Texas Carries Out 400th Execution Since 1982

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Johnny Ray Conner was put to death Wednesday night in Huntsville. He is the 400th death row inmate to be executed since Texas began capital punishment again in 1982.

Conner was described as calm by Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials on his last day alive. He asked for forgiveness from the family of the victim, and told his family and friends to continue living their lives.

"This is destiny. This is life," Conner said. He would later call the criminal justice system "broken," and then prayed.

"Eight minutes after the lethal solution began to flow, he was pronounced dead at 6:20," said Jason Clark with TDCJ.

It was 1972 that the Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty was cruel and unusual punishment. It was later reinstated, with the first execution being the 1982 lethal injection of Charlie Brooks in December 1982.

Conner was convicted of murder in the 1998 shooting of Kathyanna Nguyen in a Houston convenience store. He is alleged to have shot Nguyen in a botched robbery attempt. Despite a federal judge in Houston ruling Conner should receive a new trial, an appeals court eventually overturned that ruling.

Among the all-too-familiar protestors outside Walls were Conner's father and sister.

"Everyday, this man is dying because he's locked up knowing that one day -- and it's not like getting sick -- one day, you know you're going to die," said James Alexander.

He says his son told him he didn't commit the murder, and that evidence that would have exonerated Conner wasn't presented in court. He says he's not against the death penalty for people proven to have committed murder. He is against it in the case of his son.

"Deterrent? No, it's not a deterrent," Alexander said. "You've got more men on death row than you've ever seen in your life. When I was a kid, you had 11, 12, 13 men on death row. We've got 300 men, 400 men that have been murdered with this boy."

"The appeals finishes out. The presiding judge will schedule the execution, and it's our mandate to carry out those executions," Clark said, adding that the 400th execution was not looked upon as a major milestone by TDCJ.

Texas is the nation's leader when it comes to executions.

Conner is the 21st death row inmate to be executed this year. Three more executions are set for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday next week.

The family of Kathyanna Nguyen chose not to speak to the media following the execution.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.