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‘Thin Blue Line’ prisoner executed in Texas

/ Source: The Associated Press

A man whose false testimony sent an innocent man to death row before the 1988 documentary “The Thin Blue Line” cast doubt on the evidence was executed Wednesday for an unrelated murder.

“Sir, in honor of a true American hero: Let’s roll,” David Ray Harris said when asked if he had a final statement. “Let’s Roll” were the words a passenger was heard saying over a cell phone before attacking the hijackers aboard doomed Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001.

“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. I’m done, warden,” Harris said.

With his eyes closed, he took a deep breath and gasped as the lethal drugs took effect.

Harris, 43, was sentenced to death for a 1985 shootout that killed Mark Mays after Harris tried to abduct the victim’s girlfriend.

He was the 10th Texas inmate executed this year.

A federal judge Tuesday had blocked the lethal injection procedure Texas uses for executions; the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the ruling Wednesday afternoon. The U.S. Supreme Court later rejected Harris’s appeals.

Implicated hitchhiker
Harris gained notoriety for implicating Randall Dale Adams, a hitchhiker he had picked up in a stolen car, in the 1976 death of Dallas police officer Robert Wood.

Adams, who had no previous criminal record, served 12 years in prison and came within three days of execution in 1979 before his sentence was commuted to life in prison.

Adams was released from prison in 1989, a year after the release of Errol Morris’ 1988 documentary “The Thin Blue Line,” which suggested he had been wrongly convicted.

Appeals seeking to keep Harris from the death chamber Wednesday challenged the reliability of testimony from psychologists at capital murder trials who advise jurors of the likelihood a convicted murderer will be a continued danger to society — one of the questions jurors must answer in deliberating a death sentence.

Another appeal challenged the drugs Texas prison officials use in lethal injections. Harris’ lawyers argued the three-drug combination would “likely cause an excruciatingly painful death” and violate Harris’ constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

Harris had initially said he and Adams were both in the car when it was stopped by the officer.

He later testified he had lied about Adams’ involvement, though he stopped short of saying he committed the murder himself. Harris was never charged in the officer’s death.