Arizona inmate executed, state’s second in 8 days
Published: March 8, 2012 at 8:03 am
FLORENCE — An Arizona inmate apologized to the family of the man he killed and his own family, said his life was one mistake after another and started crying before he was injected with a lethal drug Thursday.
Robert Charles Towery, 47, convicted of killing Mark Jones while robbing his Scottsdale home in 1991, was the second inmate put to death in the state in eight days.
“I would like to apologize to Mark’s family and friends for what I did to them. I would like to apologize to my family,” Towery said. “So many times in my life I went left when I should have gone right and I went right when I should have gone left. It was mistake after mistake after mistake.”
Towery, who lay strapped to a table with a sheet up to his waist, started weeping after he looked at his sister, his nephew and a friend in the room and said, “I love my family.” Then he took a few heavy breaths and appeared to fall asleep.
The execution took nine minutes and Towery was declared dead at 11:26 a.m., following a delay of more than an hour, which prison officials attributed to a meeting between Towery and his attorneys and to difficulty in finding a good vein to inject him.
An injection in Towery’s right arm was visible during the execution, but the execution team also injected him in the femoral vein, which is in the groin. It’s unclear which injection delivered the fatal dose.
Towery’s defense attorney, Dale Baich, expressed concern over the difficulty the execution team had with finding a vein and whether it caused Towery any unnecessary pain.
“Did they say how many times they stuck him?” Baich asked after the execution. “That will be something I will definitely try to find out.”
Throughout the execution, his family members wept, sniffled and comforted each other. They declined to speak to reporters afterward.
Deacon Ed Sheffer of the Roman-Catholic Diocese of Tucson met with Towery earlier in the day and witnessed the execution.
He described Towery as remorseful and prayerful in the morning, adding that he thinks Towery cried during the execution for the pain that he has caused others.
“He was trying to find peace,” Sheffer said, adding that nothing was accomplished with Towery’s execution.
“Life, in the end, is all sacred,” he said. “To teach that killing is wrong by killing — that is impossible to reconcile.”
In a statement, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said that Towery caused great suffering and that Jones’ family finally has justice 20 years after Towery was found guilty.
Towery became the second Arizona inmate to be injected with one lethal drug, instead of three, after prison officials discovered part of their previous supply had expired before the Feb. 29 execution of Robert Henry Moormann, who killed and dismembered his adoptive mother.
Towery’s attorneys made several unsuccessful last-minute arguments in an effort to spare him, including a request on Wednesday with the Arizona Supreme Court to reduce his sentence to 25 years to life in prison because Towery’s accomplice, Randy Allen Barker, spent less than 10 years behind bars.
He was given a plea deal for testifying against Towery and was released in 2001. Towery’s lawyers argued that although Towery strangled Jones, Barker was holding the gun, watched the prolonged killing and “exhibited extreme indifference to human life.”
The U.S. Supreme Court also denied a review of the case and a stay of execution.
Attorneys said that after the killing, both men disposed of Jones’ car, split the cash, and that Barker gave most of the stolen items to family and friends.
Towery’s lawyers also argued that the trial court failed to consider so-called mitigating factors that merited a sentence of life in prison over the death penalty, including an extremely difficult childhood that included abuse at the hands of his mother and longtime drug abuse.
At Towery’s trial, the state’s case rested on Barker’s testimony.
Barker testified that he and Towery had discussed robbing Jones for several weeks before they went to his home on Sept. 4, 1991, with a made-up story that their car had broken down and they needed to use his phone. Jones, who had met Towery before, agreed.
Barker said Towery then pulled a gun on Jones and Barker handcuffed him. The two loaded Jones’ Lincoln Continental with electronics, jewelry, credit cards and cash from the home, before they took him to his bedroom at gunpoint.
Towery had Jones lay face-down with his hands tied behind his back and then tried to inject his arm with battery acid, Barker said. When that had no apparent effect, Towery then made a noose out of plastic ties and tried to strangle Jones, Barker testified.
Barker said Jones didn’t put up a struggle but made choking and gagging noises. Because Towery didn’t believe Jones was dead, he made another noose and choked him again, Barker said.
Jones’ body was found the next day.
Barker and Towery were arrested after a security guard identified them from a photo lineup after seeing the two ditch the Lincoln at an apartment complex.
Towery said at the trial that he wasn’t in Jones’ home at all when the killing occurred and that Barker must have done it.
Towery’s last meal was a porterhouse steak, sauteed mushrooms, a baked potato with butter and sour cream, asparagus, clam chowder, Pepsi, milk, and apple pie and vanilla ice cream.
The Arizona Supreme Court will consider whether to approve death warrants for two other inmates on March 20.