Huntsville, Texas — A 61-year-old Texas inmate was executed Wednesday night for killing a Houston police officer greater than three many years in the past. Robert Jennings acquired deadly injection for the July 1988 deadly capturing of Officer Elston Howard throughout a theft at an grownup bookstore that authorities stated was a part of against the law spree.
Jennings turned the primary inmate put to demise this 12 months each within the U.S. and in Texas, the nation’s busiest capital punishment state.
As witnesses filed into the demise chamber, Jennings requested a chaplain standing subsequent to him if he knew the title of the slain officer. The chaplain did not reply, and a jail official then instructed the warden to proceed with the punishment.
“To my family and friends, it was a pleasant journey,” Jennings stated in his closing assertion. “To the household of the police officer, I hope y’all discover peace. Be properly and be protected and attempt to take pleasure in life’s moments, as a result of we by no means get these again.”
Exterior the jail, greater than 100 officers stood vigil. And a bike membership that helps police revved their engines, with the roar from the bikes audible within the chamber.
Jennings was pronounced useless at 6:33 p.m., 18 minutes after the drug began. He turned the primary inmate put to demise this 12 months each within the U.S. and in Texas, the nation’s busiest capital punishment state.
His attorneys had requested the U.S. Supreme Court docket to delay his execution, arguing Jennings’ trial attorneys didn’t ask jurors to completely think about proof — together with particulars of his regret for the officer’s capturing and potential mind harm — that may have spared him a demise sentence.
Jennings had acquired an execution keep in 2016. However the excessive court docket and decrease appeals courts rejected his request to delay Wednesday’s execution and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles turned down Jennings’ request to commute his sentence.
A twice-convicted robber, Jennings had been on parole for about two months when prosecutors say he entered Mr. Peeper’s Bookstore with the intention of robbing the enterprise. Since being paroled, Jennings had gone on against the law spree, committing about 10 robberies, together with having already robbed the identical grownup bookstore 12 days earlier than Howard’s slaying.
Officer Howard, 24, was in the course of arresting the shop clerk for working a pornographic video arcade with out a allow when Jennings shot the officer twice within the head.
Howard, who had been carrying a jacket with the phrases “Houston Police” on it, staggered for a number of toes earlier than falling to the bottom, the place he was shot twice extra by Jennings. The clerk later testified the capturing was so fast, Howard by no means had an opportunity to unholster his gun.
Jennings was arrested hours later when he went to a Houston hospital after being shot within the hand by his confederate, who acquired indignant at Jennings for capturing the officer.
Joe Gamaldi, the president of the Houston Police Officers’ Union, stated Jennings has spent extra time on demise row than Howard was alive.
Howard “was an honorable man stuffed with integrity who did his job. He was completely top-of-the-line and he was simply taken fully too quickly by this animal who murdered him in chilly blood,” Gamaldi stated.
After his arrest, Jennings confessed to killing Howard, telling police in a tape-recorded assertion he was remorseful about what occurred and would “face no matter punishment (he had) coming.”
Edward Mallett, one in every of Jennings’ present appellate attorneys, stated the inmate’s trial attorneys didn’t current ample proof of his regret in addition to his historical past of mind harm, being abused as a baby and drug habit. He stated the trial attorneys additionally failed to supply an instruction to jurors that may have allowed them to offer ample weight to those elements of Jennings’ life once they deliberated.
Mallett stated a previous appellate lawyer additionally didn’t argue these points in earlier appeals.
“There has not been an enough presentation of his circumstances together with psychological sickness and psychological limitations,” Mallett stated.
Jennings’ trial in 1989 occurred simply because the Supreme Court docket issued a ruling that faulted Texas’ capital sentencing statute for not permitting jurors to contemplate proof supporting a sentence lower than demise.
The Texas Legislature modified the statute to handle the excessive court docket’s issues however that occurred after Jennings was convicted.
The Texas Lawyer Normal’s Workplace referred to as Jennings’ declare he had ineffective legal professionals at his trial and through earlier appeals “specious,” and stated appeals courts have beforehand rejected allegations his private historical past was not adequately investigated and offered at his trial.
“My hope is that on Wednesday (Howard’s household will get) the closure that they have been looking for 30 years,” Gamaldi stated.