Robert Mitchell Jennings, 61, was put to death at a prison in Huntsville, Texas  ()

Washington (AFP) – The US carried out its first execution of 2019 on Wednesday, putting to death a Texas man convicted of murdering a police officer 30 years ago during an attempted robbery.

Robert Mitchell Jennings, 61, was pronounced dead at 6:33 pm (0033 GMT Thursday) at a prison in Huntsville.

Jennings gunned down Elston Howard in a Houston adult bookstore on July 19, 1988, according to a court filing and local media.

Howard, 24, was in the middle of arresting an employee of the bookstore for illegally showing pornographic movies when Jennings entered, having just robbed a neighboring adult movie theater.

Jennings walked up to Howard and shot him twice. After the officer fell, Jennings fired again. He then demanded money from the store clerk before fleeing to his getaway vehicle, where he told an accomplice he had shot a “security guard.”

The accomplice told Jennings to get out of the car and shot him in the hand when he refused. Wounded, Jennings made his way to a hospital and was arrested.

He has launched multiple appeals since his sentencing in 1989, with supporters highlighting his difficult upbringing and intellectual limitations in their pleas for clemency.

This week, a court rejected his latest appeal, which focused on deficiencies in his legal defense in earlier cases.

The US carried out 25 executions in 2018, 13 of them in the state of Texas.

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