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The executed: A glance at 10 key Texas executions

Tuesday - 6/25/2013, 6:50pm  ET

MICHAEL GRACZYK
Associated Press

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) -- Texas is approaching its 500th lethal injection since the Supreme Court in 1976 cleared the way to resume executions in the United States. The execution total in Texas is by far the largest in the country. Here are eight noteworthy executions since that ruling:

-- Dec. 7, 1982: Charlie Brooks, No. 1, the first Texas inmate executed after the Supreme Court in 1976 reinstated the death penalty. Brooks also was the first U.S. prisoner to die by lethal injection. He abducted and killed a Fort Worth car lot employee during a test drive.

-- Dec. 13, 1988: Raymond Landry, No. 29, whose execution was interrupted when a needle containing the lethal chemicals popped out of his arm. Prison technicians re-inserted it and Landry died. It was the first of two such needle "blowouts" in the death chamber. Landry was condemned for the fatal shooting of Kosmas Prittis, a Houston restaurant owner, during a robbery.

-- Feb. 9, 1996: Leo Jenkins, No. 105, whose execution was the first in Texas where relatives or friends of the murder victims in the case were allowed to witness the punishment. Victims' rights supporters had pushed for the change after earlier executions in Texas allowed only friends or relatives of the prisoner to be present. Jenkins was convicted of killing Mark Kelley and his sister, Kara Voss, during a robbery at their family-owned pawn shop in Houston. Their parents were among those watching Jenkins die.

-- Feb. 3, 1998: Karla Tucker, No. 145, the first woman executed in Texas since the Civil War. Tucker's born-again-Christian conversion and persuasive TV interviews sparked debate over whether her redemption should justify commuting her sentence to life. Tucker was convicted of using a pickax to kill Jerry Lynn Dean during a burglary of his Houston apartment. A woman with Dean also was killed. On a tape recording played at her trial, Tucker said she had an orgasm each time she swung the ax into their bodies.

-- Nov. 17, 1998: Kenneth McDuff, No. 161, who was on death row in 1968 when the Supreme Court halted executions. His sentence was commuted to life and he was later paroled. A free man, McDuff was arrested for the abduction-murder of Melissa Ann Northrup of Waco and sentenced to death again. At the time of his execution, he was believed to be the only prisoner who was paroled from death row only to be returned there for another killing.

-- March 14, 2000: Ponchai Wilkerson, No. 210, who stunned prison officials when, after declining to make a final statement, he spit out a handcuff key he had hidden in his mouth. Wilkerson had been convicted of the fatal shooting of a Houston jewelry store employee, Chung Myong Yi, during a robbery.

-- June 22, 2000: Gary Graham, No. 222, whose loud claims of innocence and racism brought robed Ku Klux Klansmen and gun-toting Black Panthers to Huntsville. The two groups had a tense stand-off while Texas state troopers in riot gear watched. Graham ranted at length in the death chamber that he was being lynched. He had been convicted of killing an Arizona man, Bobby Lambert, during a robbery outside a Houston supermarket.

-- Feb. 17, 2004: Cameron Todd Willingham, No. 320, whose arson-murder case became more famous after his death when a new investigation cast doubt on the arson evidence that led to his conviction. Willingham maintained his innocence and berated his ex-wife in an obscenity-filled final statement. He was convicted of the deaths of his three young daughters, Amber, 2, and 1-year-old twins Karmon and Kameron.

-- June 27, 2006: Angel Resendiz, No. 368, a drifter known as the "Railroad Killer." Resendiz earned a spot on the FBI's Most Wanted list as he hopped aboard freight trains and committed indiscriminate and particularly gruesome killings in places near railroad tracks. He was convicted in the death of Claudia Benton, a Houston-area physician attacked at her home.

-- July 18, 2012: Yokamon Hearn, No. 483, the first Texas prisoner given a single dose of pentobarbital as the lethal injection drug. Drugs used in the previous three-drug process became unavailable after manufacturers bowed to pressure from death penalty opponents. The change in reaction among inmates given the single drug has been negligible. Hearn was convicted of the fatal abduction and robbery of Frank Meziere during a carjacking in Dallas County.


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