World News

Texas to execute inmate convicted of killing prison boot factory supervisor

(Reuters) - Texas plans on Wednesday to execute a man convicted more than a decade ago of killing a prison boot factory supervisor by slitting his throat because he was upset he had to work as a janitor.

Travis Runnels, 46, is scheduled to die by lethal injection at the state’s death chamber in Huntsville at 6 p.m. CST (0000 GMT) for the murder of 40-year-old Stanley Wiley.

Runnels would be the 22nd inmate in the United States and the ninth in Texas to be executed in 2019. Texas has executed more prisoners than any other state since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

On Friday, Runnels’ attorneys filed a request with the Supreme Court, asking justices to halt the execution so arguments could be heard challenging the testimony of a prosecution witness who said Runnels would be a threat to prison society. As of Wednesday, the request was pending in the high court.

During his 2005 trial, Runnels pleaded guilty to capital murder. His defense attorney told the jury during closing arguments that Runnel did so as his “first act of contrition,” but jurors still sentenced him to death.

In the winter of 2003, Runnels worked as a janitor at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison in Potter County, where he was serving up to a 70-year sentence for convictions related to two burglaries and an aggravated robbery.

During his time in prison, Runnels was accused of assaulting guards, including throwing human waste at them on two occasions.

On the morning of Jan. 29, 2003, Runnels was upset he was not transferred to become a barber as he had requested, telling a fellow inmate “he was going to kill someone,” court records showed. Runnels also said he would kill Wiley if Wiley said anything to him that morning, the records said.

After telling two other inmates that morning of similar plans, Runnels came up from behind Wiley and cut his throat with a trimming knife. Wiley died hours later, according to court documents.

Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Peter Cooney