SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Reuters) - Texas executed a man on Thursday for killing a convenience store worker and wounding two female employees after a 2002 robbery, state officials said.
Beunka Adams was the fifth person executed in Texas this year and the 17th person put to death in the United States in 2012.
Prosecutors said the murder happened after Adams and another man robbed the store in the small east Texas town of Rusk in September 2002.
Adams herded two female employees, Candace Driver and Nikki Dement, along with Kenneth Vandever, who was described as having mental disabilities and who did odd jobs around the convenience store, into Driver’s car, according to court documents.
He drove them to a field where he raped Dement, and then opened fire on all three victims with a shotgun.
Vandever was killed, while the two women managed to feign death, even though they said Adams fired shots at them again and held a lighter up to Dement’s face to make sure she was dead, according to court documents.
Adams, 29, said just before he was executed that he was “very sorry for everything that happened,” according to Jason Clark, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
“I am not the malicious person you think I am,” Adams said in front of witnesses including Vandever’s family members and one of the surviving victims, according to Clark. “I was real stupid back then. I made a great many mistakes. What happened was wrong. I was a kid in a grown man’s world.”
Prosecutors said Adams and his co-defendant, Richard Cobb, who was also sentenced to death, had robbed two other people at gunpoint before the convenience store incident.
Adams’ case focused attention on the question of whether low-income defendants receive adequate legal representation when they are on trial for their lives.
Adams filed a flurry of motions asking various courts to overturn his death sentence on the grounds that he received inadequate legal representation at his trial.
A federal court ordered his execution blocked earlier this month, but a federal appeals court overruled that decision, and ordered the execution to be carried out. The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday denied his request for a stay of execution.
Adams used what has become known as the “death is different” argument, claiming that people facing capital punishment are entitled to greater latitude in challenging evidence, the right to more competent legal counsel, and broader ability to challenge lower court rulings than inmates who are facing imprisonment only.
The “death is different” argument was rejected by the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, citing several U.S. Supreme Court precedents.
Texas has executed more than four times as many people as any other state since the United States reinstated the death penalty in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Texas executed 13 people in 2011.
Additional reporting by Corrie MacLaggan; Editing by Greg McCune and Eric Beech