FLORENCE, Ariz. — 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.
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