Texas executes inmate for 2007 fatal shooting of Dallas cop
HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — Texas on Wednesday executed an inmate convicted of fatally shooting a Dallas police officer nearly 16 years ago after a high-speed chase.
Wesley Ruiz, 43, received a lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas for the March 2007 murder of Dallas Police Senior Corporal Mark Nix.
“I want to apologize to Mark and the Nix family for taking him away from you,” Ruiz said as he lay strapped to a gurney in the death chamber. “I hope this brings you closure.”
He never looked at Nix’s relatives and friends, including the slain officer’s mother and sister, who watched through a window just meters from him. Ruiz thanked his family and friends for their support and urged his children to “stand tall and keep making me proud”.
“Do not worry about me. I’m ready to fly,” he said. “All right Warden, I’m ready to ride.”
As the lethal dose of the powerful sedative pentobarbital kicked in, he took two quick breaths and then began to snore. His 11th snore was his last and there was no further movement. Twenty-two minutes later at 6:41 p.m., he was pronounced dead.
Immediately prior to his testimony, a spiritual adviser standing near Ruiz said a short prayer. Outside the prison’s brick walls, a group of about a dozen pro-police motorcyclists sat on their bikes in a cold drizzle, revving their engines and almost drowning out their words to those inside.
Ruiz was the second inmate to be executed in Texas that year and the fourth in the United States. Seven more executions are scheduled for later this year in Texas, including one next week.
Nearly 16 years ago, Ruiz led officers on a high-speed chase after he was spotted driving a car that matched the description of a car used by a murder suspect. Authorities said Ruiz fired a shot at Nix when the officer attempted to smash the vehicle’s passenger window after the chase. The bullet hit Nix’s badge, shattering it and sending fragments down his neck, severing an artery. He later died in a hospital.
Nix, 33, a US Navy veteran of Operation Desert Storm, had been with the Dallas Force for almost seven years and was engaged to be married when he was killed.
The US Supreme Court earlier Wednesday denied an appeal by Ruiz’s lawyers to stop the execution. The defense had argued that the jury relied on “overtly racist” and “overtly anti-Hispanic stereotypes” in determining whether Ruiz posed a future threat, an element required to obtain a death sentence in Texas. Ruiz was Spanish.
In court documents filed with the Supreme Court late Tuesday, the Texas Attorney General’s Office said Ruiz’s allegations of jury bias were unfounded because a review of the allegations conducted by Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot last week no such bias arose. One of the jurors charged with bias by Ruiz’s attorneys told Creuzot, “I was not and am not prejudiced against anyone or any race,” according to the court filing.
Last week, US District Judge David Godbey in Dallas denied a motion to stay Ruiz’s execution, saying his lawyers could not prove that jurors made testimonies at his trial that showed “apparent racial bias.” On Monday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals also denied a similar request for a stay over allegations of racial bias. The court of appeals did not reason the claim, but dismissed it for procedural reasons.
Ruiz’s lawyers previously unsuccessfully argued that a prosecutor’s expert witness misrepresented at the 2008 trial that Ruiz was an ongoing threat. The alleged prosecutors of his lawyers knew about the false testimony, but remained silent about it. In his verdict, Godbey said the expert testimony was “possibly harmless” and that even if corrected, it would not have changed the jury’s decision to sentence Ruiz to death.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on Monday unanimously refused to commute Ruiz’s death sentence to a lesser sentence.
Ruiz was one of five Texas death row inmates who sued to block the state’s prison system from allegedly using expired and unsafe execution drugs. Although an Austin civil court judge tentatively agreed to the claims, the state’s two highest courts spoke permitted the execution of one of the inmates who had been part of the litigation on January 10.
Prison officials dispute the lawsuit’s allegations and say the state’s supply of execution drugs is safe.
At his trial, Ruiz testified that he feared for his life when he shot Nix in self-defense after the officer allegedly threatened to kill him. He also said he believes the police fired their guns first.
“I didn’t try to kill the officer. I was just trying to stop him,” Ruiz testified.
Ruiz also said he fled from police that day because he had illegal drugs in his car and was taking drugs.
Gabriel Luchiano, who knew Nix when he worked as a security guard, said the officer was always quick to respond when people needed help at the northwest Dallas supermarket where Luchiano worked.
He was a “guardian angel,” Luchiano said. “It still hurts no matter what. Nothing will close it.”
Lozano reported from Houston.
Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: twitter.com/juanlozano70