By Corrie MacLaggan and Terry Baynes
(Reuters) - Texas executed a man on Tuesday who had received three stays of execution from the U.S. Supreme Court because of questions about how forcefully his lawyers defended him.
Cleve Foster, 48, was convicted with an accomplice in the 2002 murder and rape of Nyanuer "Mary" Pal, whose naked body was found in a ditch, according to a report by the Texas Attorney General's office.
Foster had asked the U.S. high court for a fourth stay of execution but it was denied on Tuesday. He was pronounced dead at 6:43 p.m. local time (2343 GMT) at the state penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas criminal justice spokesman Jason Clark said.
The U.S. Supreme Court a year ago granted a temporary stay of execution just 2 1/2 hours before Foster was to be put to death by injection. It was the third stay from the high court for Foster, who also was granted delays in January and April 2011.
Tuesday's request for a fourth stay was referred by Justice Antonin Scalia to the full court but just three of the nine justices -- Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg -- said they would favor another stay.
Foster's accomplice in the murder, Shelton Ward, died of brain cancer on death row in 2010. Foster maintained in his trial that Ward acted alone and that contact between him and the victim was consensual.
The two men and Pal were regulars at Fat Albert's bar in Fort Worth when, the night before Valentine's Day in 2002, bartenders said Pal walked out with them, according to the report. Pal left in her car and the men followed closely behind in Foster's truck.
Eight hours later, Pal's body was found with a gunshot wound to the head and wadded-up duct tape nearby, according to the report.
Foster is the 30th person executed in the United States this year and the ninth in Texas.
In his last statement, Foster sent his love to his family and friends. "I love you, I pray one day we will all meet in heaven ...," Foster said. "Ready to go home to meet my maker."
Texas has executed more than four times as many people as any other state since the death penalty was reinstated in the United States in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
(Writing by Greg McCune; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Bill Trott)