TEXAS has marked a grim milestone in the state’s criminal justice system, executing its 500th inmate since it resumed carrying out capital punishment in 1982.
Kimberly McCarthy, who was put to death on Wednesday evening for the murder of her 71-year-old neighbour, was also the first woman executed in the US in nearly three years.
McCarthy, 52, was executed for the 1997 robbery and murder of retired psychology professor Dorothy Booth. Booth had agreed to give McCarthy a cup of sugar before she was attacked with a butcher’s knife and candelabra at her home, south of Dallas.
Authorities say McCarthy cut off Booth’s finger to remove her wedding ring.
It was among three killings linked to McCarthy, a former nursing home therapist who became addicted to crack cocaine.
She was pronounced dead at 6:37 pm local time, 20 minutes after Texas prison officials began administering a single lethal dose of pentobarbital.
In her final statement, McCarthy did not mention her status as the 500th inmate to be executed or acknowledge Booth or her family.
“This is not a loss. This is a win. You know where I’m going. I’m going home to be with Jesus. Keep the faith. I love you all,” she said, while looking toward her witnesses – her lawyer, her spiritual adviser and her former husband, New Black Panther Party founder Aaron Michaels.
As the drug started to take effect, McCarthy said, “God is great,” before closing her eyes..
Friends and family of Booth told reporters afterwards that they were not aware it was Texas’s 500th execution since 1982. They said their only focus was on Booth’s murder.
Five-hundred is “just a number. It doesn’t really mean very much,” said Randall Browning, who was Booth’s godson. “`We’re just thinking about the justice that was promised to us by the state of Texas.”
Texas has carried out nearly 40 per cent of the more than 1,300 executions in the US since the Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to resume in 1976. The state’s standing stems from its size as the second-most populous state as well as its tradition of tough justice for killers.
With increased debate in recent years over miscarriages of justice, some US states have halted executions entirely. However, 32 states have the death penalty on the books. Though Texas still carries out executions, state legislators have provided more sentencing options for juries and courts have narrowed the number of cases for which death can be sought.
In a statement, Maurie Levin, McCarthy’s lawyer, said “500 is 500 too many. I look forward to the day when we recognise that this pointless and barbaric practice, imposed almost exclusively on those who are poor and disproportionately on people of colour, has no place in a civilised society.”
Such executions of women are infrequent. McCarthy was the 13th put to death in the US and the fourth in Texas, the nation’s busiest death penalty state, since 1976. In that time, more than 1,300 male inmates have been executed nationwide, 496 in Texas. Virginia is a distant second, nearly 400 behind.
Levin had asked the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to halt the punishment, arguing black jurors were improperly excluded from McCarthy’s trial by Dallas County prosecutors. McCarthy is black; her victim white. All but one of her 12 jurors were white. The court denied McCarthy’s appeals.