A Texas prisoner who murdered a 23-year-old stockbroker in 1998 is due to become the first to be executed under the U.S. state’s new single-drug lethal injection procedure. Yokamon Hearn, 33, who shot Frank Meziere ten times before dumping his body on the side of the road, is due to be executed on Wednesday.
Hearn will be the sixth prisoner executed in Texas this year, but the first since the Texas Department of Criminal Justice announced its switch to single-drug lethal injections amid a drug shortage that has left states in the U.S. scrambling for acceptable alternatives.
It was announced last week that Texas would use a single dose of pentobarbital as a lethal injection, instead of using the sedative in combination with two other drugs as before. Ohio became the first state to use a single drug a year ago, and several other states have since made the switch. Courts have upheld the practice, despite the reaction of death penalty opponents who claim that prisoners take longer to die with a single drug.
Hearn – known to his friends as Yogi – has made appeals against his sentence based on his mental capacity, the competence of his lawyers, and whether recent lower federal court rulings improperly blocked his current legal team from pursuing appeals.
In 2004 a federal court spared Hearn less than an hour before he could have been taken to the death chamber, so that it could consider arguments that he was mentally impaired and therefore ineligible for the death penalty. That appeal was subsequently rejected.
More recently Hearn’s lawyers told the U.S. Supreme Court that, while tests show Hearn’s IQ is considerably higher than levels determining mental impairment, he suffers from a fetal alcohol disorder that should disqualify him from execution.
‘He was quite capable of functioning and figuring out how to rob people,’ he said.