Houston, TX – A judge has set the date for the execution of the oldest inmate on Texas’ death row, a cop killer who murdered Houston Police Officer James Irby during a traffic stop in 1990.
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced that 77-year-old Carl Wayne Buntion will be put to death on April 21 by lethal injection after serving 31 years on death row, KIAH reported.
“He shot a policeman in the head more than 30 years ago, and it is time that he be held accountable for his horrific crime,” Ogg said in a statement. “He robbed Officer Irby of his life and deprived the Irby family of a lifetime of memories with him; it is time for them to have justice.”
The shooting occurred on June 27, 1990 when Officer Irby stopped a car on Airline Drive and Lyerly Street for a traffic violation, KIAH reported.
Buntion was a passenger in the car, and when Officer Irby was talking to the driver, he got out of the vehicle and shot the police officer in the head.
After Officer Irby felt to the ground, Buntion shot him twice in the back, KIAH reported.
The officer sustained five gunshot wounds from Buntion’s .357 handgun and died, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page (ODMP).
Buntion fled the scene and fired at others nearby as he made his getaway, KIAH reported.
He was apprehended by police in a building not far away.
A jury convicted Buntion of capital murder and sentenced him to death in 1991, KIAH reported.
Buntion already had an extensive criminal record, including 13 prior felony convictions, before he murdered Officer Irby.
He became a prominent member of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas prison gang, Law & Crime reported.
The cop killer appealed his sentence because the jury wasn’t told of his difficult upbringing and Buntion was granted a resentencing in 2012.
He was sentenced to death by a jury for a second time in March of that year, according Law & Crime.
Buntion appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in 2016 claiming 27 different points of alleged error, but that court unanimously denied his request.
He appealed that verdict to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 but the justices declined to review the case, Law & Order reported.
Then Buntion began filing more appeals raising habeas corpus issues in state and federal courts.
All of those appeals were eventually denied and he finally appealed the denial from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to the U.S. Supreme Court, Law & Order reported.
The nation’s highest court declined to hear his case, again.
But U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a statement about the case “to underscore how this case illustrates the problems with the death penalty” and called Buntion a tragic example of the slow-winding appeals process for capital punishment.
Officer Irby’s family was relieved to see his killer finally being brought to justice so long, KPRC reported.
“I just found out this morning that Carl Buntion is being executed. It’s been 30 years. We’ve been waiting for this,” Officer Irby’s widow, Maura Irby, said.
“I wish James was here to see this. It is good to close the chapter on my husband’s murder. We can now put this away,” Maura Irby told KPRC.
Officer Irby’s daughter, Callie, was just one year old when her father was killed.
Her brother, Cody, was three years old when Officer Irby was murdered, KPRC reported.
The fallen hero’s children will be 31 and 33 years old, respectively, when their father’s killer is finally put to death in April.