Richard Masterson, 43, was pronounced dead at 6:53 p.m. on Jan. 20th, 25 minutes after being administered lethal injection drugs.

“I’m all right with this,” he said. “Sometimes you have to live and die by the choices you make. I made mine and I’m paying for it.”  He said he was being sent “to a better place.”

He told his loved ones that he loved them and mouthed them a kiss.  His relatives and friends watched the execution at the prison.  The victim’s friends and family did not attend the execution.  Masterson had claimed that the January 2001 strangulation death of Darin Shane Honeycutt was an accident and he had several appeals pending before courts including 4 with the U.S. Supreme Court, but efforts to get him a stay failed.

Texas is the nation’s busiest death penalty state carrying out 28% of last year’s executions.

Masterson testified that the death of Honeycutt, 35, was part of a sex act and was an accident.  The two had met in a bar earlier that evening.  Honeycutt was an entertainer who dressed as a woman for his performances and used the stage name Brandi Houston.

Masterson’s case is full of contradictions.  Court records show that Masterson confessed to police and also in a letter to the Texas Attorney General in 2012, “I meant to kill him.  It was no accident,” he wrote to Greg Abbott.  After the death, Masterson stole Honeycutt’s car and dumped it in Georgia. He was apprehended in Florida a week later with a different stolen car.  That car belonged to a Tampa man who testified that Masterson robbed him after a similar sex episode choking.

Masterson’s attorneys revealed that Harris County’s medical examiner had questionable credentials and that Masterson’s previous attorney was deficient.  Masterson had a drug addiction (since the age of 15) and without treatment, he went into severe withdrawal while in prison causing him to confess to police and Abbott, according to his attorneys.

In addition, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected an appeal based upon a new state law that keeps the supplier of the death penalty drug classified.

State attorneys successfully argued that Masterson’s lawyers had no new evidence.  They also argued that his attorneys were not deficient because he refused their advice and testified to the jury that he had met Honeycutt at a bar and that he died by accident during an autoerotic act.  Texas jurors had to agree that Masterson was a “future danger” in order to condemn him.

Masterson was executed despite the controversy surrounding the medical examiner, Dr. Paul Shrode, who performed the autopsy in the case and his confession/recantation cycle.

The expert witness for the state was unqualified, falsified his credentials, and gave false testimony in other capital cases, according to Masterson’s last appeal (which went undecided).

In 2010, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland commuted the death sentence of Richard Nields based upon concerns about Dr. Shrode’s assertion that the victim was strangled.  Shrode was subsequently fired as chief medical examiner in Texas after more discrepancies came to light about his resume and unsupported testimony in Ohio.  Shrode argued the same exact theory in the Ohio case and in the Masterson case.  He testified that bruising on the victim’s neck proved that they were strangled, but other examiners stated that there was no scientific evidence for that.

Sources:  Death Penalty Info  |  DPIC  |  NBCNews

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