Malcolm Rent Johnson, 41, 00-01-06, Oklahoma
In what apparently was the 1st execution of the new millennium in the United States, the state of Oklahoma put Malcolm Rent Johnson to death early Thursday for the murder of a 76-year-old woman in 1981.
Johnson, 41, was pronounced dead by lethal injection shortly after midnight.
He had been convicted of the murder of Ura Alma Thompson, who was found dead from suffocation in her Oklahoma City apartment. She also had been raped and beaten in the face and on the head.
Johnson, who was 23 at the time of the murder, previously had been convicted in Illinois of 2 rapes, 2 armed robberies and a burglary.
Police found several items from Thompson's home in Johnson's apartment, including a typewriter, rings, watch, key rings, cigarette case and hand mirror.
Hair and semen samples taken at the crime scene matched those taken from Johnson.
No one from Thompson's family witnessed the execution, said Jerry Massie, spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.
6 people of Johnson's choosing -- 2 of his sisters, a brother, 2 attorneys and a minister -- witnessed his death.
Before he was led to the execution chamber, Johnson had a total of 11 visitors Wednesday, prison officials said. Eighteen to 20 had signed up to visit him, and officials said he apparently had a very large family.
Protestors who gathered for a vigil outside the prison walls seized upon the significance of the execution's timing.
"Oklahoma has the dubious distinction of being the 1st jurisdiction in the United States to schedule an execution in the new millennium," the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty said in a prepared statement.
"This is the 1st in what may prove to be a dismally record-breaking year in terms of the numbers of prisoners in state custody put to death," the group said.
The execution of 4-time killer Gary Alan Walker, sentenced to death for the 1984 murder of 63-year-old Eddie Cash of Broken Arrow, is scheduled for Jan. 13.
Michael Donald Roberts is scheduled to be executed Feb. 10 for the 1988 murder of Lula May Brooks, 80, who drowned in her own blood after being stabbed in the head and neck and her throat was slit.
There are 143 people on death row in Oklahoma.
In addition to being the 1st condemned prisoner to be put to death this year in America, Johnson is also the 20th condemned prisoner to be put to death in Oklahoma since the state resumed capital punishment in 1990.
Johnson becomes the 599th condemned prisoner to be put to death in the USA since executions resumed on Jan. 17, 1977.
(sources: Tulsa World and Rick Halperin)
David Ray Duren, 37, 00-01-07, Alabama
A death row inmate died in Alabama's electric chair nearly 16 years after he robbed a teen-age Birmingham girl and shot her to death.
David Ray Duren, 37, was pronounced dead at 12:09 a.m. Friday at Holman Prison in Atmore. Duren, of Jefferson County, was convicted of killing 16-year-old Kathleen Bedsole in October 1983.
Miss Bedsole's uncle and cousin solemnly witnessed the execution, along with 2 of Duren's friends.
Strapped into the chair, Duren appeared calm as he awaited the execution.
Duren opposed any 11th-hour appeal to avoid execution. He asked for the death penalty in his 1984 trial, but state officials said he changed his mind and fought execution for years.
Thursday, Duren spent the day with a group of more than 10 family and friends, including a pastor from a prison ministry at Donaldson Prison in west Jefferson County. Duren was held at the facility until Dec. 28, when he was moved to Atmore to await execution.
Duren's execution comes as the Supreme Court is reviewing a Florida case concerning use of the electric chair. Justices in October 1999 agreed to consider, for the first time in more than 100 years, whether the electric chair as it is used in Florida violates inmates' Eighth Amendment rights.
Alabama is 1 of only 4 states that use the chair as the sole means of executing prisoners, although others include it as an option. Duren was the 1st inmate executed in an electric chair since the Supreme Court agreed to review the Florida case.
Duren's attorney, Rory Fitzpatrick of Boston, has declined comment on any appeal this week and did not immediately return a phone call Thursday.
Prison officials said Duren gave clothing and other items to fellow death row inmates. He gave religious papers to Robert Tarver, who is scheduled to be executed Feb. 4. Duren also gave a watch to his father, Raymond Duren, and pictures and other items to friends.
Duren was 21 when he and accomplice David Kinder, 17, kidnapped Miss Bedsole and her 16-year-old boyfriend, Chuck Leonard, while the teens were in Leonard's parked car. After putting the teen-agers in the car's trunk, Duren and Kinder drove them to a secluded area, where both teens were tied up and shot.
The killers were shortly captured. Kinder is now serving a term of life without parole.
Leonard survived and now is a Baptist minister in South Carolina. He said earlier this week he was worried about Duren's spiritual life. He and Duren spoke Wednesday by telephone, and Duren told him he was a born-again Christian who had sought God's forgiveness.
Duren, in a telephone interview Wednesday with The Birmingham News, said he was not afraid to die. "Being a Christian, I welcome it," he said. "I'll be in heaven."
He said he thinks death is an appropriate punishment, "because I'm guilty." He also said he doesn't want to wait and see if the state eventually switches to lethal injection for executions.
"I can drag it out another 3 years or however long it took them to decide it," he said. "But that wouldn't be fair to the victims' family. It wouldn't be fair to my family.
"Not one minute of this has been enjoyable," he said. "I can't imagine wanting this for another 40 years."
The Florida legislature this week in a special session began debating switching to lethal injection for executions. If Florida changes its method, Alabama, Georgia and Nebraska would be the remaining states using the electric chair exclusively.
Alabama officials have said they are waiting to see if the Supreme Court's ruling affects Florida alone. They also said the case might be left moot if Florida switches its method of execution.
Duren becomes the 1st condemned prisoner to be put to death this year in Alabama, and the 20th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1983.
(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)
Douglas Christopher Thomas, 26, 00-01-10, Virginia
Douglas Christopher Thomas was executed by injection Monday night for killing his girlfriend's parents when he was 17.
Thomas, 26, made no final statement.
Thomas fatally shot James Baxter Wiseman and Kathy Wiseman as they slept in their Middlesex home on Nov. 10, 1990. The Wisemans had been trying to end the relationship between Thomas and their daughter, who was also convicted in the killing.
In a telephone interview last week, Thomas said it was unfair that he faced execution while his girlfriend, convicted as a juvenile for the same crime, was released years ago.
"What I did when I was 17 was wrong, and yes I should be punished. But to pay the ultimate price while my co-defendant, who is just as guilty as I am, has been released to go on with a normal life ... is a little extreme."
Jessica Wiseman was 14 when she urged Thomas to kill her parents. She was convicted of murder as a juvenile because she was too young to be tried as an adult and was released in 1997.
Thomas' appeal was based on an international agreement that prohibits executing juveniles. It was signed by the United States, but the Senate has refused to ratify it.
Thomas becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Virginia and the 74th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1982.
(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)
Earl Carl Heiselbetz Jr., 48, 00-01-12, Texas
A man who strangled a woman and child who lived next door to him was put to death Wednesday, the 200th execution in Texas since capital punishment resumed in the state in 1982.
Earl Carl Heiselbetz Jr., 48, was executed by injection for the 1991 killings of Rena Rogers and her 2-year-old daughter, Jacy.
Strapped to a gurney before the execution began, Heiselbetz looked at his mother and father, who were watching through a window nearby, and said: "Love y'all. See you on the other side."
Heiselbetz had said he could not remember killing the woman and child, who were his closest neighbors in a secluded area near the Sabine National Forest in east Texas.
Mrs. Rogers and her daughter disappeared after returning home from a midmorning trip to the grocery store. Their remains were found a month later in a barn.
"I'm not worried about myself," Heiselbetz said in an interview last month, adding that he needed to "just get my heart right with God."
Rena Rogers and her 2-year-old daughter, Jacy, disappeared the morning of May 30, 1991, after grocery shopping. The woman's husband found her car keys, purse and a jar of coins missing from their secluded home close to
the Sabine National Forest. No signs of foul play were evident.
The victims' skeletal remains were found June 27 in a barn in nearby Tyler County. The mother and daughter were identified by medical and dental records and were believed to have been strangled.
Prosecutors said Heiselbetz, the Rogers' nearest neighbor who had been a suspect since the 2 disappeared, confessed after a 2nd round of questioning the day the bodies were discovered.
"He was kind of a loner-type of person who had gotten into making sweepstakes (toll) calls. He went over to (Ms. Rogers') house to make 1-900 calls for some kind of sweepstakes," said Charles Mitchell, the
Sabine County district attorney who prosecuted Heiselbetz.
"We theorize maybe he was caught there in the house after they got home from the grocery store, they got into an altercation and she killed the woman and killed her child."
Mitchell noted that the unemployed truck driver weighed nearly 3 times as much as the 90-pound woman.
Heiselbetz maintained that he suffered blackouts from an injury he received in a 1975 car accident, which the high-school dropout says
explains why he would not remember whether he were the killer.
However, a psychiatrist testified that the explanation was not plausible. A jury convicted him of capital murder and sentenced him to die in November 1991.
"All I can say is, I don't remember the killing," Heiselbetz said.
(sources: San Antonio News-Express, Associated Press & Rick Halperin)
Gary Alan Walker, 40, 00-01-13, Oklahoma
Gary Alan Walker, whose 1984 killing spree left 5 victims' families grappling with more than 15 years of grief and unrest, paid the ultimate price with his own life shortly after midnight Thursday.
Walker was given lethal injections at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary for the May 6, 1984, death of Eddie O. Cash, 63, of Broken Arrow.
The Cash family, consisting of 2 sons, their wives, 1 daughter and her husband, and 4 grandsons and 2 of their wives watched through a
large window in a room adjacent to the execution chamber. The room seats only 12 people.
Family members of the other 4 victims' -- Tulsa newswoman Valerie Shaw-Hartzell, 25; Margaret Bell Lydick, 37, of Poteau; Jane Hilburn, 35, of Vinita; and Janet Jewell, 32, of Beggs -- watched on closed-circuit television as Walker, strapped to a gurney, was given the injections.
Witnessing on Walker's behalf were a cousin who raised him and a sister, according to Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson.
Walker was found guilty Nov. 14, 1984, of killing Cash by striking him several times in the head with a brick before strangling him with a vacuum cleaner cord. Cash had given Walker, who was hitchhiking, a ride to Owasso earlier in the day while he was on his way to Collinsville.
Walker later went to Cash's Broken Arrow home with the intent of
Walker's execution ends what has been a long and often halting road to
justice for the victims' family members.
Emilie Pearson, Shaw-Hartzell's mother, said before the execution that family members had toured death row.
"You know. It didn't affect me," she said. "It was just a long hall with nothing to see."
Pearson attended the execution with her husband, James, her daughter and her husband, Valerie's uncle and the family's pastor.
Pearson said that as she got closer to McAlester on Wednesday she began getting nervous that "surely nothing can happen now at this late date."
Edmondson apprised the victims' families of the legal status of Walker's case, he said. He expected no last-minute appeals.
Asked about the mood among the other victims' family members as midnight grew nearer, Pearson said: "I think everyone is glad it has finally gotten here. It's taken too long."
She continued: "Everybody's hugging each other. We may not have met, but we know what each other's gone through."
For herself, she said, she hopes the execution "will finally put an end to this 16-1/2 years of pain, grief and sadness. We'll never forget Valerie, and this certainly won't bring her back."
Eileen Stephens, Shaw-Hartzell's cousin, defined the execution as "the end to the ultimate battle of good and evil -- good triumphant over evil finally 15 years later."
"The death penalty is the ultimate protection for the-law abiding citizens of our society from murderous and violent criminals," Stephens said.
She suggested that instead of protesting the death penalty, "we need to use our energies to prevent child neglect and abuse and promote better
mental health care for all our citizens."
Cash's family members also expressed their feelings about death penalty protesters.
Dorna Cash, the wife of Eddie Cash's grandson, Lewis Cash, said, "The protesters of the Walker execution should be given the chance to be scared to death and tortured and bought near to death by strangulation, then right before death be allowed to live. Then see if they still feel the same way."
James Crane, another of Cash's grandsons, said, "I don't know if killing Walker is right or wrong, justice or vengeance. All I know is that he
will never kill anyone ever again."
Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz, who also attended the execution, said Walker "admitted to killing all 5 people on the Saturday evening he was arrested."
He remembered a sleep-deprived Walker being almost relieved to talk about the crimes, he said.
Glanz, chief detective for the Tulsa Police Department at the time, said that on the day after Walker's arrest Walker led Glanz and other officers to Shaw-Hartzell's and Jewell's bodies.
Aside from the death penalty, Walker ultimately received 5 life terms and 530 years in prison for other crimes committed in 1984.
The death sentence Walker received June 1, 1985, for the strangulation death of Shaw-Hartzell was overturned on appeal. Walker pleaded guilty in a subsequent retrial and received life without parole and 500 years for kidnapping.
But Edmondson said the death penalty is more than appropriate for this case.
The fact that 31 family members attended the execution "symbolizes the devastation" Walker's killing spree brought to this state that cost the lives of 5 people," he said.
Walker continues to pose a threat to society, Edmondson said, a fact that's substantiated "through his own words and confessions."
Walker said during the retrial for Shaw-Hartzell's death that if he were free he would kill again.
Shaw-Hartzell's sister, Vicki Chiavetta, said it's taken far too long for justice to be served.
She said she didn't know if justice or Walker's death will "bring any
peace to my heart, but I hope it does."
Edmondson said that while the families of Walker's 5 murder victims have endured a "15-year- search for justice," a 1995 change in the law to expedite the appeals process will possibly cut the appeals time for new death penalty cases to approximately 7 years. However, it will have little to no affect on cases filed prior to the change.
Walker becomes the 2nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Oklahoma and the 21st overall since the state resumed executions in 1990.
(sources: Tulsa World & Rick Halperin)
Steve Edward Roach, 23, 00-01-13, Virginia
A man who was sentenced to die for killing and robbing a neighbor when he was 17 was executed Thursday night, 3 days after Virginia executed another man for crimes committed as a juvenile.
Steve Edward Roach, 23, was put to death by injection at the Greensville Correctional Center.
Roach was pronounced dead at 9:04 p.m.
Roach, asked if he had any final words, recited the 23rd Psalm.
After the execution, Steven M. Schneebaum, Roach's attorney, released a lengthy statement in which Roach asked to be remembered "not just as the teen-ager who committed a horrible crime, but also the adult who accepted responsibility for it and begged the forgiveness of those he caused to
Roach wrote that he was "unable to grasp, even to his last breath, why we kill people to teach other people that killing is wrong."
Wendell Lamb, Roach's spiritual adviser, spoke briefly to the condemned man and kissed him on the cheek just before the execution. Roach, who met with his wife and 2 other relatives earlier Thursday, remained calm in the hours leading to his death, Lamb said.
An hour before the execution, Gov. Jim Gilmore rejected Roach's request
for clemency. Gilmore noted that Roach had been convicted of 4 felonies in the 7 months before the December 1993 slaying of 70-year-old Mary Ann Hughes and was armed in violation of his probation terms.
Amnesty International had sent Gilmore a letter asking him to spare Roach, who shot Ms. Hughes in her Greene County home before fleeing with her purse and car.
"We in no way seek to excuse that crime or belittle the suffering it has caused. We seek only Virginia's compliance with international law and global standards of justice," wrote Pierre Sane, secretary general of
the human rights group.
In an interview last week, Roach said he "put all my trust in God. It's in his hands. I am ready to accept whatever happens and I am praying for a miracle."
On Wednesday, about 50 people gathered in front of Charlottesville Circuit Court to protest the death penalty, especially when used to punish crimes committed by juveniles.
Steve Ford, a longtime anti-capital punishment activist, said Roach's crime was "heinous, but putting him to death is way out there."
Douglas Christopher Thomas, 26, was executed Monday night for shooting his girlfriend's parents in Middlesex County in 1990, when he was 17.
Last November, the Virginia Supreme Court upheld the convictions of Roach and Thomas, who had argued their parents weren't properly notified of hearings before their trials.
The 2 men had hoped to take advantage of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last June in which another Virginia youth was granted a new trial because only his mother was notified of a hearing to transfer his case from juvenile court to adult court. Virginia law at the time required notice of such hearings go "to the parents" of the juvenile.
Roach becomes the 2nd condemned prisoner to be put to death this year
in Virginia and the 75th overall since the state resumed executions in 1982.
(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)
Spencer Corey Goodman, 31, 00-01-18, Texas
Spencer Corey Goodman was executed by injection Tuesday night for snapping the neck of a Houston woman after knocking her unconscious and stealing her car.
