The Buffalo Will Not Die This Week

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Buffalo Chambers will not die on Thursday, thanks to a Supreme Court justice.

Many years ago, Mark Donald and I wrote about a man named Ronald "Buffalo" Chambers for the paper version of Unfair Park. I thought this item, from December 13, would be the last (or next-to-last) thing I would write about Chambers; the state had set Janauary 25, this Thursday, as the date upon which he'd be executed for a crime he committed when he was 20 years old. On April 10, 1975, Chambers and another man kidnapped 22-year-old Texas Tech student Mike McMahan and 20-year-old Deia Sutton, drove them to the Trinity River bottoms and shot both in the head. That act alone did not kill them. Chambers beat the two -- McMahan, finally, to death. Sutton survived and testified against Chambers.

Chambers has escape death twice before, as his convictions have been overturned for various reasons -- once, when the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that a state-appointed psychiatrist who questioned Chambers didn't tell him whatever he said would be used against him and again when the Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors kept African-Americans off the jury. Now, he escapes death a third time: The Associated Press has just reported that "his punishment was delayed indefinitely by an order from Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia." Reports the AP: "Chambers' attorneys had asked the high court to postpone his execution until they rule on another Texas capital case that raises questions about whether jurors were properly instructed to consider mitigating factors when deciding a death sentence. Arguments in those three related cases were held last week in Washington."

For the time being, he will remain the Dean of Death Row. --Robert Wilonsky


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