A San Antonio man convicted of murder and robbery was executed in Texas on Wednesday, marking the third execution in the state this year.
Ray Jasper, an aspiring rap musician, has not denied his involvement in the planned robbery and murder of 33-year-old recording studio owner David Alejandro, but during and after his trial, he has maintained he was not actually responsible for the man’s death.
As a result, Jasper has stated his execution should not go forward, and the Associated Press reported his lawyers argued it should be halted in order to determine whether or not prosecutors improperly removed a black man from serving on the jury. This appeal was rejected on Tuesday, setting the stage for a lethal injection procedure Wednesday evening.
Jasper was pronounced dead at 6:31 CDT after receiving a lethal injection inside the state's death chamber in Huntsville, the Texas Department of Criminal justice told media outlets.
The crime that first landed Jasper in trouble occurred in 1998, when Jasper and two accomplices reportedly attacked Alejandro after recording in his studio. According to prosecutors, Jasper used a knife to slit Alejandro’s throat from ear to ear, then held the man as an accomplice named Steven Russell stabbed him more than 20 times.
Evidence and testimony from the trial showed Jasper purchased large bags intended to carry stolen equipment from the studio, and that up to $30,000 worth of items were taken. Jasper’s girlfriend also testified that he told her of his plans.
In two letters written to the Gawker website, Jasper insisted he was not guilty of murder, since it was the stab wounds inflicted by Russell that were ultimately responsible for Alejandro’s death.
“I'm on death row and yet I didn't commit the act of murder,” he wrote to Gawker. “The facts are undisputed that I did not kill the victim,” yet under Texas law Jasper said, “I’m criminally responsible for someone else’s conduct.”
In a previous letter, Jasper also stated that prisoners were treated like slaves under the 13th Amendment, and expressed anger with placing inmates in isolation for being unwilling to “make money for the government.”
“We look at slavery like its a thing of the past, but you can go to any penitentiary in this nation and you will see slavery,” he wrote. “People need to know that when they sit on trial juries and sentence people to prison time that they are sentencing them to slavery.”
Unmoved by Jasper’s words, one of the prosecutors in charge of the case – Jeff Mulliner – told the AP there was no doubt the man organized what to him was the most premeditated murder he’d ever seen.
"Anybody on the planet that looks, presently or past, at the photos of David Alejandro's corpse and saw the gash to his neck, it would be impossible to cut someone that deep and that badly across the entire path of the neck without having specific intent to cause his death," he said. "He just didn't quite get it done."
While Texas prepared to execute Jasper, two similar procedures were delayed in Oklahoma due to the fact that the state has not been able to obtain the proper drugs necessary for a lethal injection. By rescheduling the dates, the state hopes to find the proper drugs to carry out the sentences.
The move comes after two inmates had asked for a stay in their executions, pending more information about the kind of drugs Oklahoma intended to use. The Court of Criminal Appeals, however, declared their request unnecessary, since the state correctional department did not have the necessary drugs required to perform an execution.
"The state has pursued every feasible option to obtain the necessary execution drugs. This has been nothing short of a Herculean effort," state attorneys wrote, according to NBC. "Sadly, this effort has (so far) been unsuccessful."
Efforts by numerous states to acquire drugs such as pentobarbital have become increasingly difficult, since many of the drug’s suppliers are European companies with a moral objection against the capital punishment. Most have banned sales of sedatives and other drugs to correctional departments, forcing them to seek out other sources. Some states have turned to compounding pharmacies, which are not generally regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
These attempts have been met with mixed results, as in the case of convicted killer Dennis McGuire, who was executed in Ohio earlier this year. It took about 25 minutes for McGuire to die after being injected with an untested mixture of the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone, with reports suggesting he struggled and gasped for air during the time.
A former attorney for one of the Oklahoma inmates welcomed the delay, saying, "We hope that no execution will go forward until we are able to obtain full information about how Oklahoma intends to conduct those executions, including the source of its execution drugs."
Meanwhile, state attorney general Scott Pruitt criticized the delay, saying that instead of being based in fact, the delay is “about outside forces employing threats, intimidation and coercion to keep the state of Oklahoma from imposing the punishment handed down for these heinous crimes."