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Texas Set to Execute Gregory Russeau, Ninth Lethal Injection of Year

by Tracy Connor /

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Executions are on hold in many parts of the country, but Texas is on track to carry out even more lethal injections than it did last year.

The state is set to put to death its ninth inmate this year with Thursday's scheduled execution of Gregory Russeau, who was convicted in the 2001 beating death of car-repair shop owner James Syvertson.

Four more Texas death-row prisoners are scheduled to be killed before the end of 2015. With the exception of a Missouri execution in July, all of the other dates with death on the calendar are in the Lone Star State, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Russeau, 45, was found guilty of bludgeoning the 75-year-old businessman while on a crack binge and stealing a car. The parolee was arrested behind the wheel hours after Syvertson's wife and daughter and two young relatives found his body.

"It totally devastated the family, tore everyone apart," said Syvertson's daughter, Jeanette Deason. "He was always smiling, always trying to help people. He wasn't perfect but he was loved."

Still, Deason said she has "mixed emotions" about the execution and did not plan to attend.

"I don't care to see that," she said. "They drug it on forever — it's ridiculous. But I'm not jumping up and down that he's gonna die."

Related: Nebraska's death penalty repealed with veto override

At trial, Russeau claimed that he wasn't the one who killed Syverston and that police planted one of his hairs at the crime scene. In his appeals, he argued that his lawyers did a shoddy job of representing him.

Although an appeals court did order a new sentencing hearing for Russeau in 2005, he was assigned the same attorneys who represented him in his first trial, over his objections. He was sentenced to death again, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his case last year.

Unless any last-minute appeals are successful, Russeau will be put to death sometime after 6 p.m. Central with a toxic dose of pentobarbital.

Image: Gregory Russeau
This undated handout photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice shows Gregory Russeau. Texas prison officials say they've obtained a new supply of drugs that will allow them to carry out the two executions currently scheduled. Russeau is set to die June 15, 2015. (Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP)Texas Department of Criminal Justice / AP

While other states have scrambled to find execution drugs, Texas says it has enough to carry out all the executions scheduled for this year — but it's embroiled in a legal fight over whether it has to disclose the source of the chemicals.

A shortage of drugs sparked by manufacturers refusing to sell their products for executions has led many states to tinker with their protocols, unleashing new legal challenges.

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to decide in the coming days whether Oklahoma can continue to use a controversial sedative called midazolam as the first agent in a three-drug cocktail. It's been featured in several prolonged or botched executions and critics have likened it to being burned alive.

Related: Supreme Court hears arguments on controversial execution drug

That case has put executions in Oklahoma and Florida on hold. Protocol changes have also caused delays in Ohio, Arizona and Tennessee. And Pennsylvania's governor has issued a moratorium on executions.

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