AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Texas on Wednesday executed a man convicted of strangling a female impersonator in Houston in 2001 and then stealing the victim’s car, a prisons official said.
Richard Masterson, 43, was put to death by lethal injection at the state’s death chamber in Huntsville. Masterson was pronounced dead at 6:53 p.m., the official said.
“Sending me to a better place. I am all right with this, you have to live and die by the choices that we make,” Masterson was quoted by prisons officials as saying in his final statement.
The execution was the state’s first this year and its 532nd since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, the most of any state.
There were 13 executions last year in Texas, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, which monitors U.S. capital punishment.
Masterson’s lawyers had launched appeals with the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the execution, saying his due process rights were violated and Texas presented false and misleading evidence regarding the death of Darin Honeycutt, 35, who went by the stage name of Brandi Houston.
The Supreme Court denied the motions on Wednesday.
Pope Francis had been hoping for a reprieve, Catholic World News reported this week.
Masterson’s lawyers said there was no struggle, no murder and the death was accidental. They also questioned the credibility of the medical examiner who called the death a homicide.
“Petitioner has never denied that he restricted the complainant’s airflow, but only that it occurred during a consensual sexual encounter,” they said in a court filing.
Texas prosecutors said that after Masterson killed Honeycutt, he left the state in the victim’s car, which was found days later in Georgia being driven by a nephew of Masterson.
After fleeing to Florida, Masterson met a man in a bar frequented by gay men. The two went to the man’s apartment and Masterson placed him a headlock, trying to strangle him, prosecutors said.
The man passed out and when he regained consciousness, he found that his car and wallet were gone, authorities said.
A Florida police officer ran across the stolen car at a mobile home park, which led to Masterson’s arrest.
At his trial in 2002, Masterson, who has a long criminal record, did not admit to the murder.
He took the stand and said he was a danger to society, daring jurors to sentence him to death, which they did.
Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Sandra Maler and Peter Cooney