Pat Sullivan / AP Photo

Texas executes its first inmate of 2016 after late appeals fail

Texas inmate Richard Masterson was executed by lethal injection for the January 2001 killing of Darin Shane Honeycutt

A Texas man put to death Wednesday for a killing 15 years ago became the state's first prisoner executed in 2016.

Richard Masterson
Texas Department of Criminal Justice/AP

Richard Masterson, 43, was pronounced dead at 6:53 p.m., 25 minutes after the lethal injection began.

"I'm all right with this," he said. "Sometimes you have to live and die by the choices you make. I made mine and I'm paying for it."

He said he was being sent "to a better place."

He mouthed a kiss to relatives and friends who were watching the execution through a window and told them he loved them. As the pentobarbital took effect, he began snoring. After about a dozen snores, he stopped moving.

Texas is the nation's busiest death penalty state, where 13 lethal injections in 2015 accounted for nearly half of the 28 executions nationwide. Masterson's execution was the state's 532nd since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, the most of any state.

Masterson's lawyers had launched appeals with the Supreme Court to halt the execution, saying his due process rights were violated and Texas presented false and misleading evidence regarding the death of Honeycutt, 35, who went by the stage name of Brandi Houston.

The Supreme Court denied the motions on Wednesday.

Masterson's case had recently drawn the attention of Pope Francis, who has reinforced the Catholic Church's opposition to capital punishment. The pope had been hoping for a reprieve, the Catholic press reported this week.

Masterson had testified at his trial that the death of the 35-year-old Honeycutt in Houston happened accidentally during a chokehold that was part of a sex act. The two had met at a bar and then went to Honeycutt's apartment.

No family members or friends of Honeycutt witnessed Masterson being executed.

At least eight other Texas death row inmates have executions scheduled for the coming months, including one set for next week.

Wire services

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