WASHINGTON — An African American has been executed after Texas governor Rick Perry refused a last-minute recommendation to spare him because it was his accomplice who killed a store worker in an armed hold-up.

Robert Thompson, 34, was pronounced dead late Thursday 15 minutes after he was given a lethal injection in the Texas jail, administered after Perry refused the last minute appeal to change the sentence to life imprisonment.

In a rare move, the state's board of pardons and paroles had recommended to Perry that Thompson should not be put to death for his role in the 1996 burglary in which a staff member in the store was killed.

It was only the second time the board had made such a recommendation -- and the second time that Perry, an ardent supporter of the death penalty, refused such a plea.

Thompson and his accomplice burst into the store in Houston, Texas in December 1996 demanding that the cashier empty out the contents of the till.

According to a statement from the Texas justice ministry, the two men opened fire shooting at the cashier and another staff member who tried to run away.

The two gunmen then sought to flee in a car, and it was a shot fired by Thompson's accomplice from the vehicle that killed the victim.

Thompson was sentenced to death at his trial, while his accomplice is serving a life sentence without parole.

Texas is one of the rare US states which allows people to be sentenced to death even if they do not directly commit murder. Only nine people have been executed under such circumstances since the death penalty was restored in 1976.

Thompson was the 23rd person to be executed this year in Texas, the state which has carried out the most death penalties since 1976 -- 446 executions out of a total of 1,184.