NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Both Tennessee and Texas are planning to execute two men Thursday who are the oldest people on death row in each of their states.
Tennessee plans to execute Oscar Franklin Smith, 72, by lethal injection for the 1989 brutal triple slaying of his estranged wife and her two teenage sons. He would be the first person executed in the state since the pandemic began.
Nearly 750 miles southwest, Carl Wayne Buntion, 78, is scheduled to be put to death in Texas by the same means for the 1990 murder of Houston Police Officer James Irby.
The men could be simultaneously killed. Smith’s execution is set for 7 p.m. CDT in Nashville while Buntion’s is for any time after 6 p.m. CDT in Huntsville, Texas.
No other executions are scheduled on the same day through at least 2026, state records show. There have only been five other occurrences of two executions scheduled on the same day since 2015.
Texas’s last execution took place in September 2021. The slowing of executions was notable in the state, which often tallies five times more executions annually than the next five states combined.
Tennessee’s last execution took place in February 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic. The state resumed capital punishment in 2018 after a nine-year break.
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Tennessee set to execute Oscar Franklin Smith
Smith was one of 47 people on death row in Tennessee on Wednesday. He was convicted of killing Judith Robirds Smith, 35, and her sons Chad Burnett, 16, and Jason Burnett, 13, inside a Nashville home on Oct. 1, 1989.
A former machinist, Smith was 40 when he shot his estranged wife in the neck then stabbed her several times. He shot her eldest son in the left eye and then in the upper chest and left torso. Her younger son was stabbed in the neck and abdomen, then gutted. All three victims were found with their throats slashed.
During the investigation, a bloody handprint — missing two fingers — was found on a bedsheet beside Robirds Smith’s body. Smith, who had recently filed for divorce from his wife, was missing two fingers.
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Before the killings, Smith was also engaged in a custody battle with her over their 3-year-old twin boys. Their mother had also filed multiple domestic violence charges against him in recent months — not only on her behalf but also for her teenage sons.
Smith has denied his involvement in the killings.
On Thursday, Smith will be delivered his chosen last meal: a double bacon cheeseburger, a deep-dish apple pie and vanilla bean ice cream, the Tennessee Department of Correction said.
Texas set to execute Carl Wayne Buntion
Buntion, the eldest person on Texas death row in the Lone Star state, was one of 199 people awaiting execution there Wednesday.
Buntion had been on parole for just six weeks when he fatally Irby, 37, during a June 1990 traffic stop. Buntion was a passenger in the car that Irby pulled over on a motorcycle.
Irby was shot in the head and back as he talked to the driver of the car.
Buntion had tried to get out of the car and leave and was ordered to return by the officer. Witnesses in another car saw the shooting and screamed, and Buntion opened fire on Irby and another 18-year Houston police officer, injuring them.
He fled on foot and eventually turned himself in to police.
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Buntion has never denied the shooting but has said it was in self-defense.
He was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in 1991, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals vacated his death sentence in 2009. A jury in 2012 returned him to death row following a new sentencing trial.
In October, the U.S. Supreme Court denied an appeal by Buntion’s lawyers.
Contributing: Molly Davis, the Tennessean; the Associated Press
Follow Natalie Neysa Alund on Twitter @nataliealund.