Comments Off on Texas executes Kent Sprouse, 42, for police officer’s 2002 shooting death; Had taken Methamphetamine within 48 hours of murder

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — Texas prison officials on Thursday executed a man convicted in the slaying of a Dallas-area police officer during a 2002 shootout that followed the killing of a customer outside a convenience store. 

Kent Sprouse, 42, became the fifth convicted killer put to death this year in Texas, the nation’s most active death penalty state.

Before his execution, Sprouse apologized to the families of his victims and his own family “for all the trouble I’ve caused everyone.” Then he thanked his family members for their support.5526b0c317b58_image

“I guess that’s it,” he said.

He took several deep breaths after the execution drug pentobarbital began taking effect, then began snoring. Within a minute, all movement stopped. He was pronounced dead 22 minutes later at 6:33 p.m. CDT.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review Sprouse’s case in November, and no last-day appeals were filed for him in the courts.

Sprouse was sentenced to death for the October 2002 killing of 28-year-old Harry Marvin “Marty” Steinfeldt III, a police officer in Ferris, about 20 miles south of Dallas.

Witnesses said Sprouse carried a shotgun into the Ferris Food Mart store while he made a purchase and then walked outside and fired toward two men at a pay phone. He went to his car and appeared to have some trouble with it, then shot and killed 38-year-old Pedro Moreno, a customer who was pumping gas near him.

Steinfeldt responded to a 911 call about a customer shot at the store and came under gunfire. He was struck twice under the arm where his protective vest did not cover him. He managed to fire 17 shots, reloading his gun once, and wounded Sprouse in the chest, leg and hand.

Court records indicate Sprouse told an officer who accompanied him in an ambulance to a hospital that he believed Moreno was an undercover officer, so he shot him.

“And I shot the other officer that was in uniform,” Sprouse said, according to the records.

Sprouse was charged in Moreno’s killing, but wasn’t tried for it.

Relatives of both Steinfeldt and Moreno declined to speak with reporters after Sprouse’s execution. Michelle Steinfeldt, the officer’s widow, released a statement saying the execution was “the emotional end of a long, excruciating journey.”

Heath Crossland, who worked with Steinfeldt at the Ennis Police Department and was among a few dozen officers who stood outside the prison during the execution, described his slain friend as “a teddy bear” and was thinking of the officer’s daughter, who was born after he was killed.

“To think this little girl didn’t get the opportunity to know the teddy bear kind of guy we knew, that’s such a loss,” Crossland said.

Tests showed that Sprouse, a Boone County, Missouri, native, had taken methamphetamine and other illegal drugs within 48 hours of the killings.

Jim Jenkins, who was Sprouse’s lead lawyer at his trial in Steinfeldt’s death, said Sprouse suffered from the effects of methamphetamine addiction.

“He just didn’t know what he was doing, but the jury has to buy that,” Jenkins said. “It’s sort of like being drunk and killing somebody. That’s really not a defense, not a legal defense. … The whole thing is extremely sad.”

Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials said a recent purchase of pentobarbital means they have enough of the sedative to carry out three other executions set for this month, including one next week. But at least three more are set for May and June, meaning they would have to find a new supply or switch to a different drug to carry out those executions on schedule.

Death penalty states have found it increasingly difficult to acquire execution drugs because traditional manufacturers now refuse to sell their drugs for use in executions. States now rely on compounding pharmacies for their made-to-order execution drugs.

Kent Sprouse, Convicted Cop Killer, First Texas Prisoner Executed With New Batch Of Drugs

A man convicted of killing a Texas cop and a gas station customer in 2002, was executed by lethal injection Thursday night at the Huntsville State Penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas.

Kent Sprouse, 42, was pronounced dead at 6:33 p.m. according to a statement from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Sprouse’s last words can be read here:

I would like to apologize to the Moreno family and the Steinfeldt family for all of the trouble I have caused them. I would like to apologize to my family for all of the trouble that I have caused them. I would also like to thank my family for all of their support. I guess that’s it.

Sprouse was the first inmate executed using chemicals from a new batch of drugs secured after a shortage of the necessary lethal injection chemicals threatened to stall executions in the nation’s most prolific death penalty state.

Sprouse was convicted in 2004 of killing 28-year-old police officer Harry Steinfeldt and 38-year-old man Pedro Moreno. Sprouse received the death penalty for Steinfeldt’s murder.

A round of appeals in 2007 and 2010 addressed whether or not Sprouse was mentally ill when he killed the two men at a Dallas-area gas station. Those appeals were unsuccessful. Sprouse reportedly had no pending last-minute appeals ahead of his execution.

In 2002, Sprouse exited a Dallas-area gas station with a shotgun and fired in the direction of two men nearby. Witnesses testified that Sprouse appeared to have some trouble with his car before he shot and killed Moreno, who was pumping gas nearby. Steinfeldt responded to the scene and was shot twice by Sprouse. Though Steinfeldt was able to return fire and injure Sprouse, he died of his injuries.

Court records show Sprouse confessed to the officer who transported him to the hospital. Sprouse said he thought Moreno was an undercover cop who was following him and confessed to shooting him.

“I shot the other officer that was in uniform,” Sprouse reportedly told the officer.

Defense attorneys were unable to convince the jury to weigh Sprouse’s intoxication –he tested positive for methamphetamine — as a defense or a mitigating factor to spare him the death penalty.

According to court records, friends and family suspected that Sprouse might be mentally ill, testifying he claimed to see dead people, talked to himself and said people were out to get him. Sprouse’s mother testified that her son thought that people were talking to him through the television, and thought that the CIA and FBI wanted to kill him.

“He started hitting the meth and went crazy,” Jim Jenkins, his lead trial lawyer in 2004, told The Associated Press. “Even his family was afraid of him.”

Sprouse was potentially facing a postponement when the TDCJ revealed in early March it was running low on the chemical pentobarbital that it uses for lethal injections. As big drug manufacturers cut off their supply to prisons, corrections departments are increasingly turning to local compounding pharmacies for their supply.

By mid-March, the TDCJ was able to secure a new supply, but like all other states with lethal injection, did not disclose the specific source.

“The drugs were purchased from a licensed pharmacy that has the ability to compound,” TDCJ Spokesman Jason Clark said in a statement.

Dwindling drug supplies — and growing opposition from leading pharmacist groups that could compound the chemicals — have forced other states to halt executions and rush to legalize alternative methods.

Georgia halted executions in March after its supply of pentobarbital appeared “cloudy,” while Utah reinstated the firing squad should lethal injection chemicals become unavailable. Earlier on Tuesday, the Oklahoma legislature approved a measure to reinstate a form of the gas chamber.

The Texas Coalition To Abolish The Death Penalty Executive Director Kristin Houlé told The Huffington Post Tuesday that her group continues to oppose all executions and will be holding vigils for Sprouse around the state Thursday.

“Texas has scheduled four executions to take place this month,” Houlé said. “This is occurring at the time when there’s growing opposition to the death penalty and executions are on hold in many other states.”

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