Mark James Asay

Prisoner slated to die today: “I never intended to murder him”


Mark James Asay, who’s spent nearly three decades on Death Row, is slated to die by lethal injection later today, in Florida’s first execution in more than a year and a half.

Asay, portrayed as a white supremacist by the prosecution, was convicted in 1988 of shooting deaths of Robert Booker, who was black, and Robert McDowell.

In a lengthy interview with News4Jax anchor Tom Wills, Asay — who would be the first white man executed for killing a black victim — admitted to killing McDowell but maintained his innocence regarding the murder of Booker.

Asay told Wills he was very drunk when he shot McDowell in downtown Jacksonville.

“That just happened as I was having a meltdown apparently. That’s all I can say. I knew Robert McDowell as Rene. I had previous encounters with him, and we were sociable, and he did take money from me one time. I had said, in my mind, ‘When I see him, I’m going to kick his ass.’ But I never intended to murder him. It just happened,” Asay said.

Asay will be the first Florida Death Row inmate executed with an untested lethal injection protocol that’s been the focus of a tangled legal battle.

Asay also denied being a white supremacist, despite having tattoos that indicate otherwise.

Asay said he got the tattoos while locked up in Texas.

“I was 19 years old, forced to survive in a hostile prison environment, and I got these tattoos in that environment so that I could blend in so that I could be safe in that environment. They are not representative at all of who I am, but they are tattoos, and they’re not easily removed. They’re easy to put on but they’re not easy to remove, and so I’ve had to live with them. I have covered them up. I had a swastika on my elbow; I covered that up. I had an SWP on my arm; I burned it off. I’ve removed every racial tattoo I had, except for the ones that I can’t reach,” he said.

When asked if he was a white supremacist, Asay was adamant.

“Never have been. I’ve had African-American friends all my life. But I’ve had to live in very hostile environments, and I’ve had to manage the best I could. While it’s a poor choice, it’s a choice I made, and I can’t undo it,” he said.