Minutes before the execution, a witness turned to the victim's husband, Bill Ham, manager of rock group ZZ Top, and asked how he was doing.
"Great," Ham replied.
Goodman, meanwhile, strapped to the death chamber gurney, expressed love for his family and a woman named Kami in a final statement. Then he said, "That's it, warden. Thank you, chaplain."
Goodman gulped 3 times, sputtered loudly about a half dozen times and then fell into unconsciousness. He was pronounced dead at 6:22 p.m., 9 minutes after the flow of lethal drugs began.
Goodman, 31, was the 2nd Texas death row inmate executed this year and the 201st since capital punishment resumed in the state in 1982. Texas has 5 more executions scheduled this month.
8 years ago, Goodman was 23 years old, a twice-convicted felon and footsore from a long walk without a destination. He was just a day out of a San Antonio parole center on July 2, 1991, and already overdue at a Houston halfway house when he decided to steal Ham's car.
After being dropped off in Houston along with a busload of other parolees, Goodman headed west on Interstate 10 and spent a restless night by the train tracks. He walked throughout the next hot and rainy day until he came upon Ham's Cadillac parked at a pharmacy in west Houston.
"I was going to get out of Houston and say, `I'm starting over,' just get away from Houston," Goodman said recently. "Like a dummy, I didn't think about reporting again."
When the 48-year-old Ham returned to her car and stepped into the driver's seat, Goodman slammed his fist into her neck, knocked her unconscious and pushed her limp body to the floor.
After driving a few miles, Goodman later told investigators, he "used martial arts and broke the lady's neck."
His victim's body in the trunk and her credit cards in his wallet, Goodman took off for a month before police captured him in Colorado on Aug. 7, 1991, and solved what had been until then a missing person's case.
A Fort Bend County jury convicted him and sentenced him to death on June 1, 1992. While testifying, Goodman admitted knocking out Ham, but denied breaking her neck or planning to kill her.
"He broke a woman's neck with his bare hands because he didn't feel like walking," said Fred Felcman, an assistant district attorney who helped prosecute Goodman.
"And then he stuffs her into the trunk, and drives away and visits friends, gives away the presents that she had bought that day, uses her credit cards."
Goodman headed back toward San Antonio, leaving behind a trail of nearly 60 credit card transactions for detectives to follow.
Deputies in Eagle County, Colo., arrested Goodman after a 32-mile chase that climaxed when he drove the Cadillac over a low cliff. Soon afterward, Goodman told police he killed Ham and dumped her body in a field near Pearsall, south of San Antonio.
"People make mistakes, and I made a bad one," Goodman said recently. "I don't blame nobody."
(source: Houston Chronicle)
David Hicks, 38, 00-01-20, Texas
A man was executed Thursday for beating his elderly grandmother, then returning to her house, raping her and fatally shattering her skull.
David Hicks was 26 and recently released from jail when he left 88-year-old Ocolor Hegger for dead, her skull shattered with a wooden doorstop, a prosecutor said. Semen found at the scene was matched to Hicks.
A neighbor found Mrs. Hegger sprawled on the kitchen floor of her small frame house in Teague on the morning of April 26, 1988.
Hicks and a cousin went to Mrs. Hegger's house on the night of the murder because the cousin owed her money, Freestone County District Attorney Bob Gage said.
The pair left her watching television, but Hicks returned to rob Mrs. Hegger. He beat her and left her in the bedroom, Gage said, then spent the evening drinking beer with friends before returning.
"I think she was laying there injured for 2 or 3 hours before he came back to check," Gage said.
Hicks raped Mrs. Hegger and severely beat her.
He continued to assert his innocence in an interview late last year. "I've got to get my name back," he said.
Introducing genetic material as courtroom evidence was a revolutionary technique in 1989, when Hicks went on trial. His conviction touched off a flurry of articles in scientific journals. DNA was inconclusive in Hicks'
case for a variety of reasons, some scientists argued. A Waco judge agreed to re-evaluate the evidence. For the 2nd time, the DNA test pointed to Hicks.
Hicks becomes the 3rd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas and the 202nd overall since the state resumed capital
punishment on Dec. 7, 1982.
(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)
Larry Keith Robison, 42, 2000-01-21, TX
Billy George Hughes Jr., 48, 2000-01-24, TX
Glen McGinnis, 27, 2000-01-25, TX
James Moreland, 39, 2000-01-27, TX
Michael Donald Roberts, 42, 00-02-10, Oklahoma
An Oklahoma City man convicted of stabbing a neighbor to death in 1988 was executed early today.
Michael Donald Roberts, 42, was pronounced dead at 12:21 a.m. after receiving a lethal dose of drugs at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary.
Roberts was condemned for the Jan. 16, 1988, death of 80- year-old Lula Mae Brooks. The woman was killed during the burglary of her home. She
drowned in her own blood after being stabbed in the neck and head and having her throat slit.
Roberts lived 3 houses down from Brooks and confessed to the killing in a statement to Oklahoma City police, authorities said. Roberts also admitted to 19 other burglaries.
Attorney General Drew Edmondson called Roberts a "walking crime wave" who also confessed to a count of sexual assault.
"Roberts committed a cold- blooded murder on an 80-year-old victim," Edmondson said Wednesday afternoon.
Roberts told police that he entered Brooks' house after he saw the door
open. He claimed he stabbed Brooks when she charged at him with a knife. He said he slit her throat with another knife when she came at him a 2nd time.
Roberts said he tossed Brooks on the floor and she then asked him to "finish the job," authorities said.
Roberts recanted his confession during his trial and said he confessed because detectives offered him a 15-year sentence to clear up the killing and a string of robberies.
Police denied the claim.
Prosecutors and police said Roberts killed Brooks to avoid arrest and prosecution because Brooks could identify him.
The U.S. Supreme Court, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and Gov. Frank Keating all denied requests for a stay of execution or to reconsider earlier appeal denials.
The state Pardon and Parole Board denied Roberts' clemency request late last month.
Roberts was the 105th man executed in Oklahoma since 1915. He was the 22nd executed since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty
(source: the Oklahoman)
Anthony Lee Chaney, 45, 00-02-16, Arizona
A man who shot a reserve sheriff's deputy more than 30 times with a semiautomatic assault rifle was executed by injection today.
As he lay on a gurney, Anthony Lee Chaney glanced at friends, pursed his lips and shook his head. He declined to say anything when asked if he wanted to offer any last words.
"No," he said emphatically and then gave a thumbs up to his friends.
As the drugs began flowing at 3:07 p.m., he closed his eyes and let out a sigh. His chest heaved once and then he stopped moving. He was pronounced dead at 3:10 p.m.
Chaney, 45, killed Coconino County reserve Deputy John B. Jamison on Sept. 6, 1982. Jamison had been responding to a report that a fellow deputy had stopped a stolen truck in the woods outside Flagstaff and wasn't answering radio calls.
Chaney opened fire as soon as Jamison pulled up. The officer never had a
chance to draw his gun.
Coconino County Sheriff Joe Richards, who had said Jamison's death had a profound effect on the Flagstaff community, said the execution brought back the emotions he felt after the shooting. Jamison was also a doctor in Flagstaff.
"I am really glad that it is over," said Richards.
Another witness, state Rep. John Verkamp, who helped prosecute Chaney, noted Chaney refused to offer any apology, even at the end.
"He was one of the coldest people I have seen in my life," Verkamp said.
Defense attorneys had tried to save Chaney's life earlier in the week by arguing he suffered from a mental disorder that caused him to react violently when Jamison arrived in his patrol car.
The attorneys complained Chaney was not given enough time to be properly tested for the mental disorder during his criminal trial.
Prosecutors said Chaney's attorneys were given adequate time to examine the possible mental disorder, noting that six experts and five days of the trial were devoted to Chaney's mental status.
The day of the killing, Chaney was driving a stolen truck and was being sought for burglaries in New Mexico and Texas and had already pulled a gun on Deputy Bob Cline, handcuffing him to a tree. Jamison had been called to check on Cline when he was shot to death.
Chaney and a female companion were arrested later after stealing another truck. Deanna Jo Saunders-Coleman pleaded guilty and provided key testimony against Chaney. She was sentenced to 21 years in prison, but only served 14.
Chaney becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Arizona and the 2oth overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1992.
(sources: Arizona Daily Star and Rick Halperin)
Terry Melvin Sims, 58, 00-02-23, Florida
For the 1st time in its history, Florida executed an inmate by injection Wednesday following a high-profile struggle with how the state's condemned should be put to death.
Terry Melvin Sims was given a lethal dose of chemicals shortly after 7 a.m. for the fatal shooting of a sheriff's deputy during a drugstore robbery in the central Florida town of Longwood on Dec. 19, 1977.
A prison doctor pronounced him dead at 7:10 a.m., the governor's office said.
About 2 dozen anti-death penalty protestors, carrying candles and signs, marched in the chilly dawn outside Florida State Prison in rural north Florida during the execution.
"I would like to see Mr. Bush here," Michele Agans of St. Augustine said of Gov. Jeb Bush, who pushed the legislation allowing the condemned to choose between electrocution and lethal injection. "If he is ordering this man's death, he should be in there watching."
Sims, 58, ate a final meal, sharing it with guards and Anthony B. Bryan, who is set to be executed Thursday and is being held in an adjoining cell.
Sims, who was Jewish, also met with a rabbi, said Florida State Prison spokesman C.J. Drake. During the execution, a small group of Jews gathered outside to say mourning prayers.
Sims' death marked the 1st time in almost 73 years that Florida executed anyone by a method other than electrocution. Florida joined 34 other states that also use lethal injection.
The U.S. Supreme Court and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta denied his last appeals late Tuesday.
Last week, the Florida Supreme Court rejected Sims' claims of innocence and his challenge to the new method of execution. Last fall, Sims unsuccessfully fought the constitutionality of the electric chair.
The execution team was well-prepared, having practiced "well over a dozen times," Drake said before the death.
According to a protocal issued by prison officials, after his final meal, Sims was showered and dressed in his funeral suit. A prison doctor offered him Valium to calm his nerves.
Out of view of the media and official witnesses, prison officials strapped Sims to a gurney in a small preparation room, placing an intravenous line into each of his arms and securing a heart monitor. An agent of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement observed, making sure the inmate wasn't mistreated.
The grim work was done out of the view of witnesses to protect the identity of members of the execution team.
An anonymous executioner, wearing a black hood in keeping with prison tradition, pushed a plunger sending two syringes filled with sodium pentothal, an anesthetic in a dose strong enough to kill, into Sims' arm. Next he injected a saline solution, followed by 2 syringes of a pancuronium bromide, a muscle relaxant to halt breathing. Another saline solution followed, then 2 syringes of the lethal potassium chloride. The executioner earned $150 for the job.
On the day of the 1977 slaying, George Pfiel, 55, who became a deputy after retiring from the New York City Police Department after 22 years, was off duty and had stopped to pick up a prescription for his wife, Florence. Sims and another man, Curtis Baldree were holding up the pharmacy, while 2 other men waited in a car.
When Sims spotted Pfeil's uniform, he opened fire. The fatally wounded deputy fired and hit Sims in the hip. Sims was not arrested until June 1978 after an attempted robbery in California.
Sims steadfastly maintained his innocence.
The Florida legislature, meeting in special session earlier this year, approved giving death row inmates the option of choosing lethal injection over the electric chair.
It was the 1st execution since the July 8, 1999, electrocution of Allen Lee "Tiny" Davis. Blood poured from Davis' nose, making a plate-sized stain on his white shirt.
Sims becomes the 1st Florida inmate to be put to death this year and the 45th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1979.
Sims also becomes the 15th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 613th overall since America resumed executions on Jan. 17, 1977.
(sources: Sun-Sentinel & Rick Halperin)
Cornelius Goss, 38, 00-02-23, Texas
A parolee with burglary and auto theft convictions was executed Wednesday night for fatally clubbing a Dallas man with a 2-by-4 during a burglary while the victim dozed in an easy chair at his home.
Strapped to the death chamber, Cornelius Goss apologized to his victim's family.
"I don't think I can say anything that will help, but I hope through your God, you can forgive me," Goss said. "I'm definitely not the person now that I was then. I was sick, afraid, looking for love and friends in all the wrong ways. I've caused you pain and grief."
Before the drugs began taking effect, Goss turned to his mother, who was watching through a nearby window, and said he loved her. The victim's son, daughter-in-law and 2 family friends also watched.
Goss took a deep breath, sputtered and was pronounced dead at 6:17 p.m. 7 minutes after the flow of lethal drugs began.
Goss, 38, did not deny killing 66-year-old Carl Leevy the evening of May 20, 1987.
"I'm definitely guilty," Goss said in an interview last week. "It was just to get some money to get some drugs. I've been sorry from day one."
Goss had been on parole 3 weeks after serving 6 months of a 7-year prison term for burglary. The day before the slaying, he had been sentenced to a day in jail for a misdemeanor conviction of illegally carrying a weapon. Police had found an illegal long-blade knife in his car while arresting him for trying to steal a chainsaw from a Sears store in Mesquite, an East Dallas suburb.
Goss began building a criminal record at 17 when he received probation for marijuana possession. He followed that with burglary and auto theft convictions before he was arrested for the Leevy slaying.
Police tracked down Goss after he had a friend try to pawn the victim's Rolex watch, which by then had been reported stolen. When arrested, he was wearing a pair of red shorts taken from Leevy's home.
In a confession to police, Goss said he had crawled through a window to get inside the house, went looking for valuables and even grabbed a drink from the refrigerator. He said when he turned into the living room the floor squeaked and stirred the sleeping man. In a panic, he grabbed a
2-by-4 board that was nearby and clubbed Leevy until the man "flopped to his left in the chair," Goss told officers.
Then he took a watch, a necklace, a ring and a wallet from Leevy, who had worked for Converse, a sporting goods supplier, along with some bags of athletic clothing.
Prosecutors believed Goss was hanging around a convenience store where Leevy had stopped that day and saw the man's flashy jewelry.
"He saw that gold and followed him home," said Andy Beach, a former Dallas County assistant district attorney who prosecuted Goss. "It was just worth it to Goss to take a life to get those objects."
Goss said last week the prospect of dying frightened him at times, but in a way he was looking forward to his execution because it meant leaving death row.
"I've had many people tell me there's got to be a better place," he said.
Goss becomes the 8th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas and the 207th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on Dec. 7, 1982.
Goss also becomes the 16th condemned prisoner to be put to death this year in the USA and the 614th overall since America resumed executions on Jan. 17, 1977.
(sources: Associated Press and Rick Halperin)
Anthony Bryan, 40, 00-02-24, Florida
A man who murdered a night watchman with a shotgun in 1983 died by lethal injection Thursday in Florida's 2nd use in 2 days of that method of execution.
One-time fisherman Anthony Bryan, who became a born-again Christian while on death row, died at 7:11 a.m., said the Tallahassee office of Gov. Jeb Bush.
That was almost exactly 24 hours after Terry Melvin Sims became the 1st condemned inmate to die by chemical injection in a state that had used electrocution for 76 years.
Bryan, 40, was sentenced to die for the slaying of George Wilson, 60, a night watchman abducted from his job at a seafood wholesaler in Pascagoula, Miss.
Bryan's family members, including his 16-year-old son Bradley, his aunt Levonne Dykes and his sister, Cynthia Tucker, kept vigil in the chilly, foggy dawn outside the prison for the second day.
Shortly before the deadly procedure began at 7 a.m., Bryan gave his final statement.
"I confess Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and I have put my faith in Him. I believe in the resurrection," he said. "I would like to thank those who stood by me the 13 years I was on death row. ... No matter what you do in life, God can make a difference. He has made a difference in
mine. You can always be redeemed. I thank you."
At 7 a.m., the prison warden nodded to the executioner, concealed behind a one-way mirror, and lethal chemicals began to flow through tubes leading to Anthony's arms. A minute later his eyes rolled back, then quickly glazed over. He appeared to breathe his last at 7:03 a.m.
They were joined by about 50 anti-death penalty protesters. They performed a memorial service that they said Bryan wrote. They sang hymns, lit candles and quoted from the Bible.
"If we look to God it will all work out," Bradley Bryan said.
Also at 7 a.m., the time the execution was set to begin, several of the protesters and family members hugged and some sobbed as they looked at the shroud of fog hiding the prison.
Late Wednesday, Bryan had calmly finished most of his last meal.
Bryan's execution comes a day after Sims, 58, died still professing his innocence in the 1977 slaying of a Seminole County volunteer deputy sheriff.
