Texas set to execute convicted killer of female impersonator

This undated photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice shows condemned Texas inmate Richard Masterson. Masterson doesnít deny being at a Houston apartment where a female impersonator was asphyxiated while he and the victim were having sex but insists the death 15 years ago was an accident. On Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016, Masterson is set for execution for the slaying of Darin Shane Honeycutt.

This undated photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice shows condemned Texas inmate Richard Masterson. Masterson doesnít deny being at a Houston apartment where a female impersonator was asphyxiated while he and the victim were having sex but insists the death 15 years ago was an accident. On Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016, Masterson is set for execution for the slaying of Darin Shane Honeycutt. Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — A Texas inmate scheduled to be executed this week for killing a female impersonator 15 years ago insists the death was an accident during sex and has made multiple appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Jurors at his trial, though, were convinced that Richard Masterson intentionally strangled 35-year-old Darin Shane Honeycutt, stole his car and fled to Florida before being arrested with another stolen car.

Masterson, 43, is set for lethal injection Wednesday evening for Honeycutt’s slaying.

He would be the first person put to death this year in Texas, which carries out more executions than any other state. Its 13 lethal injections last year accounted for almost half of the 28 executions nationwide.

Lawyers for Masterson had multiple appeals pending at the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, after failing in lower Texas and federal courts to block his execution.

Attorneys argued that Honeycutt’s death was accidental or the result of a heart attack, that a Harris County medical examiner with questionable credentials was wrong to tell jurors it was a strangulation, that Masterson’s earlier lawyers failed to discover the information and that his prolonged drug use and then withdrawal while in jail contributed to his “suicide by confession” when he spoke with police.

His lawyers also contend that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied Masterson his rights to due process and access to the courts by refusing their challenge to a new Texas law that keeps secret the identity of the provider of pentobarbital that Texas prison officials use for lethal injections.

Lawyers for the state argued that Masterson’s attorneys offered no scientific evidence about Honeycutt’s death that hadn’t been previously raised and rejected, including at Masterson’s trial. According to court filings, Masterson confessed to police, told a brother he killed Honeycutt and wrote to Texas’ then-Attorney General Greg Abbott in 2012 acknowledging the slaying.

“I meant to kill him,” Masterson wrote to Abbott, who is now Texas’ governor. “It was no accident.”

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