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Inmate executed for killing store clerk

Inmate executed for killing store clerk

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HUNTSVILLE — A Texas inmate was executed Wednesday for killing a Dallas-area convenience store clerk during a shooting spree that he claimed was retaliation for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Mark Stroman, 41, said hate in the world needed to end and asked for God’s grace shortly before the fatal drugs began flowing into his arms at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Huntsville Unit. He was pronounced dead at 8:53 p.m., less than an hour after his final court appeal was rejected.

Stroman claimed the shooting spree that killed two men and injured a third in late 2001 targeted people from the Middle East, though all three victims were from South Asia. It was the death of 49-year-old Vasudev Patel, from India, that put Stroman on death row.

The lone survivor, Rais (Raze) Bhuiyan (Boo-yon), unsuccessfully sued to stop the execution, saying his religious beliefs as a Muslim told him to forgive Stroman. The courts denied his requests.

Stroman’s execution was the eighth this year in Texas. At least eight other inmates in the nation’s busiest death penalty state have execution dates in the coming weeks.

From inside the death chamber, Stroman looked at five friends watching through a window and told them he loved them.

“Even though I lay on this gurney, seconds away from my death, I am at total peace,” he said. He called himself “still a proud American, Texas loud, Texas proud.”

“God bless America. God bless everyone,” he added, then turned his head to the warden and said: “Let’s do this damn thing.”

Feeling the drugs beginning to take effect, he said, he began a countdown. “One, two,” he said, slightly gasping. “There it goes.”

Eleven minutes later, he was dead.

None of Patel’s relatives attended the execution, and instead selected a police officer to represent them.

The execution was delayed for almost three hours before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals barred a state judge in Austin from considering Bhuiyan’s lawsuit to block the lethal injection. The U.S. Supreme Court had rejected appeals earlier in the day.

Bhuiyan, in an unusual step, had asked the courts to halt Stroman’s execution and said he wanted to spend time with the inmate to learn more about why the shootings occurred. The native of Bangladesh and a former convenience store worker lost sight in one of his eyes when Stroman shot him in the face.

“Killing him is not the solution,” Bhuiyan said. “He’s learning from his mistake. If he’s given a chance, he’s able to reach out to others and spread that message to others.”

A federal district judge in Austin rejected the lawsuit and Bhuiyan’s request for an injunction on Wednesday afternoon. His lawyers appealed to the Supreme Court, where Justice Antonin Scalia turned it down.

Stroman’s lawyer, in a separate unsuccessful appeal to the Supreme Court, pointed to Bhuiyan’s “significant surprise” and argued that attorneys during Stroman’s trial and in earlier stages of his appeals were deficient for not illustrating “the path that led him to this violent frenzy.”

Stroman was free on bond for a gun possession arrest when his shooting spree started. He had previous convictions for burglary, robbery, theft and credit card abuse, served at least two prison terms and was paroled twice. His juvenile record showed an armed robbery at age 12.

When police arrested him the day Patel was killed, they found the .44-caliber handgun used in the shooting. Stroman confessed, and court documents show he told authorities he belonged to the Aryan Brotherhood, a white supremacist prison gang. Prosecutors also said he told another jail inmate about the shootings and how automatic weapons police found in his car were intended for a planned attack at a Dallas-area shopping mall.

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