Bryan said at a death row news conference on Tuesday that he didn't know what happened when Wilson was killed and doesn't think he should be executed for the crime. But he said his religion was giving him comfort.
"I don't want to die, but I know dying is not the end," Bryan said.
Bryan was on the run for robbing a bank when the boat he was hiding out on broke down in Pascagoula on Aug. 12, 1983. Wilson loaned Bryan some tools, but Bryan couldn't fix it and abducted Wilson to rural Santa Rosa County in Florida's Panhandle. There, he killed Wilson with a shotgun blast to the face.
While awaiting trial, he escaped but then was recaptured.
Bryan's attorneys argued that his trial attorney was an alcoholic who failed to represent Bryan properly. The Florida Supreme Court turned down his final appeal Tuesday, as did the U.S. Supreme Court late Wednesday.
In October, Bryan's execution was postponed when the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider the constitutionality of electrocution. That action was rendered moot last month when the Florida Legislature, meeting in special session, approved allowing condemned inmates the option of lethal
The Florida Catholic Conference asked Bush to halt Bryan's execution.
"Executions coarsen us. We daily condemn the violence around us but executions must be seen for what they are, legitimized killing by the state," the group said in a Wednesday letter.
Bush said he expected lethal injection would survive any legal challenges.
"It's been an accepted means of execution," the governor said after Florida joined 34 other states that have used the method.
Bryan becomes the 2nd condemned prisoner to be put to death this year in Florida and the 46th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1979.
Bryan also becomes the 17th condemned prisoner to be put to death this year in the USA and the 615th overall since America resumed executions on Jan. 17, 1977.
(sources: Orlando Sentinel & Rick Halperin)
Betty Lou Beets, 62, 00-02-24, Texas
Betty Lou Beets became the 4th woman to be executed in the United States since the Supreme Court in 1976 allowed the death penalty to resume. She was the 2nd woman executed in Texas since the Civil War.
She gave no final statement as she lay strapped to the death chamber gurney. She made no eye contact with the victim's family, but smiled at relatives on her side.
Death penalty opponents had urged Bush to grant Beets a 30-day delay. That was his only option, since the state parole board did not recommend that her sentence be commuted to life in prison.
During his 5 1/2 years as governor, 120 convicted killers have been executed in Texas. He has spared one condemned inmate.
"After careful review of the evidence of the case, I concur with the jury that Betty Lou Beets is guilty of this murder," Bush said in a written statement after returning to Texas from California, where he was campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination.
"I'm confident that the courts, both state and federal, have thoroughly
reviewed all the issues raised by the defendant."
Beets and her lawyers insisted the former bartender-waitress, convicted of fatally shooting 5th husband Jimmy Don Beets nearly 17 years ago and burying his body under a flower garden, was the victim of years of domestic abuse and should be allowed to live.
On Thursday the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans rejected
an appeal that accused the state of not following its own rules in reviewing Beets' case. The arguments were dismissed Wednesday by a federal judge in Austin as a delay tactic.
Beets' lawyers also took the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court, which rejected it without comment.
According to the governor's office, Bush had received 2,108 phone calls and letters opposing Beets' execution by Thursday afternoon, and 57 calls and letters favoring it.
"A decision to stay the execution of Ms. Beets would demonstrate your compassionate conservatism and that you are willing to do what is right even in the face of potential criticism from your constituents," the
Rev. Jesse Jackson wrote Bush on Thursday.
Steven Hawkins, executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty implored to Bush grant a reprieve ''so evidence of her
being battered ... may be fully evaluated.
"Far from receiving careful consideration, the role of domestic abuse in Betty's crime has been continually swept under the rug by the Texas court
system," Hawkins said.
The Catholic bishops of Texas, long opponents of the death penalty, asked Bush this week to follow the lead of Illinois and suspend executions. Bush has refused.
Before Beets, the last woman executed in Texas was Karla Faye Tucker, on Feb. 3, 1998. Tucker hacked 2 people to death with a pickax but said she had a religious conversion in prison and appealed for mercy. Bush was criticized for mocking Tucker in a magazine interview last year.
She spent Thursday morning meeting with relatives. She declined to request a final meal.
Although Beets insisted she was innocent, a jury convicted her of killing Jimmy Don Beets, a Dallas Fire Department captain, to collect his life insurance and pension.
Her claims of domestic abuse surfaced only recently and were not a factor in her 1985 trial, although one of her daughters, Faye Lane, in a tearful plea for her mother's life, said this week her mother was acting in self-defense after years of abuse.
"I know that if the jury heard the truth about my momma, she only could have done something like this if she'd been very scared or threatened,"
James Beets, the murder victim's son, discounted claims of abuse, saying she told friends her husband of 11 months had been the best thing to happen to her. "Why is she saying what she is saying about my daddy?" James Beets said.
Betty Lou Beets also was convicted of shooting and wounding her 2nd husband, Bill Lane, and was charged but never tried in the 1981 shooting
death of her 4th husband, Doyle Barker.
Acting on a tip 2 years after Jimmy Don Beets was reported missing from a fishing trip, authorities found his body buried under a wishing well
flower garden in the yard of their trailer home. They also discovered nearby in another shallow grave the body of Barker, who had been missing for 4 years.
Both had been shot in the back of the head and stuffed into blue sleeping bags.
Beets blamed a son for Jimmy Don Beets' death. The son denied any involvement and testified against her. Beets explained Barker's disappearance by saying he left one day and never returned. She blamed husband No. 2, Lane, for Barker's death.
Beets becomes the 9th condemned prisoner to be put to death this year in Texas, the 2nd in as many days, and the 208th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on Dec. 7, 1982.
(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)
a final letter written by Bettie Beets:
Today has started without me as a part of the human race. I now rest inthe arms of My Heavenly Father inside his pearly gates.
Oh, how blessed I was to have you, how blessed I hope I've been to you, to try to show that His grace is all we really need. I never could have made it without our Father's love, without all your love and support. What our Father has brought together let no one tear apart.
My prayer is I've left this hard-learned lesson. Heal the lost, impaired, disabled, battered, and for all who are in need, stick by the banner and carry it on. Help one another right where you are, near or far. Give your heart in all that is right and good. Bring knowledge to those who don't understand, that they can reach out and learn what they can do for themselves and others.
Always remember the battle is not over, but show up, put on the armor of God and let Him fight the battles through us. Then and only then will we win.
Trust that we all ran a good race and we won together. I'll leave this earth knowing I was loved by many. God is pleased and blessed that your faith was instilled in Him. His rewards are yours.
I love you all and will see you on the other side. God blesses you all.
Keep the faith and give all the glory to God.
Odell Barnes, Jr., 31, 00-3-1, Texas
A condemned killer whose record included 9 felony convictions headed to the Texas death chamber Wednesday evening for the murder of a Wichita Falls woman more than 10 years ago.
Odell Barnes, 31, insisted he was innocent of the rape, beating, stabbing and shooting of 42-year-old Helen Bass at her home.
Barnes, convicted of five robberies, 2 rapes and one burglary, plus the capital murder, would be the 10th condemned killer put to death in Texas this year and the 1st of 4
set to die in March.
The Nov. 29, 1989 slaying occurred 3 weeks after Barnes was paroled after serving 19 months of a 10-year prison term for robbery. Earlier, he had been paroled after
serving only 3 months of an 8-year sentence for robbery.
The paroles came during a period when Texas had too many inmates and not enough prisons and state officials were forced to release inmates to comply with federal court orders governing prison crowding. vWhile Barnes' impending execution attracted little publicity in Texas, it drew more attention in Europe, particularly in France, where he corresponded with death penalty opponents who contributed several thousand dollars to his defense. The head of the French National Assembly's foreign affairs committee, Jack Lang, met with Barnes last month and was among 2 French lawmakers to ask Gov. George W. Bush to halt the execution.
French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin also sent a letter to Bush seeking clemency for the inmate.
But the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted 18-0 this week to not recommend to Bush that Barnes' sentence be reduced. The panel also rejected a request for a
The courts also refused to halt the execution. The U.S. Supreme Court in November refused to review his case and another attempt to review the case in the state
courts was thrown out 2 weeks ago.
Barnes and his supporters contended his trial was botched, too hasty and based on fabricated evidence.
"That's a farce," Wichita County District Attorney Barry Macha, who prosecuted Barnes, said this week. "The evidence in this case is compelling. It's actually gotten better since the trial. The DNA techniques were not as good then as they are now... The DNA evidence is absolutely conclusive.
"He is a dangerous and violent individual. And very appropriately, the jury concluded he would be a continuing threat to our society. What's been overlooked in this case is this individual's record."
Witnesses said they saw Barnes jumping over the fence around the woman's house and with a gun later in the night and that he was wearing coveralls.
Coveralls taken from Barnes' brother's car, and identified as always worn by Barnes, had blood stains that matched the blood of the victim.
A ballistics expert testified a gun linked to Barnes could not be positively identified as the murder weapon also a bullet fired from the weapon showed some consistencies with the bullet recovered from the victim. Barnes' fingerprint was found on a lamp that was used to beat the victim.
Barnes said he knew the woman, had been in her house previously and that the couple had sex more than a day earlier, accounting for the presence of his semen. He said he could have left his fingerprint on the lamp during his earlier visits.
His attorneys contend the blood stains on the coveralls did not fit the crime scene evidence and a print left by a shoe at the scene, and alleged to be from Barnes' shoe, was the same print on hundreds or thousands of shoes.
"I'm at peace," Barnes said in an interview last month. "I established the foundation from day one that I wasn't giving up, that I didn't commit the crime. If they kill me, I haven't laid down and just accepted this. The system is not honest."
Freddie Lee Wright, 48, 00-03-03, Alabama
Freddie Lee Wright, who came within one vote of being acquitted in his 1st capital murder trial 21 years ago, only to be convicted and condemned to die in a 2nd trial a month later, was executed in the state's electric chair early today at Holman Prison.
Wright, 48, convicted of the murders of a popular Mount Vernon couple in their hardware store in December 1977, was pronounced dead at 12:11 a.m. He made no statement before his death.
Over 2 decades, Wright, a former cook and dishwasher from Mobile, who family members said grew up on the streets, maintained his innocence. He denied he was at the store the day Warren Green, 40, and his wife, Lois, 37, were slain. According to trial testimony, the Greens were each shot once in the head as they sat tied back-to-back in a rear room of their Western Auto store in Mount Vernon, about 30 miles north of Mobile.
Among the witnesses to Wright's execution was Kim Green, daughter of the slain couple. Other witnesses included Wendy Sancher Wright, the condemned man's wife, and Ryan Russell, a private investigator who had helped Wright through the years of appeals.
Outside the prison gates, some 70 family members and friends of the Greens gathered to show support for Kim Green and pay their respects to her late parents. They stood in the cold in a cordoned-off area alongside
the highway that runs in front of Holman, about a half-mile from the execution site.
"One of the officers said this is very unusual to have this many people," said Kathy Simison, a friend of the Greens from Mount Vernon. "He said it was a testimony to them that this many family and friends would be here."
Wright's journey through the appeals process over the years was thwarted at every level. And in the last week, he saw his chances of surviving Friday morning depleted one by one as desperate appeals were turned down by the Alabama Supreme Court, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals and, late Wednesday, Gov. Don Siegelman.
"It is clear to me that the death penalty is appropriate in this case," Siegelman said in a prepared statement.
On Thursday, Wright spent time saying goodbye to relatives, including his wife Wendy Sancher, whom he married in a ceremony at Holman on Friday, said prison system spokesman John Hamm. He also met with the prison chaplain, Hamm said.
Just hours before Wright's scheduled execution, McDonough had filed new appeals with the Alabama Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court, asking for stays of execution.
About 5 p.m., the state Supreme Court voted 7-2 to deny Wright's appeal. One of the dissenters was Justice Douglas Johnstone of Mobile, who wrote: "Whether Wright is electrocuted or injected seems insignificant compared to the likelihood that we are sending an innocent man to his death."
At 9:30 p.m. the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his appeal on a 5-4 vote, sealing Wright's fate.
Wright's appeals over the years had been based largely on his lawyers
argument that dying at the hands of the state in the electric chair is cruel and unusual punishment.
In a recent telephone interview with a New York radio station, Wright condemned capital punishment.
"The death penalty itself, it's not about justice," Wright said. "It's
about vengeance. I mean, and the bad part about vengeance is, most people believe in the system so strongly, even if it's an innocent man or when it's been evidence presented to show the person on death row is not the person who committed that crime.
"We shouldn't have capital punishment, period, the way the scales of justice work," Wright told the radio audience. "I mean, it's not fair. It's not applied equally in no form or fashion. I mean, the way our system done changed now, a person, innocent, doesn't even matter any more."
Wright was convicted in Mobile County Circuit Court of shooting the Greens on Dec. 1, 1977, apparently to eliminate witnesses following an armed robbery.
His admitted accomplices, Roger McQueen, Percy Craig and Reginald
Tinsley, all testified that Wright fired the fatal shots. All 3 subsequently were convicted of murder.
Wright's 1st trial, before a mixed-race jury ended with the panel unable to reach a unanimous decision. The vote was 11 to 1 for acquittal.
At his retrial a month later, an all-white jury convicted Wright, a black man, of capital murder and sentenced him to death.
According to court records, Doris Lacey Lambert, Wright's former girlfriend and the mother of his child, testified at the second trial that the day after the murders, Wright told her "he had went out with some of his friends ... to Mount Vernon and that he killed two people with a gun."
When Wright was arrested at his home, McDonough said, police found a gun that was later identified by the same forensic expert as "consistent" with the murder weapon.
Wright always denied he was at the store that day but was inconsistent in accounting for his whereabouts. He told one investigator he was at a basketball game when the Greens were killed. He told police he was at a
private club. A handful of witnesses at the trials corroborated Wright's claims.
During Wright's trials, McQueen testified that Craig told Wright to "make sure the people were taken care of" because "the people would have identified the car."
McQueen testified that Wright was the last to leave the store and when he returned to the car the others "asked him what took place and he said that he had took care of both people."
McQueen said he challenged Wright to prove it and Wright handed him "2 empty cartridges from the gun."
At a 1996 federal hearing in Mobile, however, McQueen recanted his trial testimony and said that he had lied when he identified Wright as the killer.
McQueen looked over at Wright from the witness stand and said: "I'm sorry, dude."
(source: Mobile Register)
Ponchai Wilkerson, 28, 2000-03-14, TX
A defiant condemned killer who tried to break out of death row at least twice and held a guard hostage during a 13-hour standoff last month was
executed Tuesday night for fatally shooting a Houston jeweler during a 1990 robbery.
Ponchai Wilkerson, 28, fought until the very end. He refused to leave his holding cell near the death chamber and guards used additional elastic bands to bind him to the gurney.
Wilkerson declined a final statement. But as the lethal drugs began taking effect, he spit out a key he had been holding in his mouth.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Larry Fitzgerald described the key as a universal handcuff and leg restraint key. It's unknown how he got it.
The key fell from Wilkerson's mouth onto the side of his face. A shocked warden picked it up.
Wilkerson then gave a gasp and fell unconscious. He was pronounced dead at 6:24 p.m., 7 minutes after the flow of lethal drugs began.
Wilkerson was convicted of the murder of Chung Myong Yi, 43, whose
slaying capped a month-long crime spree that included numerous auto thefts, robberies and burglaries - including one in which guns worth $40,000 were stolen - and drive-by shootings that left at least one person dead and 3 others wounded.
More recently, Wilkerson, armed with a sharpened piece of metal fashioned from a typewriter part, slipped from his death row cell Feb. 21 and with another inmate held a female prison guard hostage before surrendering.
The guard was not harmed.
"Ponchai is the perfect example of how a person can be a continuing threat to everyone around him and society needs to be protected from him," Roberto Gutierrez, the Harris County assistant district attorney who prosecuted Wilkerson, said. "When I think of Ponchai today, I think of how correct the jury was in realizing he was going to be a continuing threat to society."
On Thanksgiving night 1998, Wilkerson and 6 other condemned prisoners fled their cells in another escape attempt. One of the convicts drowned after scaling a pair of tall fences that surrounded the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Ellis Unit northeast of Huntsville. Wilkerson and five others gave up after guards began shooting at them.
After Wilkerson appeared before a Harris County judge last month to receive his execution date, he fell to the courtroom floor, refused to move and had to be dragged away by deputies.
"I will not walk away pretending this is justice and fairness in this court," Wilkerson said.
