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Eight years later, Adams was still in prison, and Harris was on death row for Mays' murder. A documentary film, The Thin Blue Line, presented new evidence about the investigation of Wood's murder and Adams' trial. In light of the new evidence uncovered by the film, an evidentiary hearing was held. Harris testified, recanting his earlier accusations of Adams. "Randall Adams knew nothing about this offense and was not in the car at the time," Harris testified. (There were conflicting reports on whether Harris ever admitted to killing Wood.) Adams' capital murder verdict was overturned, and he was released from prison in March 1989.
By April 1992, Harris' state appeals were exhausted, and he began pursuing his federal appeals. In November 2001, U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice vacated Harris' death sentence. Justice ruled that the jury was inadequately instructed to consider whether Harris was provoked to shoot Mays in self-defense. The state appealed the case to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which in November 2002 reversed Judge Justice's decision and reinstated the death sentence.
The day before his scheduled execution, Harris received another stay. A U.S. district judge issued the stay so that Harris could file a lawsuit alleging that death by lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment. However, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overruled that decision on Wednesday, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, so Harris' execution proceeded as originally scheduled.
When the warden asked Harris if he had a final statement, Harris replied, "Sir, in honor of a true American hero: Let's roll." "Let's roll" were the words spoken on 11 September 2001 by a passenger on Flight 93 before attacking the men who hijacked that flight. "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. I'm done, warden," Harris then said. After that, the lethal injection was started.
By David Carson. Posted on 7 July 2004. Minor corrections made on 8 July 2004.
Sources: Texas Attorney General's office, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Associated Press.