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Four Years After Judge Voids Death Penalty, Man Still On Death Row

When U.S. prisons director Colette Peters visited the penitentiary in Terre Haute, In., last week, she stopped by the federal death row where Bruce Webster is in a solitary, 12-by-7 foot cell, 23 hours a day. A federal judge in Indiana ruled in 2019 that the 49-year-old has an IQ in the range of severe intellectual disability and cannot be put to death, the Associated Press reports. Four years later, the Federal Bureau of Prisons haven’t moved him to a less restrictive unit or different prison. His lawyer, who persuaded a court to vacate Webster’s 1996 death sentence in the kidnapping, rape and killing of a 16-year-old Texas girl, is baffled. “How can I not get this guy off death row?,” asked Monica Foster. “Well, I did get him off death row. But why can’t I physically get him off death row?”

A Justice Department official said only that “the Bureau of Prisons is considering Mr. Webster’s designation determination.” Webster’s case illustrates the bureaucracy in the prisons system and the difficulties in getting anyone off death row. Webster and three accomplices kidnapped a sister of a rival drug trafficker in 1994, kicking their way into an Arlington, Tex., apartment as Lisa Rene dialed 911. They raped her, stripped her, bludgeoned her with a shovel and buried her alive. The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana has filed suit seeking to end the solitary confinement of federal death row inmates, saying that practice results in severe psychological damage. Foster argued that he Biden administration should see moving Webster as modest step toward fulfilling President Biden’s campaign pledge to stop federal executions.


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