HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) - A former Army recruiter was executed Tuesday evening in Texas for participating in the shooting death of a woman he and a buddy met 10 years ago at a Fort Worth bar.
Texas prison officials gave Cleve Foster a lethal injection at 6:43 p.m. CDT Tuesday, just hours after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to postpone his punishment for a fourth time. Once previously he was moments from being led to the death chamber before the justices intervened.
His attorneys argued he was innocent of the slaying of Nyaneur Pal, a 30-year-old immigrant from Sudan, that he had deficient legal help at his trial and in early stages of his appeals and his case deserved a closer look.
In the seconds before the single lethal dose of pentobarbital began, Foster expressed love to his family and to God.
"When I close my eyes, I"ll be with the father," he said. "God is everything. He's my life. Tonight I'll be with him."
He did not proclaim innocence or admit guilt. He did turn to relatives of his two victims, saying, "I don't know what you're going to be feeling tonight. I pray we'll all meet in heaven."
As the drugs began taking effect and while he was repeatedly saying he loved his family, he began snoring, then he stopped breathing.
The victim, known as Mary Pal, was shot in the head and dumped in a ditch on Valentine's Day 2002.
Three of the nine Supreme Court justices - Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor - would have stopped the punishment, the court indicated in its brief ruling less than two hours before Foster could be taken to the Texas death chamber.
By then, Foster already had been moved to a tiny cell steps away from the death chamber to await lethal injection, the ninth this year in Texas.
"I didn't do it," Foster, maintaining his innocence, told The Associated Press recently from death row. "And if it means I'm going to the gurney and the taking of my life, so be it."
Last year - in January, April and September - the justices stopped his scheduled punishment. Once, he was moments from being led to the death chamber.
Maurie Levin, a University of Texas law professor representing Foster, argued the Supreme Court needed to block it again in light of their ruling earlier this year in an Arizona case that said an inmate who received poor legal assistance should have his case reviewed. But lower courts have said it was a narrow ruling and doesn't apply to all states, Texas among them, because procedures on the books already address the problem.
One federal district judge ruled that even if the Arizona ruling could be applied to Texas, Foster's claims were meritless.
"No court has ever found that his underlying arguments have any merit despite Foster's repeated entreaties and trips through the criminal justice system," Stephen Hoffman, an assistant Texas attorney general, told the Supreme Court.