HOUSTON, Texas -- A Texas inmate was executed Tuesday evening for fatally stabbing two Houston-area brothers during a robbery in their home more than 30 years ago.
Rick Rhoades, 57, was executed by lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Huntsville. He was condemned for the September 1991 killings of Charles Allen, 31, and Bradley Allen, 33. The brothers were killed less than a day after Rhoades had been released on parole after serving a sentence for burglary.
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Rhoades, strapped to the death chamber gurney, turned his head and looked briefly at relatives of his victims as they walked to a window in a witness area a few feet from him. Asked by the warden to make a final statement, he declined.
Then as the lethal dose of the powerful sedative pentobarbital began flowing through needles in each of his arms, Rhoades took several deep breaths, gurgled twice and began snoring, each breath becoming less pronounced. Within about a minute, all movement stopped. He was pronounced dead at 6:29 p.m. CDT, 17 minutes after the lethal injection began.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to delay Rhoades' execution over claims his constitutional right to due process was being violated because he was being prevented from pursuing allegations that some potential jurors at his trial might have been dismissed for racially discriminatory reasons.
"We hope the Allen family finds peace after nearly 30 years of waiting for justice for their loved ones," Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, who attended the execution, said in a statement.
"The death penalty should be reserved for the worst of the worst, and a Harris County jury determined long ago that this defendant fits the bill. Let us honor the memory of the victims, Charles and Bradley Allen, and never forget that our focus has and always will be on the victims."
Marley Allen Holt, Bradley Allen's daughter who now lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., and who was born during Rhoades' trial, said she attended Tuesday's punishment because Rhoades watched her father die and "I wanted to watch him die."
"It's a weird feeling," Kevin Allen, whose two brothers were slain, said after witnessing the execution. "I can't really describe what it's like. It's the most solemn thing I think I've ever been part of, if that's the word that's even appropriate."
In July, Rhoades' attorneys had filed a federal lawsuit against state District Judge Ana Martinez in Houston over a request they had made that the judge order prosecutors to release information related to allegations some jurors were dismissed based on racial discrimination.
Martinez ruled she lacked jurisdiction to consider the request. The suit was dismissed earlier this month by a Houston federal judge, who also declined to stay the execution. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday upheld the suit's dismissal and also declined to stay the execution. The appeals court in 2019 had previously denied a similar claim by Rhoades' attorneys on allegations that two Black jurors were dismissed due to racial bias. Rhoades is white.
Rhoades' attorneys had previously unsuccessfully argued in other appeals: that his constitutional rights were violated when childhood photos depicting Rhoades in normal, happy activities and designed to show he was nonviolent and would do well in prison were excluded during his trial's punishment phase; that a state investigator gave false testimony at his trial over whether Rhoades could receive an unaccompanied furlough if sentenced to life in prison; and that "evolving standards of decency" prohibit executions as a punishment for murder.
"A 2020 Gallup poll on Americans' attitudes regarding capital punishment shows that public support for the death penalty is at its lowest in a half-century, with opposition higher than any time since 1996," David Dow and Jeffrey Newberry wrote in a court motion last month.
Rhoades had a long criminal history, including convictions for burglary and auto theft in Florida, Iowa and Texas, when he broke into Charles Allen's house in the Houston suburb of Pasadena.
The home, located near where the siblings' parents lived, had just been custom built for Charles Allen and he had invited his brother to temporarily live with him. The two brothers had recently gone through separate divorces.
Charles Allen, who played the piano and had dreams of a musical career, worked as a chemical operator at a local refinery. Bradley Allen worked as a freelance artist.
At trial, prosecutors told jurors the siblings were asleep when Rhoades broke into their home in the early morning hours and attacked Charles Allen as he was in his bed. Bradley Allen was killed when he came to his brother's defense.
An arrest in the case wasn't made until about a month later when Rhoades was caught burglarizing an elementary school. While in custody, Rhoades confessed to killing the brothers. But he claimed it was done in self-defense after exchanging words with Charles Allen as Rhoades took a walk at 2:30 a.m.
"I was tired of running. I wanted to tell what happened," Rhoades said in his confession.
Rhoades was the third inmate put to death this year in Texas and the sixth in the U.S. Four more executions are scheduled for later this year in Texas, the nation's busiest capital punishment state.