HUNTSVILLE (AP) – A Texas man on death row for killing a worker who was on his property looking for city code violations was put to death Tuesday.
Adam Ward was given a lethal injection for shooting and killing Michael Walker, a code enforcement officer who was taking photos of junk piled outside the Ward family home in Commerce, about 65 miles northeast of Dallas.
Ward had said the 2005 shooting was in self-defense, but the 44-year-old Walker only had a camera and a cellphone.
Ward’s attorneys, both at his trial and later for his appeals, described him as delusional and mentally ill. Hours before his execution, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal that argued his mental illness should have disqualified him from the death penalty.
The 33-year-old Ward thanked his supporters, expressed love for his parents and said he hoped “some positive change can come from this.”
But he insisted the shooting was not a capital murder case. “This is wrong what’s happening. A lot of injustice is happening in all this,” he said.
“I’m sorry things didn’t work out,” he added later. “May God forgive us all.”
He was given a lethal dose of pentobarbital and as it took effect, he took a deep breath followed by a smaller one. He then stopped moving.
He was pronounced dead at 6:34 p.m. CDT — 12 minutes after the drug started to flow into him.
Ward became the ninth convicted killer executed this year nationally and the fifth in Texas, which carries out capital punishment more than any other state.
In their appeal to the Supreme Court, Ward’s attorneys argued the high court’s ban on executing mentally impaired prisoners should be extended to include inmates like Ward who have a severe mental illness and that putting him to death would be unconstitutional because of evolving sentiment against executing the mentally ill.
The justices have ruled mentally impaired people, generally those with an IQ below 70, may not be executed. However, the court has said mentally ill prisoners may be executed if they understand they are about to be put to death and why they face the punishment.
State attorneys, who said evidence showed Ward’s IQ as high as 123, said the late appeal did not raise a new issue, meaning it was improper and without merit. They also disputed claims of changing attitudes about executing the mentally ill.
Evidence of Ward’s delusions, paranoia and bipolar disorder was presented at his 2007 trial and resurfaced in earlier unsuccessful appeals. The Supreme Court last October had refused to review Ward’s case. A clemency petition for Ward before the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles was rejected Friday.
In a videotaped statement to police following his arrest, Ward said he believed Commerce officials long conspired against him and his father, described in court filings as a hoarder who had been in conflict with the city for years. Evidence showed the Ward family had been cited repeatedly for violating housing and zoning codes.
Witnesses said Walker was taking photos of the Ward property on June 13, 2005, when he and Ward got into an argument. Walker told Ward he was calling for assistance, then waited near his truck. Ward went inside the house, emerged with a .45-caliber pistol and started firing. Walker was shot nine times.
“I think the only thing he was there for was harassment,” Ward told The Associated Press last month from prison.
Ward met with his parents earlier Tuesday. They did not attend his execution.
Dick Walker, the father of the man killed by Ward, watched Ward’s punishment and said it “put the cap on the mental anguish, the torture of the last 10 1/2 years.”
“I’m just glad this part of my life is over with,” he said after the execution. “My son will never leave me. There’s always going to be a hole in a person’s heart. My son was my best friend.
“I can focus on more positive stuff now.”
(© Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)