HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — Texas marked a solemn moment in criminal justice Wednesday evening, executing its 500th inmate since it resumed carrying out capital punishment in 1982.
Kimberly McCarthy, who was put to death for the murder of her 71-year-old neighbor, was also the first woman executed in the U.S. in nearly three years.
McCarthy, 52, was executed for the 1997 robbery, beating and fatal stabbing of retired college psychology professor Dorothy Booth. Booth had agreed to give McCarthy a cup of sugar before she was attacked with a butcher knife and candelabra at her home in Lancaster, about 15 miles south of Dallas. Authorities say McCarthy cut off Booth’s finger to remove her wedding ring.
It was among three slayings linked to McCarthy, a former nursing home therapist who became addicted to crack cocaine.
She was pronounced dead at 6:37 p.m. CDT, 20 minutes after Texas prison officials began administering a single lethal dose of pentobarbital.
In her final statement, McCarthy did not mention her status as the 500th inmate to be executed or acknowledge Booth or her family.
“This is not a loss. This is a win. You know where I’m going. I’m going home to be with Jesus. Keep the faith. I love you all,” she said, while looking toward her witnesses — her attorney, her spiritual adviser and her ex-husband, New Black Panther Party founder Aaron Michaels.
As the drug started to take effect, McCarthy said, “God is great,” before closing her eyes. She took hard, raspy, loud breaths for several seconds before becoming quiet. Then, her chest moved up and down for another minute before she stopped breathing.
Friends and family of Booth told reporters after the execution that they were not conscious that Texas had carried out its 500th execution since 1982. They said their only focus was on Booth’s brutal murder.
Five-hundred is “just a number. It doesn’t really mean very much,” said Randall Browning, who was Booth’s godson. “‘We’re just thinking about the justice that was promised to us by the state of Texas.”
Donna Aldred, Booth’s daughter, reading a statement to reporters, said that her mother “was an incredible person who was taken before her time.”
Texas has carried out nearly 40 percent of the more than 1,300 executions in the U.S. since the Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to resume in 1976. The state’s standing stems from its size as the nation’s second-most populous state as well as its tradition of tough justice for killers.
Texas prison officials said that for them, it was just another execution. “We simply carried out the court’s order,” said Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark.