Suzanne Basso is scheduled to be executed Wednesday in a rare case of a female death-row inmate in the US.
Suzanne Basso, 59, is convicted of torturing and killing mentally impaired Louis “Buddy” Musso near Houston, Texas, more than 15 years ago.
If she is lethally injected as scheduled, New York native Suzanne Basso would be only the 14th woman executed in the US since the Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to resume in 1976. By comparison, almost 1,400 men have been put to death.
Texas, America’s busiest death-penalty state, has executed four women and 505 men.
Suzanne Basso was sentenced to death for the 1998 killing of 59-year-old Louis “Buddy” Musso, whose battered and lacerated body was found in a ditch outside Houston. Prosecutors said Suzanne Basso had made herself the beneficiary of Louis Musso’s insurance policies and took over his Social Security benefits after luring him from New Jersey.
The 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals refused to halt the execution in a ruling Tuesday, meaning the Supreme Court is likely her last hope. A state judge ruled last month that Suzanne Basso had a history of fabricating stories about herself, seeking attention and manipulating psychological tests.
Leading up to her trial, Suzanne Basso’s court appearances were marked by claims of blindness and paralysis, and speech mimicking a little girl.
Suzanne Basso’s attorney, Winston Cochran Jr., had asked the appeals court to overturn the lower court’s finding that Basso was mentally competent to face execution. He argued that Suzanne Basso suffered from delusions and that the state law governing competency was unconstitutionally flawed.
Her lawyer said a degenerative disease left her paralyzed, but Suzanne Basso, who uses a wheelchair, blamed her paralysis on a jail beating years ago. At a competency hearing two months ago, she testified from a hospital bed wheeled into a Houston courtroom and talked about a snake smuggled into a prison hospital in an attempt to kill her.
She acknowledged lying about her background, including that she was a triplet, worked in the New York governor’s office and had a relationship with Nelson Rockefeller, the late vice president and New York governor.
Prosecutors said Louis Musso was living in New Jersey when he met either Suzanne Basso or her son at a church carnival, then moved to Jacinto City, east of Houston, with an offer of marriage. Evidence showed Suzanne Basso was already married but took over his benefits and insurance.
An autopsy showed Louis Musso had several broken bones, including a skull fracture and 14 broken ribs. His back was covered with cigarette burns, and bruises were found all over his body.
Suzanne Basso became a suspect after reporting him missing following the discovery of his body. Five others also were convicted, including Suzanne Basso’s son, but prosecutors only sought the death penalty for her.
Suzanne Basso is among about 60 women currently on death row in the US, making up about 2% of the 3,100 condemned inmates.
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