EXECUTION REPORT: JOHN WILLIAM HUMMEL

John William Hummel, 45, has been executed by the state of Texas. Prison officials adopted a new procedure for media witnesses to Texas executions. Correcting an error prison officials made last month, media witnesses will now be under constant supervision by a correctional officer to make sure they are brought into the execution chamber.

Texas — The Huntsville Item has reported that John William Hummel, 45, had been executed by the state of Texas at 6:49 p.m. CST on June 30, 2021. He was executed by lethal injection inside the execution chamber at the Huntsville “Walls” Unit in Huntsville, Texas. Hummel was the second person put to death by the state of Texas — and any other U.S. state — this year. Statistically, he was the 572nd person executed by the state of Texas since executions resumed in 1982 and the 1,534th person put to death in the United States since 1976. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice acknowledged the error that was made on the day of Quintin Jones’ execution, in which media witnesses were not permitted inside the execution chamber. They corrected this error by adopting a new procedure in which media witnesses would be under constant supervision by a correctional officer to make sure they were brought into the chamber.

John Hummel in an undated mug shot while on Texas death-row. (Texas Department of Criminal Justice)

In attendance to the execution were two media witnesses, one from the Huntsville Item and another from the Associated Press, two of Hummel’s friends, his spiritual adviser, and siblings to one of Hummel’s murder victims. Witnesses say that the execution went without incident. Hummel was escorted into the execution chamber shortly after 6 p.m. CST and was pronounced dead nearly 13 minutes after pentobarbital had been injected. Tuesday marked his 10th year on Texas death row after he was sentenced to death in 2011. With his lawyer refusing to file any last-minute appeals, stating, “all legal avenues had been exhausted,” the execution proceeded on time.

THE CRIME, THE QUESTIONING, THE TRIAL, AND LIFE ON DEATH ROW

John Hummel was convicted and sentenced to death in 2011 for the December 2009 slayings of three of his family members in Kennedale, Texas. After graduating High School, Hummel had married Joy Keziyah Hummel and started working as a night guard at the Walls Hospital in Cleburne, Texas. In the fall of 2009, he had lived with his wife, his 5-year-old daughter, Jodi, and his father-in-law, Clyde Bedford. They all lived in a house in Kennedale, Texas.

While working his night shift at Walls Hospital, Hummel had met a clerk at a store at which he frequently visited. He and the clerk, Kristie Freeze, became friendly and began sending sexually explicit text messages with each other, leading to an affair. A few months later, Hummel’s wife had become pregnant. When Freeze received news about this, she asked Hummel to stop contacting her. Despite this, he continued to call and text her. On December 16, 2009, Freeze informed Hummel that her divorce had been finalized. The following evening, Hummel visited her and her daughter at their apartment. He allegedly stayed at the apartment for 30 minutes.

In the early hours of December 18, 2009, a fire was reported at Hummel’s home. When the fire was extinguished, the bodies of Joy, Jodi, and Clyde were discovered, each in their own bedrooms. Joy was found on the floor with bloody clothing nearby. Hummel was immediately questioned after the fire.

He stated that he had driven to visit one of his friends, and when that friend wasn’t home, he had driven around for a while waiting for his friend to get home. When his friend never returned, he went to a local Walmart to check prices for Christmas Gifts. He claimed he discovered the fire when he got home to find the police and firemen there. Officials noticed that Hummel’s pants appeared bloodstained and asked him to give them his clothes. He then gave the clothes to the police, gave a statement, and left.

The next morning, Hummel went to work as if nothing had happened. After he left work, his friends and co-workers were not able to contact him on his cell phone, and a missing-person report was filed. A police investigation at the crime scene showed that the fire had been set intentionally. An autopsy revealed that Joy had been stabbed a total of 35 times in addition to having defensive wounds. Clyde and Jodi both had extensive skull fractures, showing that they had been struck in the head multiple times. It was concluded that all three people that were found in the fire were dead before the fire started.

Hummel was arrested trying to re-enter the United States from Mexico into California on foot using his driver’s license after a customs officer received a warning that Hummel was wanted. He was taken to the San Diego County Jail for questioning, in which he immediately confessed and provided a completely different statement about what he did leading up to the fire and how he carried out the murders of Joy, Jodi, and Clyde.

