Wesley Ruiz, a 43-year-old Texas man who was sentenced to death for the 2007 killing of a police officer, has been executed by lethal injection.
Ruiz was convicted in 2008 of murdering 33-year-old officer Mark Nix following a high-speed car chase the previous year. Over more than 14 years of incarceration, he had filed a number of failed appeals to his conviction and sentence.
He died at the state penitentiary in Huntsville at 6:41 p.m. local time on Wednesday, according to The Texas Tribune. The execution came shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court issued an unsigned order to deny a last-second appeal.
“I would like to apologize to Mark and the Nix family,” Ruiz said in his final statement, according to the Tribune. “I hope this brings you closure. I want to say to all my family and friends around the world thank you for supporting me. To my kids, stand tall and continue to make me proud, don’t worry about me, I’m going to be OK.”
Last week, a judge denied Ruiz’s claim that his constitutional rights were violated due to alleged false testimony from a trial witness, according to The Dallas Morning News. Ruiz, who was Hispanic, also reportedly claimed that some jury members were racially biased against him.
In addition, Ruiz was one of three Texas death row inmates who sued the state in early January over plans to carry out executions using an allegedly expired and unsafe supply of pentobarbital.
On January 10, District Judge Catherine Mauzy ruled that the drugs were likely expired and ordered a temporary injunction to halt the execution of Ruiz, as well as fellow death row inmates John Balentine and Robert Fratta, the latter of whom was scheduled to die later that day.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and Texas Supreme Court quickly overturned Mauzy’s ruling, although on the basis that the judge lacked standing rather than claiming her assessment was incorrect. Fratta’s execution was ultimately carried out as scheduled on January 10.
Ruiz was the second person to be put to death in Texas in 2023 and the fourth in the U.S., according to the Associated Press. The Lone Star State is set to execute seven additional prisoners this year.
Balentine had been scheduled to be the next Texas death row prisoner to be executed, before a decision from a judge paused his February 8 execution date on Wednesday.
Ruiz admitted to shooting Nix but claimed that he did so in self-defense, maintaining that he wrongly believed the officer had fired at him after the chase ended and he was hiding in his car.
The high-speed chase began when the car that Ruiz was driving was erroneously identified as being involved in a recent homicide that authorities later concluded he played no part in, The Dallas Morning News reported.
The pursuit ended when Ruiz lost control of his vehicle and crashed near a house. Nix was fatally shot as he was attempting to bash in Ruiz’s car window with a baton. Other officers responded by shooting at Ruiz, who was hit nine times.
The group Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (TCADP) recently urged the state to grant clemency to Ruiz, saying in a statement that the condemned man was “deeply remorseful for his crime and has worked to better himself during his 14 years on death row.”
TCADP also argued that jurors “did not hear any information about the horrific life circumstances he endured as a child,” which they said included molestation, parental neglect and abandonment, physical, psychological, and emotional abuse, homelessness and brain damage.
Newsweek has reached out to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for comment.
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