Carl Blue's death was the first execution this year in the nation's most active death penalty state.
HUNTSVILLE, Texas — A man convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend by dousing her with gasoline and setting her on fire was executed in Texas on Thursday after the U.S. Supreme Court refused his final appeal.
Carl Blue, 48, was convicted of the September 1994 death of Carmen Richards-Sanders, 38, at her apartment in Bryan, about 100 miles northwest of Houston. Blue also tossed gasoline on a man in the apartment, but he survived and testified against Blue, who claimed the attack was a prank gone wrong.
In his final statements, he greeted the victim's daughter, Terrella Richards, as she entered the death chamber viewing area by telling her he loved her.
"I never meant to hurt your mama," Blue said while strapped to a gurney in the state's death chamber. "If I could change that, I would. ... I forgive you. I hope you can forgive me."
He also told his parents, watching through another window, that he loved them.
"I did something wrong, and now I'm paying the ultimate justice," he said. "It may be crooked justice, but I forgive those people."
"Hang on," he told them. "Cowboy up. I'm fixin' to ride, and Jesus is my vehicle."
He took about a dozen breaths as the lethal drug began taking effect, said he could "feel it," then slipped into unconsciousness. Blue was pronounced dead at 6:56 p.m.
Blue's death was the first execution this year in the nation's most active death penalty state.
Prosecutors said Blue walked 7 miles from his home to a convenience store and had been drinking malt liquor and smoking crack behind the store when he bought 50 cents' worth of gasoline he put in a "Big Gulp" cup. Court records said he waited outside Richards-Sanders' apartment, then rushed in when she opened the door, telling her: "I told you I was going to get you." He doused Richards-Sanders and ignited her.
She was trying to start her life over after the couple broke up months earlier, "and Carl wasn't part of that, and that was a problem for Carl," Shane Phelps, a prosecutor at Blue's punishment trial, said before the execution.
When Blue discovered Larence Williams at the apartment, he threw what was left of the gasoline on Williams, setting him on fire.
"He had only one true love in his life ... and here she was with another guy," recalled John Quinn, the lead defense attorney at Blue's 1995 trial.
Hours later, Blue turned himself in to police.
"When I went to knock, she snatched the door open and had a cigarette," Blue told police in a tape-recorded statement played at his trial. "I wasted gas on both of them. And she caught on fire, and he caught on fire, and I took off running. ... I was scared, man."
Blue's present appeals attorney, Michael Charlton, argued in appeals this week it was a conflict of interest for one of Quinn's co-counsels to represent him in appeals because he likely wouldn't contend his previous work was deficient. The conflict "resulted in valuable and worthwhile claims not being presented to any court," Charlton said.
The Texas Attorney General's office said the federal appeals were meritless because Blue had waived his right to a different lawyer, negating the conflict claim.
Five years after his conviction, his death sentence was among about a half-dozen in Texas overturned by a federal judge who ruled it was improper for a former state prison psychologist to testify that the black man's race could indicate a propensity for violence.
Blue again was sentenced to die at a second punishment trial in 2001.
At least 11 other prisoners are scheduled for lethal injection in the coming months in Texas, which executed 15 inmates last year.
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