Texas conducted its fourth execution of the year Thursday night, an event now so routine that the state's major newspapers didn't even send reporters. It was left to the Associated Press to tell the story they missed. Here in the state capital, the report was buried in the second section of the local paper.
Twenty-nine-year-old Richard Cobb was put to death for a 2002 murder. The United States Supreme Court had turned down his last appeal two hours earlier. According to AP reporter Michael Graczyk, when Cobb was offered the opportunity for a last statement he said, "Life is too short to harbor feelings of hatred and anger. That's it, warden."
But, as Graczyk noted, that wasn't it. After the lethal chemicals were administered, Cobb turned his head, looked up at the warden and said loudly, "Wow! That is great. That is awesome. Thank you, warden!" He then slumped and died. (I've been following death penalty cases for years; Cobb's positive reaction is a definite first.)
The drug used in Texas is pentobarbital, a barbiturate that has been withdrawn by its Danish maker, which will not sell it for use in executions. That decision has several capital punishment states scrambling for a new supply, but the Texas Department of Criminal Justice apparently stocked up before the ban. According to Austin's American Statesman, the agency may have spent as much as $50,000 on execution chemicals and supplies.
Cobb's execution was the 496th in Texas since 1976. It is the nation's undisputed leader in capital punishment; runner-up Virginia put to death only 110 inmates in the same period. The state's pharmacy is stocked and ready to continue the pace.
Around here, it is simply routine.
Martin Clancy is the co-author, with Tim O'Brien, of a new book on the death penalty, Murder at the Supreme Court -- Lethal Crimes and Landmark Cases.