Texas carries out 500th execution since 1982

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) - Texas marked a solemn moment in criminal justice, executing its 500th inmate since it resumed carrying out capital punishment in 1982. The state by far leads the United States (US) in its number of executions.

Kimberly McCarthy was put to death by lethal injection for the murder of her 71-year-old neighbour. She was the first woman executed in the US in nearly three years.

McCarthy, 52, was executed for the 1997 robbery, beating and fatal stabbing of retired professor Dorothy Booth. Ms Booth had agreed to give McCarthy a cup of sugar before she was attacked with a butcher knife and candelabra at her home. Authorities say McCarthy cut off Ms 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.

McCarthy was pronounced dead 20 minutes after Texas prison officials began administering a single lethal dose of pentobarbital.

Texas has carried out nearly 40 per cent of the more than 1,300 executions in the US 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 over wrongful convictions, some states have halted the practice entirely. But 32 states have the death penalty on the books. Texas 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 US since 1976. 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, Ms Maurie Levin, had argued that black jurors were improperly excluded from McCarthy's trial by prosecutors. McCarthy is black; her victim white. All but one of her 12 jurors were white. The court denied McCarthy's appeals, ruling her claims should have been raised previously.

McCarthy blamed the crime on two drug dealers, but there was no evidence either existed.

McCarthy was the eighth Texas prisoner executed this year. She was among 10 women on death row in Texas, but the only one with an execution date. Seven male Texas prisoners have executions scheduled in the coming months.

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