Texas executed a 36-year-old man Nov. 18 for setting a fire 15 years ago that killed his 18-month-old daughter and the girl’s two half sisters.
The execution of Raphael Holiday was the thirteenth in Texas in 2015, the Associated Press notes. The state reportedly carries out more executions than any other state and has accounted for more than half of all executions in the country this year.
The execution proceeded after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned a judge’s ruling earlier in the day ordering a halt to the lethal injection, according to The Dallas Morning News.
Holiday was convicted of setting fire to his then-common-law wife’s home in September 2000. The fire killed 7-year-old Tierra Lynch, 5-year-old Jasmine DuPaul, and 18-month-old Justice Holiday.
According to testimony at trial, Holiday was angry about a protective order filed by his estranged wife after his arrest for sexually assaulting one of the children, the AP reports. Holiday maintained during a recent prison interview that he knew nothing about the assault.
Court records indicate that Holiday forced the girls’ grandmother, at gunpoint, to douse the interior of the home with gasoline. After the fuel ignited, he allegedly sped away in the grandmother’s car, hitting a police car in the process and leading police on a chase that ended two counties away after he crashed the car.
Defense attorneys at trial said that the fire was started by an electrical problem or faulty pilot light.
When asked if he would like to give a final statement Nov. 18, Holiday answered: “Yes, I would like to thank all of my supporters and loved ones," the Morning News reports.
"I love you, love y’all, always going to be with y’all,” he added, according to Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark. “Thank you, Warden.”
Holiday had been fighting to have new lawyers assigned to his case after his two federally-appointed lawyers said he had exhausted his appeals.
Gretchen Sween, an Austin-based attorney, had filed a motion with the U.S. Supreme Court asking that Holiday be given more time to find new lawyers, but the court rejected the appeal early in the day on Nov. 18.
The ruling from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals came about after Holiday’s original trial attorney got involved in the case again. This lawyer told the trial court that the execution should be stopped because some of the testimony at Holiday's original trial had been improper. The trial court judge agreed on Nov. 18 and withdrew the execution warrant.
The state attorney general’s office appealed the ruling to the court of criminal appeals that same day, and the judge’s order was voided, and the warrant was reinstated.
The execution took place shortly after, about two-and-a-half hours behind schedule because of the appeal, according to the AP.