TDCJ spokesman Larry Fitzgerald said Tuesday that Wilkerson declined to select a final meal and refused to tell prison officials how they should dispose of his body.
It's uncertain what triggered Wilkerson's 1990 crime spree. At the time, the son of a retired sheriff's deputy was on probation after pleading
guilty to auto theft 3 months earlier.
"The tragedy is, despite coming from a good background, he chose the wrong road, the devil's road, if you will," Gutierrez said. "He chose to involve himself in the life of crime and he hurt so many people in the process."
On Nov. 28, 1990, he and a companion, Wilton Bethony, walked into the Royal Gold jewelry store in west Houston and bought a $35 pendant. He left, then returned and pulled a gun from under his jacket, put the
pistol about 12 inches from Yi's temple and fired.
He and Bethony smashed the jewelry cases, grabbed rings and necklaces and fled.
Bethony was convicted of aggravated robbery and received a life sentence.
Wilkerson never denied the shooting but said he fired after the victim's
movements alarmed him. A Harris County jury deliberated about 4 hours before deciding on the death sentence.
Wilkerson becomes the 11th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas and the 210th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on Dec. 7, 1982.
(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)
Darrell Keith Rich, XX, 2000-03-15, CA
Serial killer Darrell Rich was executed early today at San Quentin State Prison, 22 years after he murdered 3 women and an 11-year- old girl in a savage, summerlong rampage that terrorized rural Shasta County.
Rich, who embraced his American Indian ancestry after landing on Death Row and adopted the name Young Elk, was led into the prison's apple-green death chamber shortly before midnight and strapped onto a gurney.
As he lay with his arms and legs secured -- and a 14-inch, ritual white feather with black edges draped on his chest -- a solution of sodium Pentothal was pumped into his veins to render him unconscious. Fifty cubic centimeters of pancuronium bromide was then injected into his bloodstream to paralyze his diaphragm and stop his breathing, followed by an intravenous jolt of 50 cubic centimeters of potassium chloride to paralyze his heart.
Throughout the execution, Rich lay with his eyes closed, exhibiting little movement. He swallowed once and his cheeks seemed to bulge -- and then in the final moments his face turned slightly purple. The feather quivered as he drew his last breath.
As he died, 5 relatives of his victims, plus 1 of 5 other women he sexually assaulted, held hands and showed little emotion. The only sound in the execution chamber was the uncontrollable coughing of one witness.
Christopher Slavik, whose mother Linda was killed by Rich, watched dressed in a black suit with a dark tie covered in white skulls. When Rich was declared dead, Slavik allowed himself a small smile.
At 12:13 a.m., 7 minutes after the poisons began pumping into his body, the 45-year-old killer was pronounced dead.
"Peace" was his final word, according to Bob Martinez, spokesman for the California Department of Corrections.
Rich was the 8th inmate executed since California reinstated the death penalty in 1977, and the first with any American Indian ancestry, to die in the death chamber since then.
He spent his final day visiting with relatives and Leonard Williams and Henry Adams, his American Indian spiritual advisers, said Martinez. Rich was described as calm as he awaited the end.
He had spent the past several days fasting in accordance to what he saw as spiritual penance.
The entire prison was in lockdown during Rich's final day, and at 6 p.m. he was moved to a cell near the death row office, where he was strip-searched and scanned with a metal detector. Just before he was escorted to a "death watch" cell a few feet away from the execution chamber, Rich received a new outfit -- a blue shirt, blue jeans, undershirt, shorts, socks and hospital slippers.
As he fasted, Rich's lawyers filed last-minute appeals requesting court action to force the prison to let their client participate in an American Indian sweat lodge ceremony to make spiritual atonement. The U.S. Supreme Court issued the final rejection at about 8:30 o'clock last night.
Lawyers were hoping to have the execution stayed while the sweat lodge issue was resolved.
The prison refused to allow Rich -- who said he was 1/4 Cherokee --into the sweat lodge, which is in an exercise yard, because administrators believed the activity posed too great a security risk. Conducting a ceremony at the lodge requires several hours, and the use of hot rocks and a shovel would have had too much potential for violence, they argued.
Rich's appeals on the death sentence itself were exhausted weeks earlier.
Yesterday, California Deputy Attorney General Carlos Martinez, who
fought Rich's recent appeals, called the sweat-lodge argument a ruse.
"He's just trying to delay the execution, and to do so would be really cruel to the families of his victims," Martinez said shortly before leaving his office to get ready to witness Rich's execution.
About 750 anti-death-penalty and American Indian demonstrators spent the night outside the prison gates praying and singing Indian spiritual songs to protest the execution. A handful of capital punishment advocates also showed up.
"I'm here not only to pray when he leaves, but also because all of us here think all life is sacred," said Fred Short, a 53-year-old Chippewa from Sacramento who led a group of 20 Apache, Yaqui and Chippewa people to the gates.
A group of Indians drummed furiously throughout the evening, saying they hoped Rich could hear them in his final hours. The crowd fell silent when Rich's death was announced.
Peggy Eastwood, sister of Rich's 1st murder victim, Annette Edwards, said in a statement after the execution: "It was too easy for Darrell Rich after what he put us through for 22 years."
Rich's execution date came two decades after he was sentenced to die for 2 of 4 murders he committed in Shasta County, preying on young women whose bodies were found battered, bruised and, in one case, shot. He also sexually assaulted5 other women.
The killing that prompted the most outrage was that of 11-year-old Annette Selix, whom Rich flung -- still alive -- from a 105-foot bridge after raping and beating her. She lived long enough to curl into a fetal position in the muddy gravel before she died.
All of the victims were killed or attacked near Rich's hometown of Cottonwood, a small ranching town tucked in the northern corner of the Sacramento Valley. The reign of mayhem is still described as the time Cottonwood lost its innocence -- and many townsfolk last night were
either glued to the television news or celebrating the execution with drinks.
The 1st murder victim was Edwards, 19, whom Rich snatched in July 1978 while she was walking to the fireworks show near her home in Redding.
Patricia "Pam" Moore, 17, was next: She disappeared from a Redding motel in early August, and was later found dead in a dump. Rich then kidnapped Slavik, 28, from a Chico bar, and after raping and killing her left her near Moore's body. His final victim was Annette. The Cottonwood youngster was walking home from the grocery store when Rich snatched her, and she was later found by a passer-by below the bridge.
Rich becomes the 1st condemned prisoner to be put to death this year in California.
Patrick Poland, XX, 2000-03-15, AZ
Patrick Poland was executed by injection yesterday, nearly 23 years after he and his older brother robbed an armored van of $288,000, put the two
guards into canvas bags and dropped them into Lake Mead.
From where he was strapped to a gurney, Poland looked around at the execution witnesses and apologized to the families of his victims, Cecil Newkirk and Russell Dempsey.
``I'm sincere. I'm sorry for the pain and suffering I have caused. I do thank you for your forgiveness,'' Poland said.
He also asked his family and friends for forgiveness.
``And I ask the woman I love to remember I will always love her,'' Poland said, referring to his girlfriend, Sherri Jo Christensen, who attended the execution.
Earlier, he had mouthed the words ``I love you'' to Christensen and blown her a kiss.
As the lethal chemicals began flowing at 3:03 p.m., Poland's head jerked four times. His body shook slightly, his head rolled to the side and his eyes shut.
He was pronounced dead at 3:07 p.m.
Poland, 50, became the 21st inmate executed since the state resumed executions in 1992. The U.S. Supreme Court denied three requests for stays yesterday.
Michael Poland, the alleged mastermind of the crimes, was executed for the crimes last June at age 59.
Michael and Patrick Poland were dressed in fake Highway Patrol uniforms and were driving a rental car equipped with emergency lights when they stopped the guards' Purolator van on Interstate 17 near Cordes Junction on May 24, 1977.
The truck was ransacked of cash and coins and Newkirk and Dempsey were
driven 250 miles to Lake Mead.
The next day, the Polands wrapped Newkirk and Dempsey in custom-made canvas bags weighted with rocks and pushed them from a rented boat into the lake.
Prosecutors said the guards may have still been alive when they were thrown into the water.
It took nearly a month for the guards' bodies to surface on the Nevada side of the lake.
The brothers were arrested in May 1978 - 51 weeks after the crimes - after leaving a trail of evidence, including spending $127,000 of the money in their hometown of Prescott.
Several people involved in the case said Patrick Poland seemed sorry for what he had done. Some had even pleaded for his life.
A. Melvin McDonald, who prosecuted the Poland brothers in the second of
two trials and won conviction in 1982, was among those who had a change of heart and wanted to see Patrick Poland's life spared.
``I hope that his death will bring peace,'' said McDonald, one of the witnesses yesterday.
``Mr. Poland paid for this crime each and every day for 23 years. I think he had genuine remorse. I felt justice was done in the execution of the first brother.
``I felt mercy could have been done today by giving Patrick Poland life in prison.''
Yavapai County prosecutor Arthur Markham, who did not prosecute the case, spoke to some of the victims' relatives afterward and said they felt his expressions of remorse were truthful.
``A man would not lie just before death,'' Markham said.
(source: Associated Press)
Timothy Lane Gribble, 36, 2000-03-15, TX
Lonnie Weeks Jr., XX, 2000-03-16, VA
JARRATT - Minutes before convicted murder Lonnie Weeks Jr. died by lethal injection at 9:04 p.m. Thursday, he apologized and thanked his victim's family, two of whom asked he not be put to death.
Weeks was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1993 murder of Virginia state trooper Jose M. Cavazos during a routine traffic stop near Dale City. The victim's two adult children, Leslie and Trevor, pleaded that Weeks' life be spared in the months preceding his execution.
"I want to say I'm sorry for everything I've done to the Cavazos family, to my family and to everybody around the world," Weeks said when asked for his final words. "And I just thank the Cavazos family for what they've tried to do for me and I love them and God bless them."
Weeks died about two hours after Gov. Jim Gilmore rejected his request for clemency. Gilmore noted Weeks was on probation when he fired at least six shots at Cavazos, 50, during a traffic stop and that Weeks confessed to shooting Cavazos.
As he was escorted into the death chamber at 8:54 p.m., Weeks walked calmly, staring at the gurney and then glancing at those present to witness his death. He wore the prison uniform of dark blue pants, a light blue short- sleeved shirt and flip-flop sandals.
Seven Greensville Correctional Center guards referred to as "the team" strapped his arms, legs and chest down. He paid little attention to the dozen prison officials also present in the small room.
His hand remained limp.
A blue curtain was pulled to conceal the medical technicians who inserted the IVs into his right arm.
At 9 p.m., the curtain was pulled back and Weeks, connected to plastic tubing, made his final statement.
As the first dose was being administered, Weeks lifted his head for several seconds and looked at the witnesses seated in the warm, auditorium-like booth separated by glass and concrete. He laid his head down and licked his lips once.
As liquid flowed down the tube connect to Weeks, he sighed heavily three times before his breathing turned shallow, barely noticeable.
Four minutes after his final statement Weeks was declared dead.
According to state law, official witnesses must be present during an execution and six law enforcement officers volunteered. Of the witnesses - one woman and five men - three were Virginia state troopers.
In addition, "VIP" witnesses were granted permission to attend Weeks' execution. Carl Baker, Virginia State Police superintendent at the time Cavazos was murdered, sat in a booth separated from the other witnesses, which was designated for the victim's family if they chose to attend.
None of the Cavazos family witnessed Weeks' execution.
Greensville spokesman Larry Traylor said VIP admission is granted on occasion.
"In this case, since it was a trooper [who died], there were people from the state police there," Trailer said.
Between 1 and 3 p.m. Thursday, Weeks was allowed to visit with his family including two grandmothers, a grandfather, his son and a brother. He chose the dinner offered to the prison's general population - Salisbury steak with gravy, steamed rice, a tossed salad and gingerbread cake with lemon sauce - as his last meal.
Weeks' body will undergo an autopsy and his family can then claim his remains.
Weeks was originally scheduled to die Sept. 1, 1999, but the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal just two hours before his execution. The high court subsequently ruled Weeks' sentencing hearing did not violate his constitutional rights.
Among his most vocal supporters were Cavazos' two children, one of whom met Weeks at the prison last week.
On Wednesday, the Virginia Supreme Court dismissed a petition imploring the justices to reconsider Weeks' death sentence in light of a William and Mary University law school study about jurors' tendency to misunderstand jury instructions.
In an interview Wednesday, Weeks said he was hoping for clemency from Gov. Jim Gilmore but was prepared for the worst.
"It's a big hope," Weeks told the Associated Press. "I believe in miracles. I believe that if [Gilmore] reads what's been written and listens to people and tries to understand the situation and listens to his heart, then we can get clemency. If not, I guess the Lord will be calling me home."
Late on the night of Feb. 23, 1993, Weeks, then 20, was riding as a passenger in a car driven by his 21-year-old uncle, Lewis J. Dukes Jr., when Cavazos stopped the car for speeding on Interstate 95 near Dale City.
The trooper asked Weeks to step out of the car and the North Carolina man complied, carrying a pistol fully loaded with hollow-tipped bullets commonly known as "man stoppers," according to court records.
Weeks fired at least six times at Cavazos, with two bullets striking the trooper despite his bullet-proof vest. Cavazos died at the scene within minutes, his gun still in its holster.
Dukes is serving a life term in prison.
In petitioning Gilmore for clemency, Weeks' attorneys note Cavazos' children's feelings about the case, the jurors' confusion and Weeks' remorse for the crime.
The trooper's widow, Linda Cavazos, has said she supports the jury's decision.
Since the death penalty was reinstated, 76 people have been executed in Virginia. Last year, Virginia executed a record number of inmates - 14 - up one from 1998. Gilmore has commuted only one death sentence to life in prison without parole, that of Calvin Swann, a mentally ill man.
Weeks is the third person to be executed in Virginia this year. There are no executions scheduled at this time and 31 inmates remain on death row at Sussex I prison, according to Senior Warden Keith Davis.
James Henry Hampton, XX, 2000-03-22, MO
James Henry Hampton, a 2-time killer who has spent most of his life in prison, was executed early Wednesday after serving only 4 years on death row.
Hampton was pronounced dead at 12:05 a.m. Wednesday, 3 minutes after receiving the 1st of 3 lethal drugs at the state prison in Potosi.
As the 1st drug was administered, Hampton raised his head, looked around and coughed a few times. He then stopped breathing.
His last words: "Take the phone off the hook."
Hampton spent much of Tuesday with one visitor, a friend from Ohio. He met with no relatives or clergy, prison officials said.
Hampton maintained since his 1996 conviction that he wanted to be executed rather than grow old in prison. He refused to make court appeals and did not seek clemency from Gov. Mel Carnahan. However, a group of death penalty opponents, led by the Missouri Catholic Conference, sought clemency for him. Carnahan denied their request about 10:15 p.m. Tuesday.
"The governor saw no reason to commute the sentence," spokesman Jerry Nachtigal said.
Hampton admitted beating Frances Keaton to death with a hammer in 1992 after abducting her from her home in Warrenton. He then fled to New Jersey, where he
killed another woman during another failed kidnapping attempt.
As police moved in on Hampton in New Jersey, he stuck a gun beneath his chin and shot himself. The bullet exited through the front of Hampton's brain. At his trial in 1996, neurologist Jonathan Pincus of Georgetown University testified that the brain wound affected Hampton's judgment. Death penalty opponents blamed
impaired judgment for Hampton's desire to die.
"Is it morally irresponsible for the state to execute someone when there is reasonable doubt that he can make good judgments," said Rita Linhardt of the Missouri Catholic Conference.
Hampton refused interview requests Tuesday by The Associated Press.
Hampton grew up one of 11 children in a poor family in the Louisville, Ky., area. He went to reform school at age 11 and spent his adult life in and out of prisons.
Before his murder sentences, he served time in 25 different prisons for crimes ranging from burglary to assault to drug trafficking.
During one stint in the federal prison in Marion, Ill., in the early 1970s, he befriended Gary Gilmore. Gilmore in 1976 would become the 1st American to be executed after a decade-long ban on the death penalty.
Linhardt said the meeting had a strong affect on Hampton.
"It's like he's almost wanting to be like Gilmore," Linhardt said.
Court records showed that Hampton parked his car at the parking lot of a Warrenton church on Aug. 2, 1992, then rode a bicycle the 3 miles to Keaton's home. An acquaintance, a realtor who had worked with Keaton, told Hampton that Keaton had $30,000 in the bank. The realtor also gave Hampton a key to the home.
