The oldest man ever to be executed in Texas went to his death last night with an enigmatic final statement, and drama among the witnesses, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Billie Coble, 70, was put to death by lethal injection for the murder of his wife's parents and brother in suburban Waco back in 1989. Coble had lived on death row for more than a quarter century.
Before dying, Coble's last words were "that'll be five dollars."
Prison spokesman Robert Hurst says that was a reference to his service as an infantryman in the Vietnam War.
"He decided that he would use that catch phrase whenever anybody would talk to him, and give him money, the same way the children in Vietnam would ask the soldiers for money when he was over there," Hurst said.
The execution was not without drama.
Coble's son, who was in one of the two witness rooms, began pounding on the glass window that afforded him a view into the death chamber.
"He began yelling and screaming, and the officers physically removed him, his wife, and their friend from the witness room," Hurst sid, adding that the son had to be charged after he fought with the prison guards who were escorting him out.
Relatives of the victims watched quietly from the other witness room.
Coble's death also points out another issue the state is facing...the ageing of death row.
The vast majority of inmates on death row were sent there in the 1990s and 2000s, which was the peak of death sentences in Texas, when juries were routinely sentencing seventy or more people a year to death.
The introducion of the sentence of life without parole in 2011 as well as the release of several inmates who technology has determined were innocent, has raised new questions about executions and has drastically reduced the number of younger people sent to Death Row.
That also means the residents of Death Row are getting older, with the attendent costs and challenging that come with housing geriatric inmates.