HUNTSVILLE, Texas – A man convicted of fatally beating and shooting a man during a burglary almost 12 years ago was executed Thursday, in a case that gained notoriety because jurors may have consulted a Bible to justify his death sentence.
Khristian Oliver, 32, was pronounced dead by lethal injection at 6:18 p.m.
He told his victim's children, who watched through a window a few feet (meters) away, that he wished them the best. After telling his parents, watching through an adjacent window, that he loved them, he started reciting the 23rd Psalm, getting through several verses before the drugs took effect.
Oliver was condemned for the March 1998 slaying of 64-year-old Joe Collins who interrupted the break-in at his rural home outside Nacogdoches, about 140 miles (225 kilometers) southeast of Dallas.
A witness to the attack on Collins, in which the then-20-year-old Oliver beat and shot him with a rifle, compared it to someone getting bashed with an ax or a golf club. Oliver's lawyers argued that jurors who improperly brought Bibles with them into deliberations without the knowledge of the trial judge in Nacogdoches County likened the rifle to a biblical iron object. In Chapter 35 of Numbers, a murderer who uses an iron object to kill "shall surely be put to death."
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said evidence was contradictory on whether jurors consulted the Bible before or after deliberations and that several jurors testified that the Bible "was not a focus of their discussions."
Oliver's death by lethal injection was the 20th this year in Texas.