Hampton entered with a sawed-off shotgun and demanded money from Keaton, a 58-year-old hairdresser, and her fiance, Allen Mulholland. He tied up Mulholland
and abducted Keaton, taking her car and heading west on Interstate 70.
While driving, Hampton learned from a police scanner that law enforcement authorities had been alerted to the kidnapping. Hampton testified at his trial that he had decided in advance to kill his hostage if police learned of the kidnapping before he received his ransom.
Hampton bound and blindfolded Keaton and took her to a wooded area of Callaway County. Once there, he killed her with several hammer blows to the head and then buried her body.
Hampton drove back to Warrenton and attempted to retrieve his car. When he saw that police were keeping it under surveillance, he fled to New Jersey. On Sept. 16, 1992, he killed Christine Schurman, 48, of Wantage Township, whose body was found by her husband, Dr. Alan Schurman. She died of a single bullet wound to the head, also after a failed kidnapping attempt.
Hampton was finally captured on Dec. 19, 1992, one day after he was featured on the television show "America's Most Wanted." A New Jersey pastor recognized
Hampton from the television program and alerted police.
Hampton becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death in Missouri this year and the 42nd overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1989.
(sources: St. Louis Post-Dispatch & Rick Halperin)
Kelly Lamont Rogers, XX, 2000-03-23, OK
A decade after murdering a Stillwater college student, Kelly Lamont Rogers was punished for his crime Thursday morning. The 32-year-old Rogers was executed at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary for the 1990 murder of Karen Marie Lauffenburger.
Rogers died by lethal injection shortly after midnight.
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Rogers' final appeal in January and the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board denied him clemency earlier this month.
Several of Lauffenburger's relatives, including her parents, witnessed the execution.
A lengthy letter written by the victim's mother, Pat Lauffenburger, was distributed by death penalty supporters outside the prison walls.
"To our misfortune, you never knew our Karen," the letter read. "By this letter, I hope to give you a small picture of this girl we were proud to call daughter and what her life was like before Rogers ended it that December."
A student at Oklahoma State University, Lauffenburger was working as a pizza delivery person at the time of her murder.
After she delivered a pizza to Rogers at his girlfriend's apartment, Rogers followed Lauffenburger and robbed her of $40 in pizza money. He then took her to an ATM and made her withdraw $175, almost all of her available cash.
Rogers then took Lauffenburger, 21, to her apartment, where he raped and murdered her.
The execution marks the 1st for Oklahoma under new state and federal laws aimed at speeding up the appeal process.
Rogers' stay on death row is one of the shortest -- 8 years -- for inmates seeking all their appeal rights.
Rogers becomes the 4th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Oklahoma and the 23rd overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1990.
(sources: The Tulsa World & Rick Halperin)
Robert Lee Tarver Jr., 52, 2000-04-14
More than 15 years after he fatally shot a Russell County store owner, a death row inmate died in Alabama's electric chair Friday.
Robert Lee Tarver Jr., 52, was pronounced dead at 12:11 a.m. at Holman Prison near Atmore. Tarver was convicted in the 1984 killing of Hugh Kite of Cottonton.
Kite's son, Hugh Kite Jr., watched the execution solemnly. The victim's daughter, Coty Kite Holmes, stood out of sight of reporters. The 2 declined comment afterward.
Strapped into the chair, Tarver seemed agitated as he talked briefly with his guards, then stared straight ahead and waved briefly to a prison chaplain. Twice, he made eye contact with Kite's children, but did not
attempt to communicate with them. He refused to make a final statement.
Tarver, who had maintained his innocence in Kite's death, was initially scheduled to be executed Feb. 4, but the U.S. Supreme Court granted him a stay with less than 3 hours to go. The stay gave the justices time to consider whether to hear arguments on Tarver's appeal claiming Alabama's electric chair is cruel and unusual punishment.
But on Feb. 22, the justices voted 5-4 not to address the issue, clearing the way for the state Supreme Court to set a second execution date.
Tarver's most recent appeal, filed April 6, claimed blacks were unfairly excluded from his trial jury. It was denied Thursday by the state Court of Criminal Appeals, the Alabama Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Tarver waived a final meal Thursday and spent the day visiting with family members and the chaplain, according to state Department of Corrections officials. He left his watch to his son and left personal papers and other items to his sister.
"The inmate was very reserved," Mike Haley, state prison commissioner, said after the execution. He said Tarver "did not indicate any remorse."
Tarver's defense attorney, Bryan Stevenson of Montgomery, claimed in his appeal that Russell County is 40 % black, but 13 of 14 qualified blacks were struck from the jury in the trial of Tarver, a black man accused in the slaying of a white man. Jurors voted 7-5 to recommend Tarver be sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole, but Circuit
Judge Wayne Johnson sentenced him to death.
Tarver's appeal included a signed affidavit from former Russell County assistant district attorney Mark Carter in which Carter said race was a
factor in jury selection.
However, Carter admitted to having "no specific recollection as to the jury selection and striking process at Tarver's 1985 trial," Russell County Circuit Judge George Greene wrote in rejecting the appeal. "Carter only makes reference to a vague policy that race played a role in jury selection ... although he cannot recall how he came to understand how
this policy existed ... ."
On Thursday, the Court of Criminal Appeals ruled the racial
discrimination claims failed "to meet the definition of newly discovered evidence."
Tarver becomes the 3rd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Alabama and the 22nd overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1983.
(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)
Robert Glen Coe, 44, 2000-04-19, Tennessee
Convicted child-killer Robert Glen Coe was executed this morning at Riverbend prison. He is the 1st person put to death in Tennessee since
Coe, 44, was put to death by lethal injection.
He was executed for the 1979 rape and murder of Cary Ann Medlin, age 8, in Greenfield, Tenn.
Coe was put to death at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution, a facility in Nashville's Cockrill Bend industrial area that houses the state's death row.
Family members of both Coe and Medlin were present for the execution.
Included in the group of about a dozen of Medlin's family were Cary Ann's mother, Charlotte Stout, who spoke yesterday afternoon at a memorial service for her daughter in Nashville's Centennial Park.
Medlin's father did not witness the execution because he could not arrive in time from Florida. He had come to Nashville last month when another of Coe's execution dates was canceled when an appeals court postponed it.
Medlin's stepfather, James Michael Stout, was at the prison among the family last night.
Members of the Coe family were also present. Both family groups witnessed the execution, but the Coe family will watched via
closed-circuit television and the two family groups remained separated.
Outside the prison walls but inside its towering fences, a group of anti-death penalty protesters held a candlelight vigil and sang gospel songs.
Near the prison's administrative building, a brown wooden podium was set up bearing the state seal and holding a microphone.
Near it were 8 brown folding metal chairs that will apparently seat the media representatives who have been picked by the state to witness the execution. After the execution, those witnesses will give interviews about what they have seen.
(sources: The Tennessean & Rick Halperin)
Ronald Keith Boyd, 43, 2000-04-27, Oklahoma
A man convicted of killing an Oklahoma City police officer in 1986 was executed by injection early Thursday.
Ronald Keith Boyd, 43, was pronounced dead at 12:21 a.m. after receiving a lethal dose of drugs.
Boyd was found guilty in the Jan. 7, 1986, shooting of Oklahoma City police Master Patrolman Richard Oldham Riggs.
Riggs, 32, was shot twice as he approached Boyd, who was on a pay phone outside a van at a service station.
The officer had seen the van, which matched the description of a vehicle used in an armed robbery at a nearby store minutes earlier. Riggs was hit in the chest and abdomen and managed to return fire, along with his rookie partner, who was not injured.
Boyd claimed a hitchhiker took the gun from his knapsack and shot Riggs.
He said there was no gunpowder residue on his hands.
But prosecutors said Boyd was arrested a day after Riggs was killed and had ample time to wash his hands. They also cited testimony from eyewitnesses and expert witnesses.
"I promised Richard as I stood over his coffin that I would live to see this day," Riggs' mother, Betty Riggs, said hours before the execution.
"I had to keep my promise to Richard and now I can go to the cemetery
and I'll tell him."
Boyd becomes the 5th condemned inmate to be put to death this year
in Oklahoma and the 24th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1990.
(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)
Christina Marie Riggs, 28, 2000-05-02, Arkansas
Stuffed into the front pocket of attorney John Wesley Hall Jr.'s blue shirt were crumpled bits of paper with the unlisted home phone numbers of judges and court clerks.
He would be ready to call within seconds if his client, Christina Marie Riggs, decided at the last-minute to fight her 9 p.m. execution Tuesday.
Hall would never need those numbers.
Following through with her long-standing declaration that she only wanted to die and "be with my babies," Riggs was pronounced dead at 9:28 CDT, making her the first woman to be executed by the state of Arkansas.
Riggs was convicted for the 1997 killings of her 2 young children -- Justin, 5, and Shelby, 2.
"There is no way no words can express just how sorry I am for taking the lives of my babies," Riggs said moments before the lethal injection began. "No way I can make up for or take away the pain I have caused everyone who knew and loved them. I hope someday maybe everyone can forgive me. I know God has, and I believe he saved me 2 1/2 years ago, bringing me closer to give me the chance to repent and accept him as my savior. I've done that.
"Now I can be with my babies as I always intended."
One minute after the drugs began flowing into her body, Riggs murmured, "I love you, my babies." She was dead 9 minutes later.
An unspoken "what if" had hovered over the Cummins Unit much of Tuesday evening as everyone waited to see whether Riggs would change her mind.
Hall said she never wavered.
"The state in effect followed up on her suicide and finished it for her," Hall said shortly after the execution was carried out.
About a 15-minute delay occurred while prison officials tried to find a suitable vein for the needle that would dispense the lethal mixture.
"She was helpful, cooperative and in no pain," said Dina Tyler, prison spokesman.
The 28-year-old mother, convicted in June 1998, had repeatedly said she had no interest in last-minute appeals or clemency.
On the night she killed her children -- Nov. 4, 1997 -- Riggs gave each of them an antidepressant to make them drowsy, then injected Justin with potassium chloride. She did not know, however, that it must be diluted and fed intravenously into the body or it burns the skin and veins without reaching the heart.
When Justin began crying, she injected him with some leftover morphine she had used on a hospital patient and then smothered the boy and his little sister.
Riggs then took 28 antidepressant tablets and injected herself with potassium chloride -- the same drug used in her execution.
From the outset her attorney had argued that his client was suffering from severe depression and therefore could not conform to the law when she killed Justin and Shelby.
Prosecutors say that even if Riggs wanted to die, she had no right to take her children with her.
At the time of her conviction, Riggs begged jurors to give her the
death penalty. She grudgingly pursued one appeal at the insistence of her family and lawyer, but when it was rejected last year by the Arkansas Supreme Court, she decided it was God's will that she be executed.
With the hope that his client would have an 11th-hour change of heart, Hall had filed a sealed petition April 14 to appeal. U.S. District Judge George Howard Jr. released the documents Tuesday afternoon.
Gov. Mike Huckabee's office released a statement Tuesday noting that he has never received a request for clemency in this case. Huckabee had the authority to issue a 30-day reprieve, and two groups had asked him to intervene.
The attorney general's office had indicated that if Riggs had changed her mind at any time, the governor's office would have granted her a reprieve.
"All she had to do was ask. She wouldn't ask," Hall said.
Just 2 other Arkansas death row inmates have chosen to drop appeals and not ask the governor for clemency. Both have been executed.
Tuesday's execution is the 22nd in Arkansas since it resumed the death penalty in 1990. Riggs is the 5th female executed nationwide since the U.S. Supreme Court lifted a ban on capital punishment in 1976.
A group of 55 people protested the execution Tuesday night at a vigil that began about 7:45 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church in Little Rock.
After a prayer service the demonstrators took to the street and walked to the front of the Governor's Mansion. The group held signs declaring "Don't Kill For Me" and "Execute Justice, Not People" and sang gospels.
Riggs' spirits were better Tuesday than Monday, Hall said, explaining that Riggs had become upset as she composed the "last words" she would offer just before being executed.
Her last meal was served shortly after 4 p.m.
(source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)
Tommy Ray Jackson, 43, 2000-05-04, Texas
A twice-paroled bank robber and burglar was executed Thursday for the 1983 shooting death of a University of Texas student.
Tommy Ray Jackson, 43, insisted he was innocent of the murder of
24-year-old Rosalind Robison, although he was arrested driving her car and was carrying her automated bank teller card.
"I cannot show any remorse for something I did not do," he said in his final statement. "If I did, I'd be faking, and there's nothing fake about me."
Evidence showed Jackson and a companion, James Clary, disabled an alarm to escape an Austin halfway house where both were sent following their parole from prison.
The victim, an engineering student from Terre Haute, Ind., was emerging from a building late at night when she was abducted, forced to withdraw money from an ATM, raped in her car and driven to a rural area. She was shot once in the head.
"He literally put the girl on her knees, bound her hands behind her, put the bullet through her head and goes to a party," said Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson. "He's the most cold-blooded, most evil, most psychopathic killer I've ever seen."
Clary testified against Jackson and received a life prison term.
Jackson becomes the 13th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas and the 212th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on Dec. 7, 1982.
(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)
William Kitchens, 37, 2000-05-09, Texas
Oklahoma drifter William Kitchens was executed Tuesday evening after apologizing to the family of an Abilene woman for her beating, rape and murder 14 years ago.
Kitchens, 37, prayed shortly before his death, asking God to forgive him "for the despicable things I've done."
After concluding the prayer, he turned to his own friends and family and said, "I love you all. You all take care, I'm so sorry."
Then he took a couple of deep breaths, uttered a slight wheeze and
slipped into unconsciousness. He was pronounced dead at 6:22 p.m., 11 minutes after the lethal drugs were administered, one of the needles entering an intricate set of red-and-blue tattoos on his right arm.
Kitchens, from Blanchard, Okla., was condemned for strangling and then
shooting through the eye 25-year-old Patricia Webb, wife of an Abilene firefighter.
In making his brief statement Tuesday, Kitchens turned his head to look at Webb's husband, sister, brother and niece.
"I don't know how to tell you, there's no way to express my sorrow," he said, "I hope you can find the peace the Lord has given me. I can't change it. I'm sorry, I can't replace your loss."
Kitchens, asked that no additional appeals be filed for him after a federal appeals court refused to overturn his conviction and sentence last September.
"He accepted responsibility, said he was sorry, showed remorse," James Webb, the victim's husband, said after watching Kitchens die. "I don't know if you ever get closure."
Asked if he could find the peace Kitchens wished for him, Webb replied, "Maybe I will in time."
Kitchens, an 8th-grade dropout who worked in construction and as a painter, left Oklahoma in 1986 to stay briefly with a brother in Dallas, then began hitchhiking west, hoping to get to California. On May 16, 1986, he was staying at a motel in Abilene, took some drugs and went to a nightclub.
Webb was there with some female co-workers for an office party, and Kitchens joined their group. When they all were leaving, she offered to take him to the motel so he wouldn't have to pay for a taxi.
According to Kitchens, Webb accompanied him to the room to get a phone number where he could be reached in California. Once in the room, "I wanted to scare her, to let her know she shouldn't just go with someone to a motel room," he said. "At the bar, even in the hotel room, she made it clear she was not going to fool around."
From the death chamber gurney, Kitchens told her family: "I want you to know that Patty was always faithful to you, that I forced her for everything that she did, and I am sorry."
He choked and raped her, forced her back into her car and drove off. He
was seen driving her car the next day in Blanchard, about 30 miles southwest of Oklahoma City, and wrecked the car May 18 after fleeing from police.
He was arrested at his parents' home, confessed to killing Webb and gave officers directions to a wooded site about 11 miles from Abilene where they found her body.
At his trial, Kitchens testified he was drunk at the time of the crime and believed Webb was his wife. It took the jury 15 minutes to decide on the death penalty.
"My punishment has been spending every day in this prison," he said from death row. "I'm already free inside... I'm more at peace with myself now than I've ever been. Sometimes I look at the calendar, and the days are moving too slow."
Kitchens was known to his friends in prison as "Red" because of the color of his hair. In 1994, he used 2 old saw blades to cut his way out of his death row cell, then hit the guard who discovered him in the head with a piece of pipe before he was subdued.
His record included a 2-year sentence in Oklahoma for assault. He said
he was smoking dope at age 13 and by the time he was 18, he was hooked on methamphetamines and alcohol.
"I liked it and the attention I got," he said. "I wish I could change things. I've done what put me in this position. I just accept it and try to learn from it and go on."
