HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — A man convicted of gunning down his former common-law wife and her brother more than two decades ago in Houston was put to death by lethal injection Wednesday evening.
Willie Trottie's execution was carried out about 90 minutes after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his last-day appeals. He had contended he had poor legal help at his trial and questioned the potency of the execution drug.
Trottie repeatedly expressed love to witnesses — both people he selected and relatives of his victims, Barbara and Titus Canada — and several times asked for forgiveness as he was about to be executed.
"I love you all," he said. "I'm going home, going to be with the Lord. … Find it in your hearts to forgive me. I'm sorry."
As the lethal dose of the powerful sedative pentobarbital took effect, he closed his eyes and breathed quietly. After about eight breaths, he opened his mouth to exhale, then closed it. There was no further movement.
Trottie, 45, was pronounced dead at 6:35 p.m. CDT — 22 minutes after the injection began.
His was the eighth lethal injection this year in Texas, and the first in the nation's most active death penalty state since recent executions went awry in Oklahoma and Arizona. Unlike those states, where a drug combination is used for capital punishment, Texas uses a single lethal dose of pentobarbital.
He became the second death row inmate executed in the U.S. on Wednesday. Earl Ringo Jr. received a lethal injection just after midnight in Missouri for a 1998 robbery and double murder.
After Trottie's execution, relatives of his victims released a statement saying they were relieved justice was "finally served all these years later."
"It's time for our family to end this chapter and be able to move on," the statement read.
Trottie had acknowledged shooting Barbara Canada, 24, and her brother, Titus Canada, 28, at their parents' home in Houston. But Trottie said the May 1993 shootings were accidental and in self-defense, and not worthy of a death sentence.
Prosecutors said he had threatened to kill Canada, who had a protective order against him, if she didn't return to him. They said he carried out that threat when barging into the house and opening fire.
Trottie's attorneys had argued to the Supreme Court that lawyers at his 1993 trial were deficient for not addressing his self-defense theory and for failing to produce sufficient testimony about Trottie's abusive childhood with an alcoholic mother.
State attorneys scoffed at the argument, saying Trottie's self-defense claim was absurd and had been rejected in earlier appeals.
Trottie's attorneys also contended the dose of pentobarbital for his lethal injection was past its effectiveness date and could subject him to unconstitutional "tortuous" pain.
The state responded that the drug doesn't expire until the end of the month and that tests showed proper potency. They argued the appeal seeking details of the drug was merely another attempt to force prison officials to disclose the compounding pharmacy that provides the execution drugs, something the courts repeatedly have refused to order.
Investigators have said that Trottie called his ex-wife May 3, 1993, and renewed an earlier death threat. They said he then showed up at her parents' house and opened fire with a semi-automatic pistol.
Titus Canada also had a gun and wounded Trottie, who then cornered his ex-wife in a bedroom and shot her 11 times before returning to the wounded brother and shooting him twice in the back of the head, according to investigators.
Trottie drove himself to a hospital, where police arrested him.