Texas executes man for 2004 slaying of store owner

The convict Christopher Young knew the victim's family and they had been vocal about not wanting Young put to death. In his final statement from the death chamber, Young said he loved his victim's family "like they love me".

A Texas prisoner was executed Tuesday evening for the fatal shooting of a San Antonio convenience store owner after courts turned down appeals that the state parole board improperly rejected the inmate’s clemency request because he’s black.

Christopher Young, 34, never denied the slaying, which was recorded on a store surveillance camera, but insisted he was drunk and didn’t intend to kill 53-year-old Hasmukh “Hash” Patel during an attempted robbery after drinking nearly two dozen beers and then doing cocaine that Sunday morning, November 21, 2004.

Young and Patel knew each other and Patel’s family members had been vocal about not wanting Young put to death.

In his final statement from the death chamber, Young said he loved his victim’s family “like they love me”. “Make sure the kids in the world know I’m being executed and those kids I’ve been mentoring keep this fight going,” he said.

As the lethal dose of the sedative pentobarbital began taking effect, he cursed twice and said the drug burned his throat. “I taste it in my throat,” he said.

Then he slipped into unconsciousness, saying something incomprehensible. He started taking shallow breaths. Within about 30 seconds, he stopped moving and was pronounced dead at 6:38 PM CDT. Twenty-five minutes had passed since he was first given the lethal dose.

Young became the eighth prisoner put to death this year in Texas, one more than all of 2017 in the nation’s busiest capital punishment state.

His attorneys sued the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles after the panel last week rejected a clemency plea in which the lawyers argued Young was “no longer the young man he was when he arrived” on death row, that he was “truly remorseful” and that Patel’s son was against the execution.

In their federal civil rights lawsuit, Young’s lawyers argued that a white Texas inmate, Thomas Whitaker, received a rare commutation earlier this year as his execution was imminent for the slaying of his mother and brother. Young is black and race improperly “appears to be the driving force in this case”, attorney David Dow said in the appeal that sought to delay the punishment.

A federal judge in Houston dismissed the suit and refused to stop the execution, then hours later Tuesday the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals turned down an appeal of that ruling. Young’s attorneys did not take the case to the US Supreme Court.

Stephen Hoffman, an assistant Texas attorney general, said the lawsuit was a delay tactic, improper, speculative and “legally and factually deficient”.

Young and his lawyers argued he no longer was a Bloods street gang member, had matured in prison and hoped to show others “look where you can end up”.

“I didn’t know about death row,” Young told The Associated Press recently from prison. “It needs to be talked about. You’ve got a whole new generation. You’ve got to stop this, not just executions but the crimes. Nobody’s talking to these kids. I can’t bring Hash back but I can do something to make sure there’s no more Hashes.”

He said he excelled at chess and violin, cello and bass but “all that stopped” and he joined the Bloods when he was about eight after his father was shot and killed in a robbery.

According to court documents, Young sexually assaulted a woman in her apartment with her three young children present, then forced her to drive off with him in her car. She managed to escape, and records show he drove one block to the Mini Food Mart where owner Patel was shot. Young was arrested 90 minutes later after picking up a prostitute and driving to a crack house where the stolen car was parked outside and spotted by San Antonio police.

Young told the AP the shooting stemmed from a dispute he believed involved the mother of one of his three children and the store owner. He said the woman, however, lied to him.

“He was not a bad dude at all,” Young said of Patel. “I was drunk. We knew the victim. The whole confrontation went wrong. I thought he was reaching for a gun and I shot.”

Patel’s family members declined to witness the execution of Young. In a statement, they said Young forever changed their lives but that when they reflect on “what Hasmukh stood for, and the values that he instilled in his family, we can look for the good in people, including looking at the good in Christopher Young”. They added that their pleas for clemency for Young “sadly” were denied.

At least seven other Texas inmates have execution dates in the coming months.

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