Kitchens becomes the 14th condemned prisoner to be put to death this year in Texas and the 213th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on Dec. 7, 1982. 5 more executions are scheduled in Texas this month, and 7 more are set to occur in June.
(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)
Michael Lee McBride, 38, 2000-05-11, Texas
A man who shot his ex-girlfriend and a companion to death in a jealous rage in 1985 was executed Thursday.
Michael Lee McBride, 38, was convicted of gunning down two 18-year-olds from Fort Worth, ex-girlfriend Christian Fisher and James Holzer. He insisted the shootings were in the heat of passion and did not amount to capital murder.
"God bless all of you," he said before his execution. As the lethal drugs began taking effect, he said: "Pretty cool, I feel it in the back of my throat. Bye."
McBride, a bartender in a Lubbock country club, dated Fisher for about 11 months before she broke up with him. He lured the Texas Tech student to his house under the pretense of giving her a painting he said was equal to money he owed her. He concluded the conversation by saying: "If I can't have you, nobody will."
Her friends worried about her and accompanied her in 2 cars to McBride's home. Holzer was with Fisher.
She knocked on the door but got no answer. As she was returning to her car, McBride emerged wearing camouflage clothing and carrying a semi-automatic rifle. He shot Fisher at least 10 times and Holzer 9 times.
McBride becomes the 15th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas and the 214th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on Dec. 7, 1982.
(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)
James David Richardson, 32, 2000-05-23, Texas
James David Richardson, on death row for gunning down a liquor store owner during a robbery a week before Christmas in 1986, was executed Tuesday.
Mr. Richardson, 32, insisted he was only along for the ride with two companions when Gerald Abay was fatally shot in the neck and chest during the holdup at his Gusher Liquor Store near Corsicana, about 50 miles south of Dallas.
His final statement was a lengthy prayer in which he expressed love for his family and asked for forgiveness and repentance.
"Heavenly Father, I truly repent, really I do," he said. "I ask you lift me up, you bring me home, and hold my family safe."
With relatives including his mother in tears, he was pronounced dead 10 minutes later.
He was the 16th Texas inmate to receive lethal injection this year and the first of three this week. Two more are set for next week, and seven are on the execution schedule for June.
Mr. Richardson was tried twice for capital murder. His first conviction was thrown out by an appeals court because a notepad of pretrial testimony was lost. The two accomplices received life prison terms.
At the time of his arrest for the Dec. 17, 1986, shooting, Mr. Richardson had been on parole less than three months after serving four months in prison for burglary and robbery.
"I was in the car," he said in a recent interview on death row. "... But I didn't know they were going to rob the place."
Richard Donald Foster, 47, 2000-05-24, Texas
In Huntsville, a man who gunned down a feedstore owner during a 1984 robbery was put to death by lethal injection on Wednesday in the second execution in Texas in two days.
Richard Foster, 47, was the fifth inmate this month and the 17th this year to be executed in Texas, which leads the nation in capital punishment. A third
execution this week was scheduled for Thursday.
Foster was sentenced to die for murdering Gary Cox on April 5, 1984 in the northeastern Texas town of Springtown. He shot Cox in the back of the head with a shotgun while taking $250 from his feedstore.
After years of legal appeals, Foster admitted during a federal court hearing in March that he killed Cox and asked that all efforts to stop his execution be dropped.
In a final statement in the Texas death chamber, Foster referred to his conversion to Christianity.
``I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me,'' he said, before bidding goodbye to a cousin witnessing the
``I'll see you when you get there, okay?'' Foster told her, apparently
referring to the hereafter.
Foster was the 216th person executed in Texas since the state resumed capital punishment in 1982, six years after the U.S. Supreme Court removed a national
ban on the death penalty.
(sources: Reuters & Rick Halperin)
Charles Adrian Foster, 51, 2000-05-25, Oklahoma
In Oklahoma early Thursday, Charles Adrian Foster, 51, was executed by injection for killing a 74-year-old man delivering groceries to his home in 1983. Claude Wiley was beaten with a baseball bat and stabbed during the robbery.
Wiley operated a neighborhood grocery in Muskogee. His niece and only living relative, Donna Maria Loggins, said that 17 years after the murder, ``we're past due.''
Charles Foster's attorney contended that he was mentally retarded, something that wasn't considered by the jury that convicted him and served as the basis for his final appeal.
Foster becomes the 6th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Oklahoma and the 25th overall since the state resumed executions in 1990.
(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)
James Edward Clayton, 33, 2000-05-25, Texas
In Huntsville, a former clerical worker convicted of abducting and killing an elementary school teacher in 1987 was executed by injection Thursday. It was the state's third execution this week.
James Edward Clayton, 33, was condemned for the murder of Lori Barrett, 27, who apparently surprised him while he was robbing her apartment near Abilene Christian University.
Barrett's body was found bound with an electrical cord and wrapped in a blanket 12 days after she disappeared. She had been shot in the head, neck and shoulder, and her body had been dumped beside a rural road.
Before his execution, Clayton, who had maintained he was innocent, said he would like to follow Christ's example and ``leave with peace in my heart and forgiveness.''
``There is no anger in my heart about this entire situation,'' he said.
Clayton, a New York native, was arrested four days before Barrett's body was discovered. A prosecutor said witnesses told authorities they saw Clayton driving Barrett's car after she was
reported missing. Her car was found abandoned on the college campus.
Police searched Clayton's home nearby and found items belonging to Barrett in a trash container and her car insurance identification card in his residence.
Clayton was among seven inmates who tried to break out of the Ellis Unit on Thanksgiving night 1998. One inmate escaped but was shot by guards as he climbed a fence and later was found dead in a creek not far from the prison. The six others surrendered.
Claton becomes the 18th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas and the 217th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on Dec. 7, 1982.
(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)
Robert Earl Carter, 34, 2000-05-31, Texas
Former prison guard Robert Earl Carter, on death row for murdering his 4-year-old son and five others, was executed Wednesday.
Strapped into the death chamber gurney, Mr. Carter, 34, acknowledged the crime but said he alone was involved.
"I'm sorry for all the pain I've caused your family," he said, looking at six members of the victims' family. "It was me and me alone. Anthony Graves [his co-defendant] had nothing to do with it. I lied on him in court."
As he spoke, Aaron Keith Davis, the father of one of the victims, turned his back on the inmate.
"I hope you will find peace and comfort with Christ Jesus," Mr. Carter said. "It's a shame it has come to this. I'm ready to go home to be with my lord," he said, closing his eyes.
He coughed, gasped and uttered a slight groan before becoming unconscious. He was pronounced dead eight minutes later at 6:20 p.m.
Mr. Carter and a companion, Anthony Graves, were convicted of the murders of Bobbie Davis, 45; Nicole Davis, 16; Denitra Davis, 9; Brittany Davis, 6; Lea 'Erin Davis, 5; and Jason Davis, 4. Jason was Mr. Carter's son.
The victims had been stabbed, shot or both and were discovered by firefighters responding to a blaze at a home in Somerville, about 20 miles southwest of College Station, in the early morning hours of Aug. 18, 1992. Their killers tried to burn the bodies to hide the deaths.
"Our family has waited, prayed and kept the faith that this man would finally be brought to justice. Our family may move one step closer to healing, just by knowing Robert Carter will suffer a real and true punishment after death, by the hand of God," the Davis family said in a prepared statement released minutes before the execution.
An autopsy showed Bobbie Davis was stabbed 29 times in the head and beaten with a blunt object. Nicole Davis had been shot five times and stabbed in the head and chest. The other four victims were stabbed between seven and 13 times.
Mr. Graves also was convicted of capital murder, given the death penalty and is awaiting an execution date.
"When you go in and brutally murder and mutilate six people, four of them under the age of 10, in my way of thinking that's what the death penalty was created for," said Charles Sebesta, the district attorney who won the capital murder convictions.
Court records show Mr. Carter was upset that one of the Davis' daughters had named him in a paternity suit four days earlier, a step toward seeking child support for Jason.The boy was stabbed to death as he cowered under a blanket, officials said.
The child's mother, Lisa Davis, was at work at the time of the killings. Authorities believe the men intended to confront Lisa Davis and were surprised to find she was working and all the children were there.
"Anthony [Graves] got into it with Bobbie Davis and started stabbing her," said Mr. Sebesta.
"About that time, Nicole, the 16-year-old came out. Carter said she recognized him and he had no choice but to shoot her and then ended up killing everyone in the house."
Court records also show Mr. Graves was upset with Bobbie Davis, a Brenham State School employee, because he believed she received a work promotion that his mother deserved.
The day before his arrest, Mr. Carter, wearing bandages on severe burns to his head and arms apparently suffered in the fire, attended funeral services for the victims.
"He stuck out like a sore thumb," Mr. Sebesta said.
Mr. Carter originally told authorities he had burned himself while burning grass clippings. During questioning by police, he acknowledged setting the house on fire but blamed Mr. Graves for the murders. Then at Mr. Graves' trial in November 1994, Mr. Carter testified that he himself shot Nicole Davis.
Mr. Carter worked as a corrections officer at the Pack II Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Navasota.
He was the 19th condemned killer put to death in Texas this year, the seventh this month and the first of two this week.
(source: By Michael Graczyk / Associated Press)
James Robedeaux, , 2000-06-01, Oklahoma
A man convicted of murdering and dissecting his girlfriend was executed early Thursday by lethal injection, the seventh execution in Oklahoma this year, a state prisons spokesman said.
James Glenn Robedeaux, 51, was pronounced dead at 12:34 a.m. (0134 EDT), six minutes after receiving a mix of fatal chemicals at a state prison here, Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokesman Jerry Massie said.
Robedeaux was convicted of slaying Nancy Rose Lee McKinney, 37, in a fight in September 1985 and cutting up her body.
McKinney disappeared from the Oklahoma City apartment she shared with Robedeaux. Several months later parts of her body were found scattered in three counties in central Oklahoma.
Police were called in after a maintenance man became suspicious about stains that turned out to be dried blood on the carpet and floor of the one-bedroom
Robedeaux's execution was the 26th since Oklahoma reinstated the death penalty in 1977 and resumed executions in 1990.
"Dad, I just want you to know I love you," Robedeaux said in his last words, addressed to his father who was there as a witness.
"I want you to tell mother, sister and my kids I love them too. I even love the McKinneys. I want them to forgive me for anything I might have done," he said.
Pernell Ford, 35 , 2000-06-02, Alabama
After watching the man who was convicted of killing his mother and sister die in Alabama's electric chair, Wayne Griffith said he found peace and forgiveness, nearly 17 years after the slayings.
"It's finished," said Griffith, holding pictures of 74-year-old Willie C. Griffith and 42-year-old Linda Gail Griffith. "I do forgive him. I hope he's gone to heaven."
Pernell Ford, 35, who was convicted of stabbing the two women to death at their Jacksonville home during a 1983 burglary, died at 12:12 a.m. today at Holman Prison near Atmore. He had sought execution since 1997, when he dismissed his attorney and dropped his court appeals amid questions about his mental stability.
In his last statement, Ford told Warden Charlie Jones he wanted to apologize to the Griffiths' family for the pain and suffering he had caused, and asked Jones to tell them to "be safe." As officers made final preparations, Ford recited the 23rd Psalm and other biblical passages, said Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Mike Haley.
Awaiting execution, he took deep breaths and alternately stared at the ceiling and closed his eyes, resting his head at times on the back of the electric chair.
"He was quite anxious to proceed ... and get it over with," Haley said.
Questions about Ford's sanity were first raised during his trial, when, while acting as his own defense attorney, he wrapped himself in a sheet
during his penalty phase and demanded his victims be brought into the courtroom so God could resurrect them.
Ford initially was set for execution in July 1999, but a federal appeals court delayed his death after his former attorney questioned his mental state.
At a court hearing, Ford testified he could leave death row through "translation," and had visited heaven and other spots worldwide while in prison. He said he had millions of dollars in a Swiss bank account, which
would support his children and his 400,000 wives after he was executed and became a part of the Holy Trinity.
The court ruled in November that Ford was competent to fire attorney LaJuana Davis and drop his appeals. Gov. Don Siegelman on Wednesday set aside a clemency request filed by Davis, who cited Ford's history of mental problems. Siegelman's press secretary, Carrie Kurlander, said the governor felt the request was inappropriate, given the court ruling.
Wayne Griffith and his wife, Margaret, traveled from their Gadsden home to witness the execution, along with former Calhoun County Sheriff Roy Snead.
"You always hear the bleeding-heart liberals say the death penalty's not a deterrent," Snead said. "It may not be, but it sure as hell cuts down on the
Willie Griffith, who suffered from arthritis and used a walker, was a former school dietitian who often prepared large meals and invited neighbors to eat. "There was never a stranger in the house," her son said.
Of Ford's apology, "I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt," Wayne Griffith said. "I believe it was sincere. I really believe he meant it ... I feel good about it."
source: Birmingham news
Feltus Taylor, 39, 2000-06-06, Louisiana
Convicted killer Feltus Taylor, whose life had been temporarily spared 5 times by reprieves, was executed Tuesday night for the 1991 murder of a fast-food restaurant employee.
Taylor, 39, was sentenced to death in 1992 for the murder of Donna Ponsano during a robbery at Cajun's Fabulous Fried Chicken in Baton Rouge on March 27, 1991. The restaurant manager, Keith Clark, was shot
4 times in the head and left partially paralyzed.
A state judge in Baton Rouge on Tuesday denied a last-minute effort from Taylor's attorney, Michelle Fournet, to stop the execution.
A coroner pronounced Taylor dead at 8:40 p.m. CDT from a chemical injection at the Louisiana State Penitentiary.
Prior to the execution, Taylor read a brief statement in which he apologized to the slain woman's family and to the wounded restaurant manager.
"I want to tell you, Keith, and the Ponsano family that I always regretted what I've done. It was my own doing. After this is over with, I hope you can find the peace to move on," Taylor said.
After Taylor spoke, the slain woman's sister, Lisa Allen, whispered "Oh, Jesus," then began crying.
In the hearing earlier Tuesday before District Judge Don Johnson, Fournet argued that Taylor had been given anti-psychotic drugs on an irregular basis, which affected his behavior during the sentencing part of the trial.
During the trial, as Taylor's grandmother pleaded for his life, Taylor slapped his hands against the defense table where he sat with his attorneys, burst into tears and then knocked over the table.
Fournet argued that new money from the state would be available in July that would allow her to hire experts who could testify that Taylor was not in his normal mental state at the time of the commotion. Johnson ruled that argument already had been rejected by other courts and he saw no reason to grant a reprieve.
In an unusual move, Warden Burl Cain of the Louisiana State Penitentiary brought Taylor to the hearing at the request of prosecutor John
Sinquefield. Taylor, wearing a prison work shirt and jeans, showed no emotion when the judge denied his request for a stay.
After the hearing, Taylor visited with his grandmother, brothers and a few friends, Cain said.
The hearing may have given Taylor false hopes, and on the way back from Baton Rouge he said little, Cain said.
During his trial, Taylor admitted shooting Ponsano to death after he robbed the restaurant's safe. Clark had hired and fired Taylor twice as a fry cook. On the day of the shooting, Taylor went to the restaurant trying to get his job back.
Clark already had replaced Taylor, but gave him 35 cents to buy a newspaper so the 2 could sort through classifieds. But Taylor snapped when Ponsano passed by the table where the 2 men sat, Clark said.
Taylor grabbed her arms and demanded that Clark open the safe. Clark eventually gave into the demand and gave Taylor $1,300 from the safe, but Taylor still opened fire with a handgun.
"It was a heinous murder that resulted in the death of a fine woman and the maiming and paralyzing of a very fine man," Sinquefield said. "The viciousness of the act and the suffering that was caused has always been demanding of the death penalty."
Clark and Ponsano's sister Lisa Allen were among execution witnesses. Both refused to talk to reporters before the execution, but after the hearing Tuesday, Allen said Taylor's death would give her closure.
"After 9 years, I'm going to be OK," she said. "I'm just glad it's going to be finally over. He has gotten away so many times."
Taylor was scheduled to be executed in September 1999, and was eating his final meal of seafood gumbo and fried soft-shell crabs when the execution was delayed by the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court lifted the reprieve in April when it refused to hear the appeal.
On Monday, the Supreme Court again refused to issue a stay of execution and refused to consider taking Taylor's appeal.
It's the 1st execution in Louisiana since Dobie Gillis Williams was put to death in January 1999 for stabbing a woman while he was out of prison on a weekend furlough. Taylor becomes the 26th person executed in Louisiana since the state resumed capital punishment in 1983.
