COVID-19 stay: Execution halted for Texas death row inmate who killed family in 2009

In this undated photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is John Hummel. The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has prompted the top Texas appeals court to grant a 60-day execution stay for Hummel, condemned for killing his family and was to be put to death Wednesday, March 18, 2020, in the Texas death chamber. (Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP)
In this undated photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is John Hummel. The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has prompted the top Texas appeals court to grant a 60-day execution stay for Hummel, condemned for killing his family and was to be put to death Wednesday, March 18, 2020, in the Texas death chamber. (Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP) (Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP)

HOUSTON (AP) – The outbreak of the novel coronavirus prompted the top Texas criminal appeals court on Monday to stay for 60 days the scheduled execution of a man condemned for killing his family.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected all grounds of John William Hummel's appeal but said it would postpone the scheduled Wednesday execution “in light of the current health crisis and the enormous resources needed to address the execution.”

Hummel, 44, was convicted in 2011 of capital murder in the December 2009 fatal stabbing of his pregnant wife, Joy Hummel, 45, and fatal bludgeoning of his father-in-law, Clyde Bedford, 57, with a baseball bat.

Evidence showed he also used the bat to beat to death Jodi Hummel, his 5-year-old daughter, before he torched their home in Kennedale, a Fort Worth suburb. However, he was only convicted of capital murder in the deaths of his wife and father-in-law.

Prosecutors say he killed his family so he could woo a woman he had met at a convenience store.

One of the issues that Michael Mowla, Hummel’s attorney, had raised in his efforts to stop the execution was a concern that the process involved with putting Hummel to death “may itself assist in spreading COVID-19.”

A number of people either take part or witness the execution in the death chamber at the state penitentiary in Huntsville, including correctional officers, attorneys, physicians and family members or friends of the inmate and of the victims.

“Gathering all these people in one location presents a substantial risk of transmission of COVID-19/Coronavirus if anyone is infected,” Mowla wrote in a petition to the appeals court last week.