Wesley Ruiz, an inmate on Texas' death row, was executed by lethal injection Wednesday for the 2007 killing of a Dallas police corporal after the U.S. Supreme court declined to intervene in his case, as Axios reports.
The execution of the 43-year-old prisoner also came in the midst of a broader fight over the methods used to put inmates to death in the Lone Star state.
Ruiz's fate stemmed from his involvement in a high-speed police chase on which he led officers after they attempted to apprehend him for driving a car matching the description of one driven by a murder suspect.
Following the chase, Police Corporal Mark Nix sought to break the passenger-side window of the vehicle, and that is when Ruiz fired a single shot in his direction.
After hitting Nix's badge, the bullet splintered, and a fragment severed an artery, ultimately leading to his death, according to Fox News.
Following his arrest, Ruiz claimed that the reason he fled the police pursuit was that he was in possession of illegal drugs, adding that he had no intention of killing Nix, but acted in self-defense after the officer threatened his life.
As the Associated Press notes, Ruiz filed an unsuccessful appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court in a bid to stop his execution, arguing that jurors had employed “overtly racist” as well as “blatant anti-Hispanic stereotypes” in the sentencing phase of his case, which led to his placement on death row.
“Because the jurors viewed Mr. Ruiz as a 'subhuman' and expressed hostility to the very presence of Hispanics in their community,” the prisoner's appeal contended, he did not receive the impartial jury guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment.
In response, the Texas Attorney General's Office denied that there was any merit to Ruiz's claims of bias among jurors, citing a recent review of the allegations by Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot, and in the end, the nation's high court declined to intervene in an unsigned opinion on Wednesday.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals had also declined to extend a stay of execution to Ruiz, but did so on procedural grounds, and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles declined to commute the sentence of death to a lesser sanction earlier in the week.
As the Texas Tribune further noted, the execution of Ruiz comes amid a wider battle over the use in Texas of expired drugs to carry out death sentences by lethal injection.
Ruiz and others on death row have argued that the prison system in Texas should not be permitted to extend expiration dates on the drugs used in executions, declaring the practice to be an unconstitutional imposition of cruel and unusual punishment.
Those seeking a halt to the use of expired drugs or those with expiration dates extended by the prison system contend that the reduced potency resulting from the age of the preparations can lead to pain and an extended, uncertain process of dying that amounts to torture.
Prior challenges to the use of expired drugs have failed, and in current litigation on the matter, state courts declined to halt an execution that was scheduled for and carried out Jan. 10.
With all of his legal challenges exhausted, Ruiz was executed on Wednesday evening, but not before issuing a final statement, as the Texas Tribune explained.
“I would like to apologize to Mark and the Nix family. I hope this brings you closure,” Ruiz began.
Expressing gratitude to those who stood by him over the years, Ruiz added, “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.”
Strapped to a gurney in the execution chamber in the presence of Nix's mother and sister, among others, Ruiz declared, “Don't worry about me. I'm ready to fly. All right warden, I'm ready to ride.”