Texas in­mate ex­e­cuted for prison guard’s death

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - NATION - By Michael Graczyk

HUNTSVILLE, TEXAS >> A Texas in­mate con­victed in the death of a prison guard was ex­e­cuted Thurs­day af­ter the U.S. Supreme Court re­jected his lawyers’ at­tempts to halt the pun­ish­ment. Robert Pruett was given a lethal in­jec­tion for the fa­tal at­tack on cor­rec­tions of­fi­cer Daniel Na­gle in De­cem­ber 1999 at a prison south­east of San An­to­nio. Na­gle was re­peat­edly stabbed with a tapewrapped metal rod, though an au­topsy showed he died from a heart at­tack that the as­sault caused. Pros­e­cu­tors have said the stab­bing stemmed from a dis­pute over a peanut but­ter sand­wich that Pruett wanted to take into a recre­ation yard against prison rules.

In his fi­nal state­ment be­fore be­ing put to death, the 38-year-old Pruett said he hurt a lot of peo­ple and a lot of peo­ple hurt him. He said he was sorry and held no grudges.

“I’ve had to learn lessons in life the hard way,” he said. “One day there won’t be a need to hurt peo­ple.”

He told his friends who were watch­ing the ex­e­cu­tion through a win­dow he loved them. “I’m ready to go,” Pruett said. “Nighty night, ev­ery­body. I’m done, war­den.” Pruett, who was al­ready serv­ing a 99-year sen­tence for a neigh­bor’s killing near Hous­ton when he was con­victed in Na­gle’s death, lost two ap­peals at the Supreme Court as his ex­e­cu­tion neared. He be­came the 20th pris­oner put to death this year in the U.S. and the sixth in Texas, which car­ries out the death penalty more than any other state. Texas ex­e­cuted seven in­mates last year.

About 100 cor­rec­tions of­fi­cers stood in for­ma­tion out­side the Huntsville Unit prison as Pruett was be­ing ex­e­cuted. They re­mained there as Na­gle’s rel­a­tives emerged from the prison af­ter wit­ness­ing the pun­ish­ment.

Pruett’s lawyers had asked the high court to re­view whether lower courts prop­erly de­nied a fed­eral civil rights law­suit that sought ad­di­tional DNA test­ing in his case. They also ques­tioned whether a pris­oner like Pruett, who claimed ac­tual in­no­cence in fed­eral court be­cause of newly dis­cov­ered ev­i­dence af­ter ex­haust­ing all other ap­peals, could be put to death. Pruett avoided ex­e­cu­tion in April 2015, hours be­fore he could have been taken to the death cham­ber, when a state judge halted his pun­ish­ment so ad­di­tional DNA test­ing could be con­ducted on the rod used to stab the 37-yearold Na­gle. The new tests showed no DNA on the tape but un­cov­ered DNA on the rod from an un­known fe­male who au­thor­i­ties said likely han­dled the shank dur­ing the ap­peals process af­ter the orig­i­nal tests in 2002.

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