Texas executes 500th inmate Kimberly McCarthy
This photo taken May 27, 2008 file photo shows the gurney in Huntsville, Texas, where Texas' condemned are strapped down to receive a lethal dose of drugs. The first execution by lethal injection in Texas occurred in 1982. Since then the state has executed 499 prisoners. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File)
The Huntsville "Walls" Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Huntsville Unit, where the death chamber is located, is shown Wednesday, June 26, 2013, in Huntsville, Texas. Kimberly McCarthy, who would be the 500th person executed in Texas, is set to be executed Wednesday night, barring a reprieve. More than three decades after the Supreme Court cleared the way for the death penalty to resume in the United States, Texas prepares to execute its 500th inmate. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
This photo taken May 16, 2013, shows an electric chair on exhibit at the Texas Prison Museum in Huntsville, Texas. Between 1924 and 1964, 361 men died in the electric chair. Since the first execution by lethal injection in Texas in 1982 the state has executed 499 prisoners. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
A Texas Historical Commission marker stands outside the Huntsville "Walls" Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, where the death chamber is located, Wednesday, June 26, 2013, in Huntsville, Texas. Kimberly McCarthy, who would the 500th person executed in Texas, is set to be executed Wednesday night, barring a reprieve. More than three decades after the Supreme Court cleared the way for the death penalty to resume in the United States, Texas prepares to execute its 500th inmate. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
FILE - This undated file photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice shows Kimberly McCarthy, who is on death row in Texas for the 1997 killing of a neighbor during a robbery. McCarthy is scheduled to be executed on June 26 and would be the 500th in Texas since the death penalty was reinstated by the Supreme Court in 1976. (AP Photo/Texas Department of Criminal Justice, File)
Texas marked a solemn moment in criminal justice last night, executing its 500th inmate since it resumed carrying out capital punishment in 1982.
Kimberly McCarthy, who was put to death for the murder of her 71-year-old neighbor, was also the first woman executed in the United States in nearly three years.
McCarthy, 52, was executed for the 1997 robbery, beating and fatal stabbing of retired college psychology professor Dorothy Booth. Booth had agreed to give McCarthy a cup of sugar before she was attacked with a butcher knife and candelabra at her home in Lancaster, Texas, about 15 miles south of Dallas. Authorities said McCarthy cut off Booth’s finger to remove her wedding ring.
It was among three slayings linked to McCarthy, a former nursing home therapist who became addicted to crack cocaine.
She was pronounced dead at 6:37 p.m., 20 minutes after Texas prison officials began administering a single lethal dose of pentobarbital.
In her final statement, McCarthy did not mention her status as the 500th inmate to be executed or acknowledge the victim or the victim’s family.
“This is not a loss. This is a win. You know where I’m going. I’m going home to Jesus. I love you all,” she said, while looking toward her witnesses, including her ex-husband, her attorney and her spiritual adviser.
As the drug started to take effect, she said, “God is great,” before closing her eyes. She took hard, raspy, loud breaths for several seconds before becoming quiet. Her chest moved up and down for another minute before she stopped breathing.
Texas has carried out nearly 40 percent of the more than 1,300 executions in the U.S. since the Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to resume in 1976. The state’s standing stems from its size as the nation’s second-most populous state as well as its tradition of tough justice for killers.
With increased debate in recent years over wrongful convictions, some states have halted the practice entirely. However, 32 states have the death penalty on the books. Though Texas still carries out executions, lawmakers have provided more sentencing options for juries and courts have narrowed the cases for which death can be sought.
Executions of women are infrequent. McCarthy was the 13th woman put to death in the U.S. and the fourth in Texas since the high court’s 1976 ruling. In that same period, more than 1,300 male inmates have been executed nationwide, 496 of them in Texas. Virginia is a distant second, nearly 400 executions behind.
McCarthy’s lawyer, Maurie Levin, had asked the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to halt the punishment, arguing black jurors were improperly excluded from McCarthy’s trial by Dallas County prosecutors. McCarthy is black; her victim was white. All but one of her 12 jurors were white. The court denied McCarthy’s appeals, ruling her claims should have been raised previously.
Prosecutors said McCarthy stole Booth’s Mercedes and drove to Dallas, pawned the woman’s wedding ring she removed from the severed finger for $200 and went to a crack house to buy cocaine. Evidence also showed she used Booth’s credit cards at a liquor store.
McCarthy blamed the crime on two drug dealers, but there was no evidence either existed.
DNA evidence also tied McCarthy to the December 1988 slayings of 81-year-old Maggie Harding and 85-year-old Jettie Lucas. Harding was stabbed and beaten with a meat tenderizer, while Lucas was beaten with both sides of a claw hammer and stabbed.