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Texas Carries Out First Multiple Execution in 44 Years

January 31, 1995

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) _ Eighty-eight minutes and a clean sheet separated the deaths of two killers given lethal injections in Texas’ first multiple execution in 44 years.

Clifton Russell, condemned for the 1979 robbery-slaying of an air traffic controller in Abilene, was executed first early Tuesday. He had been on death row for 15 years.

``I would like to thank my friends and family for sticking with me through all of this,″ he said in his final statement. ``I would like to encourage my brothers to continue to run the race. I thank my father in heaven for the grace that he’s granted me.″

Corrections officials removed Russell’s body from the death chamber, replaced needles and tubes used for his injection, changed the sheet on a gurney bolted to the floor and waited for Willie Williams to be driven 15 miles to the death chamber.

Williams, convicted in the 1980 murder-robbery of a Houston convenience store clerk, had spent 14 years on death row.

``What is remarkable about this situation is not that two people were executed this evening, but that for a combined 29 years the people of the state of Texas were waiting for justice to be done,″ said Drew Durham, an assistant attorney general.

Texas resumed capital punishment in 1982 and has executed 89 men _ more, by far, than any other state.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to resume in 1976, Arkansas is the only other state to execute more than one person on a single day, putting to death two killers on May 11 and three on Aug. 3.

Texas officials said the double execution was a coincidence; judges set execution dates. Russell was executed first because he arrived on death row first.

The multiple execution was the first in Texas since three rapists went to the electric chair in 1951.

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