Texas Man’s Execution Will Be First In The US For 2019

Neetu Chandak | Education and Politics Reporter

A Texas man who killed a police officer 30 years ago is scheduled to be executed Wednesday in the first execution in the U.S. for 2019.

Robert Jennings, 61, is expected to be put to death via lethal injection Wednesday evening. His attorneys, however, argue that jurors did not have a chance to consider Jennings’s troubled childhood and regret for shooting 24-year-old Houston officer Elston Howard, which they believe could have saved Jennings from the death sentence. Jennings’s attorneys are requesting the U.S. Supreme Court to delay the execution, The Associated Press reported Wednesday.

“There has not been an adequate presentation of his circumstances including mental illness and mental limitations,” attorney Edward Mallett said, according to The AP.

The Texas Attorney General’s Office finds the claim that Jennings had ineffective lawyers as “specious,” The AP reported.

The shooting occurred in July 1988 when Jennings was planning to steal from adult bookstore, Mr. Peeper’s Bookstore, according to The AP.

Howard was trying to arrest the store’s owner for running a pornographic video arcade without proper license, but was shot by Jennings multiple times, according to The AP. A clerk said Howard did not have the chance to take out his gun because the shooting occurred so fast.

“He was absolutely one of the best and he was just taken entirely too soon by this animal who murdered him in cold blood,” Houston Police Officers’ Union President Joe Gamaldi said, The AP reported.

Jennings was taken to a hospital after getting shot in the hand by his accomplice, who got upset over Jennings shooting Howard. Jennings was arrested at the hospital, The AP reported. (RELATED: California Has The Largest Death Row Population In The Country)

Mr. Peeper’s Bookstore had already been robbed by Jennings 12 days before Howard was killed, according to The AP. Jennings had two robbery convictions and committed 10 robberies, including the bookstore, while on parole.

Jennings expressed remorse for killing Howard and would “face whatever punishment” was fit in a tape-recorded statement, The AP reported. He was scheduled to be executed in 2016, but was given an execution stay that delayed it.

A psychologist found Jennings had an IQ of 65 and mild brain dysfunction in 1978, the Houston Chronicle reported.

The longest time a person has remained on death row prior to execution in Texas was 11,575 days, or 31 years.  The state adopted execution through lethal injection in 1977, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

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