HUNTSVILLE, Texas – A man convicted in a 1992 murder case in which the troubled Houston police crime lab allegedly mishandled evidence was executed Tuesday evening despite last-minute legal battles and pleas from relatives of the murder victim that his life be spared.
U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas had blocked Dominique Green’s execution after his attorneys argued that boxes of improperly stored and catalogued evidence, kept by the crime lab and recently discovered, could contain information relevant to the case.
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The state attorney general’s office objected to the reprieve, which was then lifted by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to grant a last-minute stay.
“There was a lot of people that got me to this point and I can’t thank them all,” Green said in a barely audible voice. “I am not angry but I am disappointed that I was denied justice. But I am happy that I was afforded you all as family and friends. I love you all. … Please keep my memory alive.”
Green gasped slightly a couple of times as the lethal drugs took effect and was pronounced dead nine minutes later. The execution was the 18th this year in Texas and the fifth this month.
Green’s attorneys had argued their client should be kept alive until they could look through all the files. Harris County prosecutors said all evidence in the case had been accounted for.
The execution was opposed by relatives of the man Green was convicted of killing and by religious leaders, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu and the Rev. Joseph Fiorenza, the Roman Catholic bishop of the Galveston-Houston diocese.
“Texas is going to put a righteous person to die like an animal, putting him on a table, strapping him up, putting those needles in his arms, putting him to sleep,” the victim’s son, Andre Lastrapes-Luckett, said after meeting with Green in prison Monday.
Green was convicted of gunning down Andrew Lastrapes Jr. during a $50 robbery outside a Houston convenience store in October 1992. Green admitted being at the store at the time of the murder, but maintained he was not the gunman.
Green was arrested three days after the shooting when officers spotted a stolen car and ran it off a highway. According to testimony, a gun in the car was traced to the slaying.
Defense attorneys said problems at the Houston crime lab raised questions about the validity of some of the evidence, including the gun. The lab’s DNA section has been closed since a 2002 audit revealed possible contamination of evidence, inadequate training for analysts and insufficient documentation.