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Texas executes man convicted for torture, murder of ex-roommate

Troy Clark was found guilty in 2000 of the murder of Christina Muse.

(Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP)

HUNTSVILLE, Texas – Texas inmate who taunted a jury to condemn him to death was executed Wednesday night for torturing and drowning an East Texas woman in his bathtub and then stuffing her body in a barrel.

Troy Clark was condemned for the May 1998 killing of a former roommate, Christina Muse of Tyler. The authorities said that Clark, a drug dealer, was afraid that the Muse would snitch on him.

Clark chuckled as he and some friends watching through a window a few feet from him, telling them a number of times, that he loved them and “it’s all good.”

“I’m not the person who killed Christina,” he said. “But, hey, whatever makes you happy.”

If the lethal dose of the sedative pentobarbital was administered, Clark was laughing and said that the drug is “burned.”

“I feel it,” he said. He grunted, gasped, and began to snore. Seconds later, all movement stopped. He was pronounced dead 21 minutes later at 6:36 pm

The 51-year-old Clark was in the 17th prisoner put to death this year in the U.S. and the ninth was given a lethal injection in Texas, the nation’s busiest death penalty state. Clark is the first of two executions this week in Texas. Daniel Acker was scheduled to be executed Thursday for fatally running over his girlfriend.

At least eight other Texas prisoners scheduled execution dates in the coming months.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles refused to recommend a commutation of Clark’s sentence.

After his conviction, Clark had argued his trial lawyers failed to present evidence of his childhood, marked by physical and emotional abuse, which would have convinced the jury to spare his life.

Appeals court previously ruled that because of the overwhelming case ” against Clark, it is likely that he still would have been sentenced to death, even if the jury had heard evidence of his difficult childhood.

Prosecutors said Clark demure Muse, 20, a stun gun, bound her with duct tape and left her in a closet for a few hours while he played video games and sold drugs to a customer.

Clark later moved Muse to a bathroom where he beat her with a board and threatened his girlfriend, Tory Bush, in helping him drown Muse in the cockpit. Muse’s body was then stuffed in a barrel with cement mix and lime before being dumped in a ravine.

Against the advice of his lawyers, Clark testified at the trial of the penalty phase, saying: “I really ain’t got no story to tell. It is just I want the death penalty.”

The prosecutors also presented evidence Clark had committed two other murders, including one that occurred after Muse’s death, but prior to his arrest. The Smith County District Attorney’s Office, who prosecuted Clark, declined to comment.

Bobby Mims, one of Clark’s trial lawyers, said Clark denied killing Muse.

“But there was pretty strong evidence that he was guilty. Tory Bush was pretty devastating,” Mims said. Bush, who testified against Clark, was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Mims said he and his co-counsel were ineffective during the penalty phase in the presentation of the evidence of Clark’s troubled childhood, which having a mother who was imprisoned for most of his life and who gave him drugs.

Mims said when Clark’s case was tried in 2000, most defense attorneys do not focus on presenting mitigating evidence of a defendant problematic life as part of their efforts to avoid a death sentence.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had previously denied Clark’s appeal on this subject, saying in 2012 that Clark refused to let his trial lawyers, contact with family and others to testify on his behalf.

“At the punishment hearing, the prosecutors actually had one or two of (Clark’s) own family show and she had indicated that she wanted him to get the death penalty. It was crazy,” Mims said.

Mims said that he did not know, as evidence of Clark’s troubled life would have made a difference with the jury.

“I hope he’s at peace with his maker,” Mims said.

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