things off after finding out his wife was pregnant in December 2010 — which apparently led to the slaying.
“I grabbed the baseball bat and hit her in the head repeatedly until she fell to the ground,” Hummel confessed in a written statement, according to investigator James Rizy. “Then I grabbed some of my other knives and swords [and] began stabbing her.”
Hummel said he also beat his daughter and father-in-law in the head with a baseball bat and then set their house on fire, Rizy testified.
Hummel was found guilty on two counts of murder and sentenced to death in June 2011, according to court documents.
He was scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. on March 18 in the Huntsville, Texas death chamber, according to the prison ministry The Forgiveness Foundation.
However, many people are typically present at an execution, including lawyers, doctors, correctional officers, and the inmate’s friends and family. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice had prepared a COVID-19 screening process for everyone present and was ready to carry out the execution, agency spokesman Jeremy Desel told the Associated Press.
But due to the ongoing pandemic, the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals ultimately chose to issue a 60-day stay on Hummel’s execution.
“[W]e have … determined that the execution should be stayed at the current time in light of the current health crisis and the enormous resources needed to address that emergency,” the court wrote.
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DOJ, IRS Investigating Crypto Exchange Binance
Binance Holdings Ltd. is facing a federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service, Bloomberg reported Thursday.
Officials specializing in tax and money-laundering investigations are probing the world’s largest crypto exchange, according to the report.
Binance operates a sprawling global empire of crypto trading, including derivatives, which are essentially barred from the U.S. market. The Binance brand has attempted to project itself as above-board through recent regulatory hires including former U.S. senator Max Baucus. Former banking regulator Brian Brooks was installed as CEO of Binance’s U.S. affiliate last month.
“We take our legal obligations very seriously and engage with regulators and law enforcement in a collaborative fashion,” a Binance spokesperson said in a statement. “We have worked hard to build a robust compliance program that incorporates anti-money laundering principles and tools used by financial institutions to detect and address suspicious activity.”
She declined to comment on the reported investigation.
Binance CEO “CZ” Changpeng Zhao commented on the Bloomberg article in a tweet:
The CDC director just gave us a dark coronavirus warning
The latest coronavirus update for the US through mid-morning on Thursday shows that, according to the latest data collected by the team at Johns Hopkins University, more than 28.7 million coronavirus cases have been reported in the US since the start of the pandemic. Additionally, the coronavirus death toll in the US was approaching 519,000 as of the time of this writing.
Nevertheless, two states created an uproar this week when both states (Texas and Mississippi) announced their decision to pull back restrictions and mandates imposed during the pandemic, like max capacity requirements for businesses and statewide face mask rules. President Biden criticized these moves as the product of “Neanderthal thinking,” while CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky actually went farther than that — warning during a White House press briefing this week that the US could lose all of the progress made thus far as a result of the spread of more transmissible coronavirus variants. Spread that would be helped even more by states like these and others that join them pulling back on their coronavirus-related public safety measures too soon.
“Please hear me clearly,” Dr. Walensky said. “At this level of cases with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained. These variants are a very real threat to our people and to our progress. Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know could stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, not when we are so close.”
While there has been a degree of promising news coverage in recent days and weeks, make no mistake: We’re still very much in the middle of a dangerous pandemic. COVID-19 cases, as well as related deaths, are up about 2% compared to last week — and we’re now averaging around 67,000 coronavirus cases per day, along with some 2,000 deaths each day.
Along these lines, and related to the Texas and Mississippi news, former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb had an important insight to share in a CNBC interview this week — namely, that governments and public health experts need to start talking to people about the end of the pandemic and how we get there. Else, we’ll see more people go down this same road, either by feeling like things are hopeless or prematurely easing up on safety measures. “If we continue to be very prescriptive and not give people a realistic vision for a better future, they’re going to start to ignore the public health guidance,” Gottlieb said.
Walensky continued her remarks by noting that an average of less than 70,000 coronavirus cases a day seems good compared to where we were a few months ago. But we “cannot be resigned” to that.
“Please stay strong in your conviction, continue wearing your well-fitted mask and taking the other public health prevention actions that we know work,” she said. “Ultimately, vaccination is what will bring us out of this pandemic. To get there, we need to vaccinate many more people.”
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