Robert Mitchell Jennings, 61, was executed by lethal injection on 30 January 2019 in Huntsville, Texas for the murder of a police officer during a robbery.
On Tuesday, 19 July 1988, Jennings, then 30, and David Harvell, 26, robbed an adult movie theater in Houston. They then decided to commit another robbery. Jennings entered an adult book store in the Greenway area with Harvell's gun. Houston Police Officer Elston Howard, 24, was in the store at the time, arresting the store clerk, Larry Overholt, for a operating a pornographic video arcade without a municipal permit. Howard was wearing a vice raid jacket. According to Overholt, Jennings simply walked up to Howard and shot him twice. After he collapsed to the floor, Jennings shot him a third time.* He then robbed Overholt and left the store.
While Jennings and Harvell were fleeing, Jennings told Harvell he shot a "security guard." Harvell ordered Jennings out of the car, but Jennings refused to leave. Harvell then shot him once in the hand. Jennings was arrested at Ben Taub Hospital. Harvell was arrested several days later at his mother's house in Euless, a suburb of Fort Worth.
In a recorded confession, Jennings admitted to the shooting and expressed remorse for it. He said he would "face whatever punishment [he had] coming."
Jennings's life of crime began in his childhood. At age 14, he was declared a juvenile delinquent and was placed on probation. In January 1976, at age 17, he was convicted of aggravated robbery and sentenced to five years in prison. He was discharged from that sentence in March 1978, but he quickly returned to his old ways. He was convicted again of aggravated robbery in November of that year and began serving a 30-year sentence. After receiving parole from that sentence in May 1988, he began a string of six armed robberies over two months, culminating in Officer Howard's death. He had previously robbed the same bookstore 12 days earlier.
At the time, early release was common in Texas due to strict prison population caps imposed by U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice.
*These are the facts as stated in court documents. According to a news report, Howard was 26 and was issuing Overholt a citation. Most news reports state that Jennings shot Howard four times.
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