Published September 22, 2011
A man described by a police informant as trying to make a name for himself was executed Thursday evening for the 1994 shooting death of an Alabama store clerk during a robbery.
Derrick O. Mason, 37, was administered an injection and pronounced dead minutes later at 6:49 p.m. local time (2349 GMT) at Alabama's Holman Prison. It was the third execution this week in the United States.
Strapped to the gurney, Mason gave a brief final statement, apologizing to the victim's family. He thanked the victim's father for getting in touch with him years ago and granting him his forgiveness. Just before the chemicals started pumping through the veins in Mason's arm, a prison chaplain held Mason's hand and kneeled down and said a prayer before stepping back.
Mason's breathing slowed, his head tilted backward and his lips pursed several times before he became very still. Several minutes later, authorities closed the curtain on the death chamber.
During the execution, the condemned man's mother, Maggie Mason, sat in the front row with her head bowed down. "He's resting for the first time," she said repeatedly. Later she held the hands of some other family members present and said: "He's gone."
Mason was convicted of killing 25-year-old Angela Cagle in Huntsville on March 24, 1994, by shooting her twice in the face at close range after ordering her to take her clothes off during an early morning robbery. The victim was found slain in the back room of a convenience store.
An unidentified man later told police that Mason committed the crime. The informant described the gun used, told police that Mason was "out of control" and "trying to make a name for himself," and then led authorities to Mason's car. Inside, police found a gun later determined to be the murder weapon. After he was arrested, Mason confessed, court records show.
Mason's execution capped a busy week in U.S. death chambers.
Georgia on Wednesday put Troy Davis to death for the 1989 death of a policeman, despite an international outcry and claims he was innocent. In Texas, officials executed a white supremacist who dragged to death James Byrd Jr., a black man from East Texas.
Mason also was the fifth person executed in Alabama this year and the third to die since the state changed the first drug used in its execution cocktail from sodium thiopental to pentobarbital. The change follows a nationwide shortage of sodium thiopental.
Over the years, Mason argued that his Constitutional rights were violated because he was initially arrested on an unrelated misdemeanor assault warrant and therefore the gun found in his car should not have been admitted into evidence in the murder case. He also argued that his confession was involuntary because he was subjected to improper questioning, intoxicated and hungry during the interrogation, psychologically coerced, and misled by law enforcement officers.
Mason alleged that police interrogators grabbed him, pinned him down to his chair, and forced him to look at photographs, court records show. Appellate courts were not swayed by the arguments.
Mason had exhausted appeals Thursday, including an 11th-hour bid before the U.S. Supreme Court.