As scores of death penalty protesters chanted, clapped and sang Wednesday, Dallas County convicted murderer Kimberly McCarthy became the 500th Texas inmate executed
since the state re-activated the death penalty 31 years ago.
On the other side of the prison, a small group of capital punishment supporters silently watched as witnesses entered the red brick death house.
Inside the execution chamber, McCarthy, in standard prison garb and strapped down with leather belts, looked toward family and friends in the witness room.
"Thank you everybody," she told them. "This is not a loss; this is a win. You know where I am going. I am going home to be with Jesus. Keep the faith. I love you all."
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The lethal dose of pentobarbital was injected at 6:17 p.m., and McCarthy was declared dead 15 minutes later. She was executed for the July 1997 robbery and murder of her Lancaster neighbor, Dorothy Booth, 71
After the execution, Booth's daughter Donna Aldred told reporters her mother was "an incredible woman who was taken before her time."
"After almost 16 years," she said, "the finality of this event has allowed me to say goodbye to my mother. We are grateful to see justice fulfilled."
Randy Browning, a family friend, told those gathered beneath a blistering afternoon sun that the victim's family and friends would "accept closure in whatever form comes our way."
McCarthy, he said, never expressed remorse over killing Booth or the elderly victims of two other slayings prosecutors attributed to her.
As the time for the execution approached, protesters from Houston and Dallas gathered in a parking lot adjacent to the prison.
"It just seems so obviously wrong," said Kelly Epstein, an anti-death penalty advocate from Spring. "And we just keep doing this. It's part of our violent society — our love of guns, our love of violence. I think each person, even McCarthy, has value and worth."
Led by Houston activist Gloria Rubac, protesters – ultimately about a hundred – joined in a chant.
"Harris County says death row!" Rubac shouted.
"We say hell no!" came the response.
"Perry says death row!" Rubac prompted.
"We say hell no!"
"The death penalty is guilty and should be stopped right now!" Rubac shouted.
The Rev. Peter Johnson, of Dallas, told the crowd that "the death penalty is not only economically stupid. It says something about our moral fiber … The solution to murder cannot be murder."
Across the prison grounds, Houstonian Jordan Rhea said he supported McCarthy's execution because "If you take a life, justice needs to be done. It's an eye for an eye."
Another capital punishment supporter, Destiny Thompson, also of Houston, said she felt death was an appropriate punishment because of the brutality of McCarthy's crime. "It was violent, premeditated and inhumane," Thompson said.
McCarthy, who consistently refused to talk with the media while on death row, occasionally joked with prison staff while she whiled away her final day in a holding cell just a few feet from the execution chamber. But for the most part, prison spokesman John Hurt said, she was subdued and pensive.
The inmate was served a breakfast of oatmeal, fruit and chicken sandwiches at 1:48 a.m. Later in the day she read, packed her belongings and visited with her spiritual advisor, her ex-husband and a prison chaplain.
There was no question that McCarthy would be put to death after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Tuesday rejected her second appeal in as many days.
Her lawyer, Maurie Levin of the University of Texas Capital Punishment Clinic, had asked the court to review claims that African-Americans improperly were kept from serving on McCarthy's jury.
Three blacks were eliminated in the selection process, and only one ultimately served on the jury. McCarthy was African-American.
"The shameful errors that plague Ms. McCarthy's case – race bias, ineffective counsel, and courts unwilling to exercise meaningful oversight of the system – reflect problems that are central to the administration of the death penalty as a whole," Levin said after the court's decision.
McCarthy had no further recourse to the federal courts, her lawyer said.
Testimony in the trial indicated that McCarthy, addicted to crack cocaine, approached Booth ostensibly to borrow sugar, then repeatedly stabbed her. McCarthy severed her victim's finger to obtain a ring, which, along with other stolen items, was converted to cash to buy drugs.
During the punishment phase of McCarthy's trial, prosecutors told jurors that she also had killed two other women, both of them in their 80s. Both of those victims were related to or were close friends of her family.
In addition, McCarthy had been convicted of forgery, theft of property and prostitution.
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