It was noted at the trial that Hummel had been an honorably discharged U.S. Marine suffering from PTSD. It was also suggested that he may have had several personality disorders, but his attorney, Larry Moore, presented no evidence showing how Hummel’s military service could’ve impacted his mental well-being. Moore now works for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office, which prosecuted Hummel and filed the motions to set his execution dates.

Hummel was sentenced to death in 2011 for the capital murders of Joy Hummel and Clyde Bedford. He was not tried for the murder of Jodi Hummel. He was put on death row on June 29, 2011.

THE EXECUTION TIMELINE

Hummel first exhausted his appeals at the U.S. Supreme Court on October 7, 2019, and his first execution date was set for March 18, 2020. However, two days before his execution, he was granted a 60-day-stay by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the reason given was, “in light of the current health crisis and the enormous resources needed to address that emergency.” He exhausted his appeals for the second time at the Supreme Court on October 5, 2020, and just 18 days later, his execution was scheduled for June 30, 2021, at 6 p.m. CST.

The newly configured execution chamber at the Huntsville “Walls” Unit in Huntsville, Texas, on May 19, 2021, shortly before the execution of Quintin Jones. (Texas Department of Criminal Justice)

Not much legal action happened in Hummel’s case. On the morning of his execution, Hummel’s lawyer, Michael Mowla, reported that he would not make any attempts to file any last-minute appeals. He decided this because “all legal avenues had been exhausted.” at 5:15 p.m. CST, the TDCJ reported the newly adopted procedures for media witnesses to executions. Not wanting to repeat the error that was made last month when Quintin Jones was executed, the media witnesses were under constant supervision by a prison official in the witness waiting room, which is across the street from the Huntsville Unit.

Around 5:20 p.m. CST, A death watch sheet was provided by the TDCJ. The sheet detailed Hummel’s activities from Saturday to 11:35 a.m. on the day of the execution. The last entry that was recorded on the sheet stated that he was talking to a visitor. The visitor was never specified on the sheet or by the TDCJ.

All appeals and clemency requests had been cleared before the execution was scheduled to begin, meaning that the execution would proceed on time. It seemed that way when the execution log was released. When the Federal Death Row Inmates Project emailed the Director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Jeremy Desel, asking how confident the TDCJ was that the same kind of error that happened on the day of Quintin Jones’ execution would not happen today, Desel replied with, “100%.” Media witnesses were reported crossing the street into the Huntsville Unit at around 6:05 p.m. CST.

The execution log stated that Hummel was taken from his holding cell just two minutes prior and was strapped to the gurney a minute after that. 15 minutes after he was strapped to the gurney, both of the IVs had been inserted into his left and right arms and had a saline solution flowing. Hummel said his final statement at 6:36 p.m. CST and a lethal dose of pentobarbital was injected into his arms less than a minute later. The process was completed at 6:44 p.m. CST. John William Hummel was pronounced dead five minutes later at 6:49 p.m. CST.

John Hummel became the second person put to death by the state of Texas this year after the execution of Quintin Jones broke a 315-day hiatus between state executions. Four more people are scheduled for execution in Texas this year, and it is likely that more will be scheduled for execution later on. Hummel was 45 at the time of his execution. Before the lethal injection progress began, he made the following last statement:

“Yes. When they lay me down to sleep, for I am to die for justice, the Lord my soul to take. I’ll be with Jesus when I wake. I truly regret killing my family. I am thankful for all the thoughts and prayers for my family over the last few days. I love each and every one of you.”

THE NEXT ON THE DEATH WATCH

Zane Floyd is currently waiting to see if he will be put to death in Nevada during the week of July 26, his execution was stayed but the stay is subject to appeal. If the stay is lifted, Zane Floyd could be the first inmate executed in the state of Nevada since 2006, over 15 years ago. For right now, John Ramirez is the next person scheduled for execution in the U.S., once again in Texas.

Texas and Missouri are currently the only states that plan to execute anyone for the rest of the year as long as the stay put in place for Zane Floyd is not lifted. As expected, the execution total for this year will most likely be lower than last year’s, continuing the trend in which executions in the U.S. are declining. Whether that trend will stop and executions will escalate is not for certain.

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