December 12, 2019 / 1:43 AM / 2 months ago

Texas executes inmate convicted of killing prison supervisor

(Reuters) - Texas on Wednesday executed an inmate convicted of killing a prison boot factory supervisor because he was upset he had to work as a janitor.

Travis Runnels, 46, was put to death by lethal injection at the state’s death chamber in Huntsville for the 2003 murder of 40-year-old Stanley Wiley, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said in a statement.

Runnels’ death was the final execution scheduled in the United States for 2019, bringing the total to 22 this year, according to the Catholic Mobilizing Network, which opposes the death penalty.

That was down from 25 executions in 2018, when the United States ranked seventh in the world for the number of people it put to death, behind Iraq and Egypt, according to Amnesty International.

Texas has executed more prisoners than any other state since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

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.

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 came up from behind Wiley and cut his throat with a trimming knife. Wiley died hours later, according to court documents.

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

Runnels was the ninth inmate executed in 2019 in Texas, which put to death three times as many inmates as any other U.S. state this year, according to Death Penalty Information Center data.

Two thirds of the world’s countries and 19 of the 50 U.S. states have abolished or discontinued the death penalty.

Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Chicago and Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Editing by Peter Cooney

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