(Reuters) – After nearly 30 years on death row, Robert Mitchell Jennings is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection in Texas on Wednesday for killing a police officer during a botched robbery.
His latest appeal was rejected this week by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where he argued that inadequate legal representation had prevented him from taking full advantage of possible appeals with the U.S. Supreme Court, the anti-death penalty group, The Forgiveness Foundation, said.
Barring a last minute stay from the Supreme Court or the state governor, the 61-year-old Jennings would be the first person executed in Texas this year.
He was convicted for the July 1988 slaying of 24-year-old Elston Howard, a vice officer in the city of Houston, during a failed robbery of an adult bookstore, according to state prison records.
At the time of the robbery Jennings was on parole after serving 10 years of a 30-year sentence for another robbery.
Howard was in the bookstore serving an arrest warrant on a clerk for showing movies without a license, the Houston Chronicle and prison records say.
Jennings shot Howard twice, and then shot him a third time after the officer collapsed on the floor, prison records say.
A co-defendant, Robert Harvell, drove the getaway car. After Jennings got in the car and told Harvell that he shot a “security guard”, Harvell ordered him out. When Jennings refused, Harvell shot him in the hand, official records say.
Police later arrested Jennings at a hospital where he sought treatment for his wound. Harvell was arrested at his mother’s house and was later given a 55-year sentence for his role in the crime, prison records say.
Jennings, a high school drop-out, was given the death penalty.
The Forgiveness Foundation urged officials to spare Jennings, saying on its website that he had no lasting positive adult influence and began using drugs at a young age. It asked people to pray for the condemned man.
Jennings was previously given an execution date in 2016, but it was stayed for unspecified reasons, the Foundation said.
Barring a last-minute recommendation of a stay or clemency from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and also the governor, the execution will take place at the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville at 6 p.m. local time on Wednesday.
Texas prison officials executed 13 people in 2018, the most of any U.S. state.
A total of 25 people were executed in the United States last year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, which tracks people on death row in the country.
Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; editing by Darren Schuettler