The death chamber at the state penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas ( Image: X80001)
The death chamber at the state penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas ( Image: X80001)

The world’s oldest death row inmate has been put to death at a US prison for murdering a police officer.

Carl Wayne Buntion, 78, murdered police officer James Irby in 1990 and was sentenced to execution, spending three decades waiting on death row amid several unsuccessful appeals.

Lawyers for Buntion had tried unsuccessfully to stop his date with a lethal injection by arguing the punishment was “cruel and unusual”.

Despite those pleas, he was executed at about 7 pm local time on Thursday night at a prison in Texas.

In a final statement shared by local media reporters, he said he had remorse for the killing and wrote: “I am ready to go.”

Buntion was found guilty of shooting and killing Houston police officer James Irby, 37, in 1990.

The killer, who had an extensive criminal record already, shot the officer when he and a friend were pulled over for a minor traffic offence.

Buntion, the passenger, exited the car while the driver and officer were talking and shot him once in the head and twice in the back before being apprehended.

He was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in 1991.

Records showed he was in ill health with a list of medical conditions, including hepatitis C, cirrhosis and a chronic liver disease.

Wheelchair-bound Buntion also had to be housed in a ground floor cell owing to severe vertigo.

There had been several unsuccessful legal efforts to stop the death sentence over the years.

In 2009 it was deemed “unconstitutional” as jurors were not allowed to hear mitigating evidence and it was vacated.

Then in 2012 in a retrial he was again sentenced to death with a later appeal denied.

Buntion’s lawyers appealed this decision in October 2021, but this was denied by the US Supreme Court.

A petition for clemency previously said: “Mr. Buntion is a frail, elderly man who requires specialised care to perform basic functions.

“He is not a threat to anyone in prison and will not be a threat to anyone in prison if his sentence is reduced to a lesser penalty.

“During the 31 years he has been incarcerated under a sentence of death, he has been cited for only three disciplinary infractions, and he has not been cited for any infraction whatsoever for the last twenty-three years.”

Earlier, news of his impending death was welcomed by the family of officer Irby, including his widow Maura Irby.

Speaking to KPRC 2 , she said the family can now move forward, saying: “I just found out this morning that Carl Buntion is being executed. It’s been 30 years. We’ve been waiting for this.

“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.”