HUNTSVILLE, Tex. — A man whose death warrant was signed with a "happy face" was executed early Tuesday, 11 years after killing a teen-ager who gave him a ride.
Robert Drew coughed and gasped, and tears streamed down his face as a needle carrying lethal chemicals was inserted into his left arm, just where a tattoo of a green cobra was inscribed "Big Bad Bob."
Drew, 35, insisted to the end that he did not stab and beat Jeffrey Mays to death after the 17-year-old from Birmingham, Ala., picked him up in February, 1983.
"Remember, the death penalty is legal murder," Drew said while strapped to the Texas death chamber gurney. "Tonight they're taking the life of an innocent man."
Drew's attorneys, Ronald Kuby and William Kunstler of New York, had appealed Monday. They contended that another hitchhiker in the car was responsible for the killing.
The U.S. Supreme Court, however, rejected Drew's claims in two separate rulings, and Texas Gov. Ann Richards refused a reprieve.
"It is such a relief," Mays' mother, Rebecca, said after learning Drew was dead. "He went to his death knowing what he did and still trying to convince people he was innocent."
Drew's case had angered death penalty opponents when a Houston judge signed his death warrant with a "happy face." The judge defended the action, saying he had signed all of his correspondence for years with the cartoon.