(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)
Bennie Demps, 2000-06-07, Florida
A convicted killer who described himself as "the poster boy of the death penalty" was put to death by injection Wednesday for the 1976 murder of another inmate.
After 29 years on death row, Bennie Demps was executed for the stabbing death of Alfred Sturgis, who was attacked in his cell by 3 inmates.
Demps spoke for 7 minutes, proclaiming his innocence before the execution.
"This is not an execution, this is murder," Demps said. "I am an innocent man."
During his statement, Demps also called on his lawyer, George Schaefer, to investigate why it took almost an hour to prepare him for the execution.
Demps was strapped to a gurney beginning at 5:40 p.m. and the execution didn't take place until 6:40 p.m.
Demps called the execution a "low-tech lynching by poison."
"Governor Bush, you have done what you said you would never do and that's kill an innocent man," Demps said.
Demps was officially declared dead at 6:53 p.m., 13 minutes after the lethal cocktail of chemicals was administered intravenously.
The execution was scheduled for 6 p.m., but was delayed for a few reasons, according to Justin Sayfie, a spokesman for Gov. Jeb Bush.
Both the U.S. Supreme Court and the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta turned down appeals Wednesday, but the paperwork from the Supreme Court wasn't received until 5:30 p.m., Sayfie said.
There were also problems with the IV, Sayfie said. The technicians had trouble finding a vein for an alternate IV and finally decided to just use a primary line that was already inserted into Demps' left arm.
Schaefer said he would ask State Attorney Rod Smith to investigate Demps' allegations that he was mistreated during the procedure.
Schaefer said he was concerned about the delay and Demps' claims that he was cut in the leg and groin during attempts to find an alternate line and it was painful.
The Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, on behalf of Pope John Paul II, sent a letter to the governor asking for clemency for Demps.
Bush received the letter less than a hour before the execution, Sayfie said.
The Pope has intervened in only a handful of Florida death penalty cases.
The evening execution reflects a change in Florida State Prison execution proceedings. In the past, they usually were set for early mornings.
Demps, 49, a Marine wounded in Vietnam, previously had escaped 3 dates with the electric chair. He said he now was being executed because he had cheated the executioner in a 1971 double murder.
"They are trying to execute me in this case for that case," Demps said in an interview Tuesday. "They want a free execution."
Over his last several days, he received visits from his wife, Tracy Carothers Demps, of Surrey, British Columbia. She sat in a car outside the prison before the execution was scheduled to take place.
Demps was first condemned for the 1971 murders of R.N. Brinkworth and Celia Puhlick, fatally shot in a Lake County citrus grove. They were inspecting land when they happened upon Demps, who had fled to the grove with a stolen safe.
A year after Demps was sent to death row, the Supreme Court threw out capital punishment across the country. Demps was one of 97 Florida inmates taken off death row.
In July 1976, the nation's high court upheld Florida's new death law. 2 months later, on Sept. 6, 1976, Sturgis was stabbed to death at Florida State Prison.
The dying Sturgis told a prison guard that Demps and another inmate had held him down while a third inmate stabbed him.
"They have used me as the poster boy of the death penalty,'' Demps said Tuesday. "I am an innocent man, wrongly convicted in this murder, and I should be allowed to prove it."
The Florida Supreme Court in 1981 upheld Demps' death sentence in Sturgis' slaying, rejecting his argument that it should be overturned because the other 2 inmates were given life sentences.
Judges noted that the other 2 had no prior murder convictions.
Demps was the 3rd inmate executed this year, and the 3rd by lethal injection. Since Florida resumed the death penalty, 46 other inmates have been put to death, all but this year's in the electric chair.
(sources: Sun-Sentinel & Rick Halperin)
Roger James Berget, 39, 2000-06-08, Oklahoma
Roger James Berget was executed early Thursday for the 1985 murder of Moore Central Mid-High math teacher Rick Patterson.
Berget, now 39, and Mikell Smith had carjacked Patterson from an Oklahoma City supermarket parking lot and forced him into the trunk of his car before driving to a deserted area near Interstate 40. There, they ordered him out of the car and shot him.
Berget pleaded guilty to 1st-degree murder, 1st-degree burglary and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. He also confessed to killing James Meadows in Hughes County near Holdenville.
None of his family members witnessed his execution, but 2 attorneys, a legal adviser, an investigator and a spiritual adviser attended for him.
Before Patterson's family traveled from Ponca City to the Oklahoma State Penitentiary to witness the execution, they made sure his grave in Ponca City had fresh flowers on it.
"It's the best-decorated grave there," said Patterson's sister, Diane Newlin.
Newlin, along with Patterson's father, brother, sister-in- law and 2 nephews, made the trip. Newlin, her brother Lloyd Patterson and their father, Raymond Patterson, witnessed the execution.
The family toured the prison during the afternoon and found it clean and far nicer than they wished.
"They're living in better conditions than some people outside the fence," Lloyd Patterson said of the prisoners. "To me, there's no suffering."
They said the closure they would get with Berget's execution would not be complete because Smith's death sentence was appealed in 1992 and reduced to life in prison without parole.
"This is only half," said Newlin. "There's still the other half. . . . I hope he gets his in prison."
Earlier in the week, Patterson's colleagues and family reminisced about the slain teacher.
Patterson, 33, had a reputation as a gifted math teacher and practical joker who was beloved by fellow teachers and his students.
"It had so much impact and caused so much pain to so many people, especially his kids," said Lois Evans, the assistant principal at the mid-high when the murder occurred.
Newlin said that when her brother died, it changed everything with the family. Joke gifts such as a bottle cutter that her brother used to pass around the family came to a stop, and family gatherings became somber.
"Rick brought the laughter into our lives," Newlin said. "We're real lost without him."
Newlin said Berget's execution brings part of the justice she believes is due her brother. She said it's been a long 15 years and she's ready.
"He's getting it a lot easier than my brother did," she said of Berget.
"There's no comparison with how my brother died," she said.
Berget becomes the 8th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Oklahoma and the 27th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1990.
(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)
Thomas Wayne Mason, 48, 2000-06-12, Texas
An East Texas man who blamed a government conspiracy for framing him in the shotgun slayings of his estranged wife's mother and grandmother was executed Monday.
Thomas Wayne Mason, 48, received a lethal injection for the killings 8 1/2 years ago of Marsha Brock, 55, and her 80-year-old mother, Sybil Dennis.
In a bitter last statement, Mason blamed Smith County District Attorney Jack Skeen for orchestrating his conviction and for the failure of his appeals.
"He did everything but make sure I got a fair trial to prove I was innocent," Mason, staring straight at the death chamber ceiling, said.
Mason complained that his trial record was altered and that his "sellout lawyer" worked with the district attorney to conspire against him.
Mason was the 20th Texas inmate executed this year and the 1st of 3 set to die this week.
As the drugs began taking effect, he blurted out, "This stuff has a bad taste to it."
Then he gasped twice and sputtered, falling into unconsciousness. He was pronounced dead seven minutes later at 6:24 p.m. CDT.
His estranged wife, Melinda Mason, and Skeen were among the witnesses who watched through a window a few feet away. Although he asked for Skeen by name, he never turned toward the witnesses and never acknowledged their presence.
Mason met with friends and relatives earlier Monday but made no last meal request. The U.S. Supreme Court turned down his final appeal Monday afternoon.
Mason was arrested the day after the killing in Tennessee after telling a nephew and a daughter about the shootings.
"I don't know what the big deal is, over just getting rid of a mother-in-law," Mason told officers.
In a recent death-row interview, however, the drywall installer denied any role in the slayings and denied telling anyone about his involvement.
Mason becomes the 132nd condemned inmate to be put to death during the tenure of Governor George W. Bush.
(source: Houston Chronicle & Rick Halperin)
John Albert Burks, 44, 2000-06-14, Texas
A Texas parolee and twice-convicted burglar was executed Wednesday evening for fatally shooting a Waco tortilla shop owner during an
unsuccessful robbery more than 11 years ago.
In a brief final statement, John Albert Burks, 44, greeted some relatives who served as witnesses and told them it was "going to be all right."
Burks said "the Raiders are going all the way y'all. He looked at his witnesses and told them "you pray for me, it's going to be all right."
Then he told the warden, "it's going down, let's get it over with. Y'all take care."
As the drugs began taking effect, he took a shallow breath, a deep breath, a shallow breath and then stopped breathing. He was pronounced dead at 6:18 p.m. CDT, 9 minutes after the injection began.
His sister, who was among the witnesses, began wailing and sobbing uncontrollably and had to be escorted out of the death house.
Looking through another window, 5 members of the murder victim's family stood stoically.
Burks lost his final appeals earlier in the day when the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a reprieve issued by a Waco-based federal district judge. The U.S. Supreme Court then refused to halt the punishment while Burks was finishing a final meal.
U.S. District Judge Walter Smith on Tuesday had ordered the state to halt the lethal injection, saying a reprieve he issued more than 2 years ago remained in effect because Burks, with a petition before the Supreme Court, had not exhausted all his appeals.
Burks' victim, Jesse Contreras, was well-known and liked in his south Waco neighborhood, where the tortilla shop he started in 1960 flourished.
"He was just a super great guy," says Paul Gartner, now a federal prosecutor in Fort Worth. "And the people in the area of his little store thought he was a super individual."
Alone in Jesse's Tortilla Factory late on the morning of Jan. 20, 1989, Contreras was confronted by a man wearing a dark ski mask, demanding money and brandishing a .25-caliber pistol, a so-called Saturday Night Special.
Contreras, 63, threw a trash can at the man, who opened fire. 4 of the 6 shots struck Contreras and he died of his wounds 27 days later. The gunman fled empty-handed.
Burks, 44, a twice-convicted burglar, was on parole at the time of the Contreras shooting and was accused but never tried for another murder during a 1982 service station burglary.
"There was never any doubt in my mind he did it," says Gartner, who was one of the McLennan County assistant prosecutors who convinced a jury
Burks should be put to death for killing Contreras. "My thoughts and prayers are with the family of Jesse Contreras who have had to wait this long."
In a recent death row interview, Burks, who grew up in the tortilla shop neighborhood, denied any involvement in the shooting, contending he was living at the time in Harlingen in the Rio Grande Valley, 370 miles to the south, where he was arrested for the killing.
"In January 1989, I was not in Waco," he said. "I knew Jesse way back when I was a kid... I hadn't been back there for a long time. I didn't kill Jesse."
"That's a lot of self-delusion and a lot of posturing," Ralph Strother, who also prosecuted Burks, said this week. "We got him through other testimony planning the robbery, through accomplices and with a
semi-admission made to an aunt.
"We got the right man, the right punishment was assessed and the right result is going to occur."
Prosecutors had witnesses who saw Burks leaving the scene and fleeing in a car police determined belonged to his half-brother, Mark McConnell. A third man, a cousin, Aaron Bilton Jr., also was tied to the crime and all three were charged with capital murder.
Bilton received immunity and testified against Burks. McConnell was convicted of robbery and burglary and is serving a 40-year prison term.
"I don't hold any grudge against him," Esther Contreras, whose husband was killed, told the Waco Tribune-Herald. "I can't say that he did do it or that he didn't do it. But the fellows who were with him told off on him and they said he did it. I think he is just lying about it now."
Burks acknowledged his prospects for avoiding the execution's needle were dim.
"I've got 2 places -- clemency and the governor -- and neither is going to happen," he said. "You tell me where hope lies."
Texas Gov. George W. Bush could have issued a one-time 30-day reprieve in his case, but Burks had said, "It's too late."
Burks becomes the 21st condemned inmate to be put to death in Texas this year and the 220th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on Dec. 7, 1982.
Burks becomes the 133rd condemned inmate to be put to death in Texas since Governor George W. Bush took office in Jan. 1995.
(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)
William Clifford Bryson, 29, 2000-06-15, Oklahoma
In McAlester, Okla., William Clifford Bryson, 29, was executed by injection early Thursday for his part in the 1988 murder of James
Prosecutors said Bryson and Marilyn Plantz planned to collect an insurance policy of about $300,000 for Plantz's accidental death. Mrs. Plantz was the beneficiary.
On Aug. 26, 1988, Bryson, then 18, and friend Clinton McKimble surprised Plantz in his house and beat him with 2 baseball bats provided by Plantz's wife, who also was present, prosecutors said.
McKimble, who received a life sentence for testifying against Bryson, said Mrs. Plantz looked at her husband's head injuries from the beating and remarked that it didn't look like an accident.
"She told us to burn him," McKimble testified.
Plantz was loaded into a pickup truck and driven to a remote area, where he and the vehicle were doused with gasoline and set ablaze.
Mrs. Plantz was sentenced to death and is awaiting execution.
Bryson becomes the 9th condemned inmate to be put to death in Oklahoma this year and the 28th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1990.
(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)
Paul Nuncio, 31, 2000-06-15, Texas
A former security guard convicted of raping and strangling a 61-year-old West Texas woman while high on drugs and alcohol was executed Thursday
In a lengthy and rambling final statement, Paul Nuncio, 31, he said he was sorry the victim was murdered but insisted he did not commit the crime.
"I don't want you to have guilt of executing someone innocent because I am," he said, directing his comments to the children of the murder victim, Pauline Farris.
He recited the Lord's prayer and then told the witnesses to not be surprised if their mother was with God to greet him when he arrived in heaven. "When your time comes, she will let you know if I am innocent or guilty," he said.
As the drug took effect, he coughed twice, then sputtered and gasped. He was pronounced dead at 7:17 p.m. CDT.
The execution was delayed for about and hour until the Supreme Court ruled for the 3rd time on 11th hour appeals filed in his case.
Nuncio was condemned for killing Farris at her Plainview home 6 1/2 years ago.
"I've tried over 15 capital murders and this is the very worst capital
murder I've ever seen in my life," Hale County District Attorney Terry said this week. "It was animalistic."
"He literally beat her face in so she was unrecognizable," McEachern
added. "I can't think of a person who doesn't support the death penalty who can look at this in good faith and say this is not a death penalty case."
Farris was alone in her house after midnight Dec. 3, 1993 when Nuncio and a group of friends ran to her porch to get out of a rainstorm. When the rain stopped, everyone but Nuncio left, court records show.
He showed up a couple of hours later at a motel where he sold a television for $50, then returned with camera, a stereo and some rings. He showed the buyer his driver's license as identification and wrote the
license number on a receipt. The buyer purchased the electronic items and Nuncio threw the rings in the trash.
He convinced a friend to take him to "his house," which really was the Farris home, where he picked up another television and sold it to a friend. The friend 2 days later tipped police that she thought Nuncio was involved in the Farris murder.
By then, her body had been found by neighbors.
Nuncio becomes the 22nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year
in Texas and the 221st overall since the state resumed capital punishment on Dec. 7, 1982.
Nuncio becomes the 134th condemned inmate to be put to death in Texas since Governor George W. Bush took office January 1995.
(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)
Thomas Provenzano, 51, 2000-06-21, Florida
A man who killed a bailiff in a courtroom shooting and thought he was Jesus Christ was executed by injection Wednesday, one day after he
received a reprieve while strapped to the gurney in the death chamber.
Thomas Provenzano had been granted the stay Tuesday, 11 minutes before the scheduled execution. Intravenous needles had already been inserted in his arms.
A 3-judge panel U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta, which had given no reason for its stay, dissolved the order Wednesday morning and Gov. Jeb Bush rescheduled the execution for the evening.
Provenzano, 51, was executed for the murder of William "Arnie"
Wilkerson, 1 of 3 bailiffs shot in 1984 when the unemployed electrician opened fire. The other 2 bailiffs were paralyzed; one has since died.
A trial judge concluded in December that Provenzano believed he faced execution because he is Jesus. But the judge ruled that was not a strong enough reason to spare him, because Provenzano also knew he had killed Wilkerson.
Under Florida law, condemned killers can be executed even if they are mentally ill unless they don't understand they are about to be executed and why.
Provenzano's sister, Catherine Forbes, had asked the governor in a letter Tuesday to spare her brother.
"As you know, Thomas is severely mentally ill," Forbes wrote. "He believes he is Jesus Christ and that he is going to be executed because people hate Jesus."
Bush responded that he found no reason to alter the sentence.
Florida has executed 3 inmates this year, all by injection. It switched to lethal injection in January to stave off a U.S. Supreme Court review of whether the electric chair was cruel and unusual punishment. In previous executions in the electric chair, an inmate bled from the nose and another had flames shoot from his mask.
Provenzano becomes the 4th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Florida and the 48th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1979.
