Fri, Aug 24, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Texas carries out 400th execution since reinstatement of capital punishment

AFP HUNTSVILLE , TEXAS

The state of Texas executed a convicted murderer by lethal injection on Wednesday, in its 400th execution since the US Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976.

Johnny Conner was pronounced dead at 6:20pm, eight minutes after he was injected with the lethal concoction.

"What is happening to me now is unjust and the system is broken," said the 32-year-old black male as he lay strapped to the execution gurney.

"Please forgive me," he said in his three-minute long final statement, addressing his victim's sister who sat among the sobbing witnesses.

Members of Conner's own family were also present.

"I bear witness there is no God but Allah and the Prophet Mohammed. Unto Allah, I belong, unto Allah I return. I love you," were his last words.

Conner was sentenced to die for killing Kathy Ann Nguyen, 49, by shooting her in the face at the counter at a gasoline station and grocery store where she worked, in a holdup on May 17, 1998. He never confessed to the crime.

Around 14 protesters with signs, candles and Catholic rosaries, gathered outside the Huntsville "Walls" unit where the execution took place to protest the death penalty.

According to a Texas crime survey taken this year, three quarters of Texans are in favor of capital punishment.

In 2005, a federal judge annulled Conner's death sentence because of shortcomings by his defense lawyers, who failed to summon any witnesses in his favor. But the ruling was overturned by a federal appeals court in January.

Earlier this month, the EU had urged Texas Governor Rick Perry to consider a moratorium for all executions scheduled by his state. Perry rejected the appeal.

"While we respect our friends in Europe, welcome their investment in our state and appreciate their interest in our laws, Texans are doing just fine governing Texas," Perry's spokesman, Robert Black, said in a statement.

"Texans long ago decided that the death penalty is a just and appropriate punishment for the most horrible crimes against our citizens," he said.

Many US states have put a moratorium on executions, citing faulty court trials and verdicts and persistent problems in the lethal injection method most common across the country. But Texas continues to push ahead with almost weekly executions.

Since the 1976 reinstatement, Texas has accounted for more than one-third of the total 1,091 executions carried out country-wide. This year, with other states now reticent, it will account for nearly two-thirds.

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