HUNTSVILLE, Texas -- Without a display of remorse or fear, Rudy Ramos Esquivel was executed by injection today for the murder of an undercover narcotics officer, calmly telling his friends to 'be cool' and 'stay close.'
Esquivel, 50, died at 12:21 a.m. CST, becoming the third man executed in Texas in as many months. He was the 14th person put to death in Texas since it resumed capital punishment in 1982 and the 59th in the United States since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
'I don't think I've ever seen an individual as calm and cheerful and peaceful when he was about to meet his maker,' said Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox, who spoke with Esquivel before watching him put to death.
Esquivel was convicted of killing Houston police officer Timothy Hearn, 28, on June 8, 1978, during a shoot-out. He claimed police officers had tried to plant heroin on him and said he felt no remorse for the shootings.
Esquivel invited four friends to his execution. 'Be cool,' he told them. 'Thank you for being my friends. Give my love to everybody.'
The witnesses told Esquivel they loved him, and he replied, 'I love you all. Stay close. Everything's going to be all right.'
Witness Barbara Longoria read a biblical passage from 2 Timothy, and Esquivel smiled. As a hidden executioner pumped a mixture of three poisons through an intravenous tube, the four witnesses whispered prayers. Esquivel breathed deeply six times, his chest heaving, then made a snoring sound and died.
Longoria fell into the arms of her husband, Pilo, weeping.
'It's OK,' he told her, 'He's with the Lord. He's at peace.'
Esquivel was convicted of shooting Hearn during a drug raid in a Houston parking lot. Hearn's partner and Esquivel were wounded in the shoot-out.
Esquivel claimed the shooting occurred after the officers tried to plant heroin in his pocket because he had refused to become an informant. He also said he had been convicted unfairly because Hispanics were excluded from his trial jury.
'I was set up and I have no remorse in me,' he told reporters recently. 'I accept what is happening. My great strength is that I know I was right.'
At the time of the killing, Esquivel was on parole from a 99-year sentence he received in 1953. He had been convicted at age 17 in the gang rape of a woman on her way to church, and served 11 years. Esquivel also had been jailed in California for assaulting a police officer and forgery.
Esquivel lost an appeal before the Supreme Court less than 10 hours before his execution. He took the news calmly and without comment, prison officials said.
Esquivel, who spent Sunday morning watching television, met with relatives, friends, his attorney and a prison minister in the afternoon.
Esquivel had won a stay of execution Friday from a federal judge, who gave attorneys 20 days to present more evidence of their claim that Hispanics were improperly excluded from Esquivel's trial jury.
The state appealed, and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans reinstated the death date Saturday.
Esquivel had been on death row since 1978, and had won stays of three previous execution dates.