BIRMINGHAM, Ala A man convicted of the 1994 execution-style shooting of a store clerk in Alabama was put to death on Thursday by lethal injection in the third U.S. execution carried out this week.
Derrick O'Neal Mason, 37, was pronounced dead at 6:49 p.m. local time at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Department of Corrections spokesman Grantt Culliver said. Mason had spent 16 years on death row.
The execution followed two high-profile lethal injections this week in Georgia and Texas. In a case that drew international attention, Troy Davis was put to death in Georgia on Wednesday for the murder of a police officer despite claims by his advocates that he may have been innocent.
Also on Wednesday, Texas executed a white supremacist convicted of helping to kill a black man by dragging him behind a truck, a case that sparked a wave of hate crime laws.
Mason was the fifth inmate executed in Alabama this year, and the 36th in the United States in 2011. He did not request a last meal and told prison staff he was fasting, Culliver said.
Mason was convicted of killing 25-year-old Angela Cagle during the attempted robbery of a convenience store in Huntsville, Alabama. Authorities said he forced Cagle to strip naked and shot her twice in the face at close range.
Mason apologized to the victim's family and thanked his own before the lethal drugs were administered. Four of Cagle's family members witnessed the execution.
"We'll miss Angie until we see her in heaven," her family said in a written statement. "We are grateful for the prayers and support we have received in these 17-1/2 years in dealing with having her ripped from our lives but never from our hearts."
JUDGE HAD ASKED GOVERNOR TO SPARE MASON
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley said on Wednesday he would not intervene to halt the execution. Earlier this month, the judge who sentenced Mason to death asked Bentley to spare the inmate's life.
In a September 8 letter, Judge Loyd Little Jr. did not dispute that Mason "terrorized the victim." But he wrote that if he had tried the case as a more experienced jurist, he would have sentenced Mason to life without the possibility of parole.
Neither Little nor the defense team had any experience in capital murder cases before the Mason trial, the judge said.
Little said that compared to other cases he presided over later, this one was not as "heinous, atrocious, or cruel."
The judge wrote that without that aggravating factor to consider, the jury "would have recommended life without parole and I would have followed that recommendation."
In court filings, appellate attorneys for Mason argued that his defense team omitted key mitigating factors during the sentencing phase, including his claim that he smoked a marijuana cigarette the night of the crime that, unknown to him, was laced with psychoactive substances.
In a court filing to the state Supreme Court on Wednesday, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange quoted the judge's sentencing remarks about the heinous nature of the crime.
Strange concluded that the judge's "change of heart is not a basis for this court to grant Mason's petition for a stay of execution."
(Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Greg McCune and Cynthia Johnston)