Gov. George W. Bush had one less Texas constituent as of 6:23 p.m. CDT Wednesday.
Ricky McGinn, 43 -- whom Bush granted a much-publicized 30-day reprieve on June 1 -- was finally executed at the state prison in Huntsville, Texas, for the 1993 rape and murder of his 12-year-old step-daughter.
McGinn had insisted DNA testing would prove him innocent of the rape charge, which was the key aggravating circumstance to her murder that had allowed Texas prosecutors to successfully seek the death penalty.
Bush had been pressured to at least allow McGinn to take the test, which he allowed just minutes before the lethal injection was to take place. The test had, however, ended up indicating that McGinn, in fact, committed the rape.
"Tell everybody I said, 'Hi,' that I love them, and I will see them on the other side, OK?" McGinn said, according to the Associated Press. "And now I just pray that if there is anything against me that God takes it home. I don't want nobody to be mad at nobody. I don't want nobody to be bitter. Keep clean hearts, and I will see y'all on the other side."
Eight minutes after the chemicals were injected into his body, McGinn was pronounced dead. He was the 33rd individual executed in Texas this year. The record is still 37, also set under Bush, in 1997. Not to worry though, sports fans. There are seven other Texans scheduled to be executed before the end of the year - including one in just a few days. Of all those put to death since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed states to use the death penalty in 1976, one-sixth -- or 145 people -- have been executed under Bush's watch.
The death penalty has emerged as a political issue this year, with Illinois Gov. George Ryan, a Republican, issuing a moratorium on state executions at the beginning of this year because so may death row inmates had been either exonerated or their cases had been overturned.
One Illinois inmate, Anthony Porter, came within 50 hours of being executed in September 1998, before receiving a temporary reprieve while the state assessed his mental fitness for being executed. On one of the first nights of his mental fitness hearing, in February 1999, the court got word that a Northwestern University journalism professor, David Protess, his class, and a private investigator had secured a confession to the double murders from another individual. Porter was eventually released from prison.
Asked about the death penalty, Bush repeatedly states that he believes it to be a deterrent. Asked about whether innocent people have ever been executed in Texas, Bush repeatedly expresses his confidence in the state justice system. Reporters have investigated case after case trying to find one clearly innocent man or woman who has been executed since Bush took office in January 1995, and while some have raised questions, so far no one such case has been found. McGinn's was the only reprieve Bush has granted.
Despite the grim nature of the task at hand, Bush seemed ebullient as his limo sped away from the Signature Airlines tarmac late Wednesday afternoon. Spotting one of his least-favorite reporters, who had just joined up with the press pool, Bush shouted out the window, smiling, "We've been wondering when you were going to show up!"
Then his limo sped off, taking him to preparations for his debate on Tuesday with Vice President Al Gore, who also supports the death penalty.