By Michael Graczyk
HUNSTVILLE — An ex-con who confessed to killing five people at a Dallas-area car wash a week after he was fired from his job there 12 years ago was executed Thursday evening.
Robert Wayne Harris, 40, received lethal injection less than two hours after the U.S. Supreme Court refused appeals to halt his punishment.
Harris expressed love to his brother and three friends who were watching through a window.
“I’m going home. I’m going home,” Harris said. “Don’t worry about me. I’ll be alright. God bless, and the Texas Rangers, Texas Rangers.”
He was pronounced dead at 6:43 p.m., 25 minutes after the lethal dose of pentobarbital began, making him the eighth Texas inmate executed in the nation’s most active capital punishment state. Another execution is set for next week.
Harris was convicted of two of the five slayings in March 2000 at the Mi-T-Fine Car Wash in Irving.
He also was charged with abducting and killing a woman months before the killing spree and led police to her remains.
Harris didn’t deny the slayings, but his lawyer contended in appeals he was mentally impaired and should be spared because of a Supreme Court ban on execution of mentally impaired people.
Attorney Lydia Brandt also questioned the makeup of Harris’ jury at his 2000 trial in Dallas, contending prosecutors improperly removed black prospective jurors from serving on the panel. Harris is black.
State attorneys opposed the appeals, saying IQ tests disputed the mental impairment claims and that no racial component was involved in jury selection.
Harris had served an eight-year sentence for burglary and other offenses and had been working at the car wash for about 10 months when he was fired and arrested after exposing himself to a female customer.
The following Monday he showed up before the business was to open, demanded the safe be opened and then shot the manager, the assistant who had fired Harris and a cashier.
Three more employees reporting to work also were shot, two of them fatally.
When another worker arrived, Harris explained he just had stumbled upon the bloody scene. But when Harris pulled a knife, the worker said he was feeling uneasy and left.
The worker called 911, and Harris was arrested the next day.
Evidence showed Harris had used money taken from the safe to buy new clothes, checked into a motel and asked a friend to buy him some gold jewelry.
“He knew from experience that they would not have deposited the weekend proceeds, and he was going to get the maximum amount of money that he possibly could obtain during this robbery,” Greg Davis, the former Dallas County assistant district attorney who was the lead trial prosecutor, said this week. “I remember just the vicious nature of the offense and the fact it was very well thought-out and conceived by Robert Harris. Guilt is just crystal clear.”
One of Harris’ trial lawyers acknowledged that.