HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) – A Texas prisoner was executed Tuesday evening for the fatal shooting of a San Antonio convenience store owner after courts turned down appeals that the state parole board improperly rejected the inmate’s clemency request because he’s black.
Christopher Young, 34, never denied the slaying, which was recorded on a store surveillance camera, but insisted he was drunk and didn’t intend to kill 53-year-old Hasmukh "Hash" Patel during an attempted robbery after drinking nearly two dozen beers and then doing cocaine that Sunday morning, Nov. 21, 2004.
Asked by the warden if he had a final statement, Young said he wanted to make sure his victim’s family knew he loved them "like they love me."
"Make sure the kids in the world know I’m being executed and those kids I’ve been mentoring keep this fight going," he added.
As the lethal dose of the sedative pentobarbital began taking effect, he twice used an obscenity to say he could taste it and that it was burning.
"I taste it in my throat," he said.
As he slipped into unconsciousness, he said something unintelligible and began taking shallow breaths. He stopped moving within about 30 seconds and was pronounced dead at 6:38 p.m. CDT.
Twenty-five minutes had passed since he was first given the lethal drug.
Young became the eighth prisoner put to death this year in Texas, one more than all of 2017 in the nation’s busiest capital punishment state.
Young’s attorneys sued the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles after the panel last week rejected a clemency plea where they argued Young was "no longer the young man he was when he arrived" on death row, that he was "truly remorseful" and that Patel’s son did not wish the execution to take place.
In their federal civil rights suit, Young’s lawyers argued a white Texas inmate, Thomas Whitaker, received a rare commutation earlier this year as his execution was imminent for the slaying of his mother and brother. Young is black and race improperly "appears to be the driving force in this case," attorney David Dow said in the appeal that sought to delay the punishment.
A federal judge in Houston dismissed the lawsuit and refused to stop the execution, then hours later Tuesday the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals turned down an appeal of that ruling. Young’s attorneys did not take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Stephen Hoffman, an assistant Texas attorney general, said the lawsuit was a delay tactic, improper, speculative and "legally and factually deficient."
Young and his lawyers argued he no longer was a Bloods street gang member, had matured in prison and hoped to show others "look where you can end up."
"I didn’t know about death row," Young told The Associated Press recently from prison. "It needs to be talked about. You’ve got a whole new generation. You’ve got to stop this, not just executions but the crimes. Nobody’s talking to these kids. I can’t bring Hash back but I can do something to make sure there’s no more Hashes."
According to court documents, Young sexually assaulted a woman in her apartment with her three young children present, then forced her to drive off with him in her car. She managed to escape, and records show he drove one block to the Mini Food Mart where owner Patel was shot. He was arrested 90 minutes later after picking up a prostitute and driving to a crack house where the stolen car was parked outside and spotted by San Antonio police.
From prison, he denied the sexual assault, although court records said DNA tests confirmed the attack. He said he shot Patel in the hand and the bullet careened into Patel’s chest, killing him. The surveillance camera recorded both video and audio of the shooting and two customers in the parking lot identified Young as the shooter.
Mitesh Patel, whose father was killed by Young, said he supported Young’s clemency bid because "nothing positive comes from his execution" and carrying out the punishment would leave Young’s three teenage daughters without a father.
The victim’s son met privately with Young in prison Monday.
"I don’t agree with the state’s choice to execute him," he told the San Antonio Express-News after the meeting.
Young said the shooting stemmed from a dispute he believed involved the mother of one of his three children and the store owner. The woman, however, lied to him, he said.
"He was not a bad dude at all," Young said. "I was drunk. We knew the victim. The whole confrontation went wrong. I thought he was reaching for a gun and I shot."
Young said he excelled at chess and violin, cello and bass but "all that stopped" and he joined the Bloods when he was about 8 after his father was shot and killed in a robbery.
At least seven other Texas inmates have execution dates in the coming months.
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