Bush Returns Home to Decide Life-or-Death Matter

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:25 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - "The question I'm going to ask is, 'Is she guilty of the crime,'" said Texas Governor George W Bush, who interrupted his campaigning to attend to an urgent matter back home - the impending execution of a woman who killed at least one of her five husbands.

Press reports note that 62-year-old Betty Lou Beets is a great-grandmother. But prosecutors say that paints a benign picture of the woman who's accused of killing two husbands for financial gain - and burying their bodies in the back yard. Beets was convicted of one murder. She was charged, but never tried, for the second.

On Wednesday, a federal judge denied a motion to stay Beets's execution. U.S. District Judge James Nowlin called the motion "yet another example of a prisoner attempting to delay execution just prior to the execution date." He also dismissed a lawsuit filed along with the motion - a lawsuit seeking to have Beets's case reviewed.

Nowlin's ruling came one day after the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles also rejected Beets's request for a reprieve.

The case has political implications, given the fact that Bush is running a close race for the Republican presidential nomination.

Since he became governor of Texas, 120 death row inmates have been executed in the state. They include born-again Christian Karla Faye Tucker, whose last-minute appeals Bush rejected - prompting an outcry from some religious groups and those opposed to the death penalty.

The Tucker case has returned to haunt Bush. In a recent interview with Talk magazine, Bush reportedly mimicked Tucker's pleas for clemency, although he has said the case affected him deeply.

Like Tucker, Beets also has strong support from anti-death penalty groups (Amnesty International USA) and from groups that fight domestic violence. Her supporters claim the jury that sentenced Beets to death was not told about the abuse inflicted on her by her husbands.

"What we're saying is, 'Give us the opportunity to present our evidence on battering that the jury didn't hear,'" Beets's attorney Joe Margulies is quoted as saying. Her supporters say Beets was damaged psychologically and received poor legal representation.

Beets has been in jail since 1985. Unless Bush intervenes, she will die by lethal injection Thursday at the state prison in Huntsville.

Bush's options include doing nothing and letting the execution proceed; or granting a 30-day stay of execution and asking the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to reexamine the case.

Bush's political opponents are seizing on the Beets case as a perfect chance for Bush to display his compassionate conservatism.

In his five years as Texas governor, Bush has stopped only one execution. He commuted one inmate's death penalty to life in prison because of questionable evidence against the man.

As Bush returned to Texas Wednesday night, the state carried out another execution. 38-year-old Cornelius Goss, convicted of clubbing a Dallas man to death during a robbery, died by lethal injection Wednesday night.

Goss apologized to his victim's family, telling them, "I don't think I can say anything that will help, but I hope through your God, you can forgive me. I'm definitely not the person now that I was then. I was sick, afraid, looking for love and friends in all the wrong ways."

Goss did not deny killing the 66-year-old man as he dozed in his easy chair in May 1987. At the time, Goss was on parole for an earlier burglary conviction.