Prisoner executed over sandwich row murder

A man has been executed for killing a prison guard in a dispute sparked by a peanut butter sandwich.

Robert Pruett, who was serving a life sentence for being accessory in a murder committed by his father, stabbed guard Daniel Nagle in Huntsville Prison in Texas in 1999.

Prosecutors say he murdered Mr Nagle after the corrections officer wrote a disciplinary report against him for trying to take a peanut butter sandwich into a recreation yard against prison rules, according to court documents.

Mr Nagle was repeatedly stabbed with a tape-wrapped metal rod, though an autopsy showed he died from a resulting heart attack.

The torn report was found at the scene.

Pruett, 38, was put to death by lethal injection on Thursday evening at Texas’ death chamber in Huntsville after the Supreme Court rejected his lawyers’ last-minute appeal to spare his life.

He was the 544th person executed in the US state after the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

The execution was Texas’ sixth of the year.

The Huntsville Unit in Texas, which houses the state's execution chamber
The Huntsville Unit in Texas, which houses the state’s execution chamber

“I’ve hurt a lot of people and a lot of people have hurt me. I love ya’ll so much. Life don’t end here it goes on forever,” Pruett, who disputed his 2002 conviction until the end, was quoted as saying in his final statement by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

“I’ve had to learn lessons in life the hard way. One day there won’t be a need to hurt people.”

The Supreme Court said it rejected Pruett’s petition about an hour before the scheduled execution – it did not provide a reason.

The death chamber at the state penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas
The death chamber at the state penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas

Pruett’s lawyers’ petition stated: “No witnesses testified they observed the attack, and no physical evidence connected Robert Pruett to the murder.”

They said Pruett was convicted on the unreliable testimony of prison informants and that neither Pruett’s fingerprints nor DNA material were found on the torn report.

The appeal came after lawyers asked the state to release the shank and Mr Nagle’s clothes for DNA testing following inconclusive tests in 2000.

However, the state of Texas, in a legal filing with the Supreme Court, said: “Pruett has raised nothing new that casts any doubt on his guilt.”

Mr Nagle’s family said in a statement: “Though it has been over 18 years since he was taken from us, we still miss Daniel every day and the execution will in no way minimize our loss.”

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