Texas Execution Drug 'Does Kind Of Burn,' Admits Inmate Jose Villegas After Receiving His Injection

In Texas Wednesday, the controversial execution of Jose Villegas went ahead, following an unsuccessful attempt by his lawyers to convince the Supreme Court he should have been ineligible for capitol punishment. They had argued that Villegas' IQ was so low, scoring a 59 on a test in February, that he should not have been executed, but the court disagreed. Some states, Florida among them, are considering making a minimum IQ of 71 a prerequisite for execution.

The office of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is currently running for governor, disputes the result of the test. They claim prior examinations showed no sign of mental illness, and Villegas only performed poorly after receiving his execution date, having thus been incentivized to do so.

Villegas' crimes were grisly and abhorrent in the extreme. He was convicted for the brutal January 2001 murders of his girlfriend, her three-year-old son, and her mother — each one stabbed at least 19 times, discovered by the family's father when he returned home from jury duty. In the aftermath of his murder conviction, he was also found guilty of two charges of indecency with a child, the daughter of another woman he'd physically abused prior to the killings.

When it comes to Texas, however, nothing death penalty-related is simple. The state is the foremost execution site in the United States, and has been for years. In recent years, due the refusal of the only American maker of sodium thiopental, the primary drug traditionally used for lethal injections, some states have started using pentobarbital instead.

The use of pentobarbital is controversial, not least of all because of its traditional function as a means to euthanize animals. Villegas was the third Texan to be killed with the drug, which state authorities are getting from a provider they've refused to name, on the grounds that the source could face backlash or threats — a position the Supreme Court agreed with.

Moments after the drug was administered, Villegas uttered his last words: "It does kind of burn. Goodbye."

Since 1976, over 1000 Texas inmates have been put to death. While such a staggering figure in itself suggests an innocent person has been executed at some point, The New Yorker's David Grann further suggested this to be the case in his excellent dissection of the Cameron Todd Willingham case in 2009.