(sources: Associated Pres & Rick Halperin)
Gary Lee Graham, 36, 2000-06-22, Texas
Convicted murderer Gary Graham was executed Thursday evening as a crowd outside the Texas death house kept vigil through almost 3 hours of delays.
Texas prison officials said Graham, who attracted national media attention and intensified debate about the death penalty with his claims
of innocence, was pronounced dead at 8:49 p.m. Thursday. He was the 23rd inmate executed in Texas this year.
"We had a long, rambling and angry final statement from Mr. Graham," said Mike Graczyk of the Associated Press, who witnessed the execution. "It was very obvious from the way he looked that he had put up a struggle."
He said the prisoner maintained his innocence to the end with some of his final words: "Gary Graham is being murdered today. ... The truth will come out."
Bobby Hanners, grandson of murder victim Bobby Lambert, said in a statement read by prison officials: "My heart goes out to the Graham family as they begin the grieving process. I also pray that Gary Graham has made peace with God, but I truly feel that justice has been served."
Somber witnesses filed out of the red-brick Walls Unit where the execution took place shortly before 9 p.m.
Gov. George W. Bush said he was confident that "justice is being done"
shortly before media witnesses marched into the death house to observe the execution.
Several last-minute appeals delayed the execution of Gary Graham before his lawyers decided not to make another appeal to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
In a news conference in Austin about 8 p.m., the governor said Graham's case had been reviewed more than 20 times and that 33 judges had found his numerous claims to be without merit.
"After considering all the facts, I am confident justice is being done," Bush said. "May God bless the victims, the families of the victims, and may God bless Mr. Graham."
The final appeal to a federal judge in Austin was rejected about 7:30 p.m., according to CNN.
The appeal in Austin argued that the Texas clemency process is unconstitutional, Graham attorney Jack Zimmerman told the Associated
The state court and the Supreme Court had previously rejected Graham's arguments that he was convicted on shaky evidence from a single eyewitness and that his trial lawyer did a poor job. The Supreme Court voted 5-4 to deny his latest appeal earlier Thursday.
The last-minute legal moves delayed Graham's execution, originally scheduled for 6 p.m.
About 200 law enforcement authorities, some wearing riot helmets behind barricades, were on duty to maintain order at the Huntsville death-row facility.
Some of the crowd who supported Graham held upside-down American flags as a sign of distress. One flag was burned by a protester and others broke through a line of barricades, where they were taken into custody by authorities.
Earlier Thursday, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles had refused to stop the execution.
Graham's attorneys had filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the justices to review the case of a man "convicted and sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit."
The appeal was turned down by the court.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals also turned down a last-minute appeal.
Under Texas law, Mr. Bush could not independently change a death sentence or grant a delay in the execution.
Gov. Ann Richards previously granted Mr. Graham a 30-day reprieve, but only one such delay is allowed to death row inmates under Texas law.
The pardons board took three votes. It voted 14-3 against postponing the execution, 12-5 against reducing Mr. Graham's punishment to a life sentence, and 17-0 against granting him a conditional pardon. (One of the board's 18 members was on leave and did not vote.)
Gerald Garrett, chairman of the board, issued a written statement and declined to comment further.
"The members of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles are fully aware of the responsibility we have in rendering our votes as part of the executive clemency review process," the statement said. "I can say, unequivocally, that the Board's decision not to recommend clemency was reached after a complete and unbiased review of the petition and evidence
As the vote was announced, the tenor rose among protesters gathered around the Huntsville Unit, where the execution was to take place.
The Board of Pardons and Paroles generally votes by fax from offices around the state.
As the hour of decision in Mr. Graham's case approached, the climate was anxious but nonviolent around the prison, with none of the disorder about which local officials had expressed concern.
The tension was foreshadowed the night before on death row, where Mr. Graham physically resisted when officials took steps to move him from the Terrell Unit in Livingston to the Huntsville Unit, a prison spokesman said.
"As he was being escorted, as he normally would be, back to his cell area, that's when we informed him that we were indeed going to take him directly to Huntsville," prison spokesman Larry Fitzgerald said.
Mr. Graham wordlessly refused, making it necessary for 5 guards to be used to shackle him hand and foot.
While such restraints are standard for death row transfers, an
extraordinary caravan of police and helicopter escorts accompanied the van that carried Mr. Graham 40 miles to Huntsville, where he arrived about 6 p.m. CDT Wednesday.
Mr. Graham, 36, whose case has been reviewed about three dozen times by the courts, says he was wrongly convicted of the 1981 shooting death and robbery of Bobby Grant Lambert, 53, of Tucson, Ariz., outside a Houston
While prosecutors and state officials stand by the lone eyewitness who identified Mr. Graham, his lawyers have offered two witnesses who now say he was not the killer. Mr. Graham, then 17, was arrested while sleeping naked in the bed of a 57-year-old taxi driver whom he had abducted and raped during an admitted weeklong crime spree.
Witness Bernadine Skillern said last week in Houston that she had no doubt that Graham was guilty. Ms. Skillern said she saw the killing through the front window of her car, which was about a car's length from the two men.
"I saw Mr. Graham shoot and kill Mr. Bobby Lambert on that parking lot in 1981," said Ms. Skillern, 53. "That has not changed. It's not going to change."
A lawyer for Mr. Graham said he doesn't question Ms. Skillern's honesty.
"She's sincere, but mistaken," said defense attorney Jack B. Zimmerman.
"We didn't expect her to say 'I'm sorry, I was mistaken.'"
A national campaign for a new hearing in his case reached new fervor in recent weeks, with celebrities and activists worldwide calling upon Mr. Bush, the presumptive Republican nominee, to issue a reprieve.
Mr. Graham has refused all meals since breakfast Wednesday, a prison
"He didn't want to eat on the table of those who would kill him," said the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who visited Mr. Graham Thursday and remarked on his calmness.
"There were no tears shed," Mr. Jackson said. "He showed amazing strength."
Officials refused to discuss other security measures taken in preparation for the crowds of media and the public expected Thursday, but they shut down most of the normally public areas in and around the main prison administration building next to the Huntsville Unit, which is known by its nickname, The Walls.
Law enforcement agencies, including local police and sheriff's deputies, the FBI and Texas Rangers were on hand to ensure order.
With Mr. Graham calling for civil disobedience and the New Black Panthers Party having staged a recent armed protest in Houston, townspeople in Huntsville expressed concern about violence. Numerous businesses near the prison shut their doors early Thursday.
About 11 a.m. spokesmen for the prison system announced that the scheduled noon release of the parole and pardon board's recommendation had been pushed back to 1:30 p.m. They also declared that no armed protesters would be allowed near the prison.
At 11:15, Mr. Graham's mother, Elnora Graham, entered the prison along with the Rev. Jesse Jackson and anti-death-penalty activist Bianca Jagger to visit Mr. Graham.
At 11:30, 6 uniformed New Black Panther party members - not visibly armed - entered the prison area. Beginning at the zone reserved for
groups opposed to Mr. Graham's execution, they marched to the other protest zone, an empty area designated for pro-death penalty groups, including an expected contingent from the Ku Klux Klan.
The Klan was not there, and the Black Panther group was turned back without incident to the pro-Graham area, where a growing circle of pickets chanted their opposition to the execution.
At 12:15, Mr. Graham's mother left the prison with Ms. Jagger and Mr. Jackson, who has been listed by Mr. Graham as an execution witness.
"If he must die, he won't be alone," Mr. Jackson said.
Protesters burned American flags, chanted and waved signs Thursday outside the prison in Huntsville to speak out against the execution of Gary Graham, but a restless peace prevailed.
After a day of vocal protests and cries of "No justice! No peace!" the tension briefly boiled over for some demonstrators, who rushed a police barricade shortly before the execution was scheduled to take place. The incident ended quickly, with 6 people arrested by officers in riot gear.
Graham, convicted of killing 53-year-old Bobby Lambert during an armed robbery outside a Houston supermarket on May 13, 1981, focused national attention on capital punishment and the presidential candidacy of Republican Gov. George W. Bush.
Of the hundreds of people who gathered outside the prison, by far the most vocal and visible were Graham's supporters, who are numerous because of his active media presence throughout his years on death row. Graham maintained his innocence and claimed he was convicted on shaky evidence from a lone eyewitness.
When word came that the state parole board denied Graham a reprieve, supporter Ashanti Chimuranga called the crowd with a bullhorn: "Brothers and sisters, we need to come together for this."
She announced the board's denial, producing shouts of "Murderers! Murderers! Bush is a murderer!" against a back beat of throbbing drums.
A woman who claimed to be Graham's daughter sobbed in the arms of a
friend. While she cried, another protester with a microphone reminded the crowds of the Los Angeles riots that followed the acquittal of the police officers who beat motorist Rodney King.
"This raises the specter of Los Angeles in 1992," Houston activist Travis Morales shouted. "We must execute the slave master, not the slaves."
Prison authorities took no chances, corralling Graham opponents and supporters on separate ends of the imposing brick prison. At one point,
around 100 Graham supporters attempted to confront about 20 Ku Klux Klansmen demonstrating in favor of the execution, but the police presence made it impossible.
The protesters also marched also out of the prison area and into the streets of downtown Huntsville, chanting "Free Shaka Sankofa!" Graham adopted that name to reflect his African heritage.
Jurors show doubt in Texas execution case
By The Associated Press
June 20, 2000
Former jurors who convicted and condemned a man facing execution this week say they might have found him innocent had they heard evidence offered up by the inmate's lawyer.
Dennis Graham and Bobby Pryor told ABC News' "Nightline" program Monday they are no longer sure Gary Graham is guilty.
"I always had a bad feeling about it. My gut feeling was he wasn't guilty," Pryor said in Tuesday's Houston Chronicle. "I just believe he might be innocent."
Gary Graham's attorney, Jack Zimmermann, said he has also talked to another juror who now says wouldn't have voted to find Graham guilty. "That's our whole point - Gary Graham didn't get a fair trial that he deserves a hearing," the attorney said. "It would have made a difference to these three people. They would have changed their vote." Zimmermann said he showed the jurors a police statement from the lone eyewitness who said the suspect she saw had darker skin and his face was thinner than Graham's picture.
Bert Hunter, 53, 2000-06-28, Missouri
A man was executed by injection early Wednesday for suffocating a woman and her son during a 1988 robbery because he feared the pair would identify him.
Bert Hunter, 53, was apparently the 1st inmate in Missouri history put to death without a jury trial. When his case came to trial in 1989, Hunter was clinically depressed and suicidal. He pleaded guilty and asked the judge for the death sentence.
His later attempts to seek a new trial were denied. Hours before his death, he said he didn't expect a last-minute reprieve.
"There is no justice," Hunter said. "It's time for this nightmare to be over, as far as I'm concerned."
Hunter was convicted of killing Mildred Hodges, 75, and her son, Richard, 49, at their home in Jefferson City. Tomas Ervin was also convicted in the crime and sentenced to die.
Hunter denied that Ervin was involved in the murders, saying an unnamed accomplice killed Richard Hodges after the victim's mother died during a scuffle.
Hunter was earlier convicted of killing a blind bar owner in 1968, but was released on parole in 1980.
Prosecutor Richard Callahan said Hunter was an intelligent man whose cocaine habit cost him work.
In need of money, Hunter and Ervin planned to rob the Hodges home, Callahan said. In his confession, Hunter said the Hodges were killed because the assailants feared they had been recognized.
Both victims were found with plastic bags over their heads. A medical examiner said they died of suffocation.
Hunter becomes the 2nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Missouri and the 43rd overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1989. Only Texas (222), Virginia (76) and Florida (48) have executed more condemned inmates since 1976.
Hunter also becomes the 51st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and 649th overall since America resumed executions on Jan. 17, 1977.
(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)
Jessy Carlos San Miguel, 28, 2000-06-29, Texas
Convicted killer Jessy Carlos San Miguel, a 10th grade dropout with a history of mayhem, was executed Thursday evening for leaving 4 people
dead after robbing a Dallas-area Taco Bell 9 years ago.
In a brief final statement, San Miguel urged friends and relatives watching him die to be strong and said he loved them.
"It's going to be all right," he said. "Ironic, isn't it, you know?" he noted while his arms were outstretched on the death chamber gurney. "I'm a cross. Y'all take care of each other. I'll be watching over
Asked by the warden if that was all he had to say, San Miguel replied, "Yeah."
As the drugs began taking effect, he sputtered and gasped. He was pronounced dead at 6:19 p.m., 8 minutes after the lethal doses began.
6 members of his victims' families watched him die, but he never acknowledged their presence.
San Miguel's lethal injection, attracted little of the attention of a week ago when hundreds of demonstrators and media descended on Huntsville for the execution of Gary Graham.
Graham's claims that he was innocent and was tried unfairly put under intense national scrutiny the support of the death penalty by Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.
Unlike Graham, who was belligerent with officers throughout his final hours, San Miguel was reported docile as his punishment time approached
and the U.S. Supreme Court was delivered 11th-hour appeals.
The carnage after San Miguel and an accomplice left the suburban Irving Taco Bell before dawn Jan. 26, 1991 was so overwhelming, the police officer who discovered the 4 bodies in the walk-in freezer fainted.
And there was so much blood on the floor, authorities had to use a squeegee to locate the spent cartridges from the murder weapon.
"It was just a cold-blooded, methodical execution of 4 people," Toby Shook, an assistant district attorney in Dallas County who prosecuted the case, said.
San Miguel and his attorneys contended he unfairly was convicted because of racial stereotyping, that prosecutors and his own court-appointed defense attorney cited Mexican-American culture in their arguments to
the jury that sentenced him to death.
"What troubles me is Gov. Bush continually tells the media and the newspapers that he has always been fair, that they have ways in the system to be ensured everybody has a fair trial, but all that is not true," San Miguel said in a death row interview Wednesday.
San Miguel was convicted and condemned for fatally shooting Michael
Phelan, 28, the assistant manager at the restaurant. The other victims included restaurant employees Theresa Fraga, 16, of Irving, and her cousin, Frank Fraga, 23, of Dallas; and a friend of Ms. Fraga's, Son Truong Nguyen, 35, of Mesquite.
Theresa Fraga was 6 months pregnant. Nguyen had been wounded while serving in the Vietnamese army, then fled the war-torn country for what
he thought would be a life of safety in the United States.
Phelan and Nguyen were shot once in the head. The Fraga cousins were shot twice in the head.
San Miguel and a companion, Jerome Mike Green, were pulled over by Irving police who suspected them of drunken driving. When the officers found a Taco Bell bag filled with $1,390, 2 ski masks, a 9 mm pistol and 2 pairs of gloves, they began checking the chain's restaurants in the area for a robbery. The slaughter was discovered a few blocks away.
Green had worked part-time at the restaurant. San Miguel, records showed, had applied for a job there but was not hired. At the time, the 19-year-old San Miguel was free on bonds totaling $45,000 on 4 charges of weapons violations and burglaries.
He confessed to police that he robbed the store and shot the victims. He did not testify at his trial.
Green later pleaded guilty and received a 50-year prison term.
Evidence showed the pair planned the robbery for a few weeks and waited outside the locked place during the overnight hours until employees opened the door to take out the trash.
Nguyen was waiting outside to pick up Theresa Fraga from work when he was herded into the cooler with the Fraga cousins while San Miguel waited
with Phelan for a time-lock safe to open.
According to Shook, San Miguel said in his confession he left the restaurant and the hostages in the cooler but went back inside "and asked them to give him a good reason why he shouldn't kill them."
"Then he started shooting," the prosecutor said.
"It wasn't supposed to happen like this," San Miguel said from death row. "There is nothing I could do to stop what happened. People react in the heat of the moment, in the heat of deep emotions. When something happens out of instinct, we just do it. We don't do it out of intent. We
don't do it on purpose. It just happens."
According to court records, San Miguel told an officer while in jail: "The only reason why I killed those people is they couldn't make good
San Miguel was well known to police. He had been arrested 9 times and
was accused at age 16 of shooting another person. He also was linked to at least 2 drive-by shootings and a number of burglaries.
"He'd just kind of done it all," Shook said. "It wasn't gang related. Testimony showed he was kind of his own gang. He didn't need it. He did his own stuff."
San Miguel becomes the 24th condemned prisoner to be put to death this year in Texas, and the 223rd overall since the state resumed capital punishment on Dec. 17, 1982.
San Miguel becomes the 5th Texas condemned prisoner to be put to death this month, and the 136th overall to be put to death since Gov. George Bush took office in Jan. 1995.
(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)