This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
UPDATE: Richard Cobb has been executed, according to Execution Watch reporter Gloria Rubac, who is outside the Walls Unit.
Richard Cobb was only 18 when he and his friend Beunka Adams, 19, were arrested for a crime spree that included robbery, kidnapping, sexual assault, and the shooting of three people. Tonight Texas executed Cobb for the crimes almost a year to the day after they executed Adams.
On Sept. 2, 2002, 37-year-old Kenneth Vandever, who was mentally disabled, and two women were abducted from an East Texas convenience store and taken to a nearby field. One of the women was raped and then all three were shot. Vandever died from his wounds, but the women were able to play dead until their attackers left, when they managed to go get help.
Cobb and Adams were arrested for the crimes a day later, after being turned in by Adams’ cousin.
According to court documents, at trial “Cobb admitted to participating in the robbery and kidnaping and to shooting Vandever. He testified, however, that Adams pressured him into committing the murder, threatening to kill Cobb if he refused to take part in killing the three hostages. The [S]tate cast doubt on this portion of Cobb’s testimony by getting him to admit on cross-examination that he did not mention any coercion by Adams when he first confessed to the authorities.”
Prosecutors also used the testimony of a jailhouse snitch to secure a sentence of death. From the Austin Chronicle:
William Thomsen testified that while in jail awaiting trial Cobb bragged about his crimes, said he would commit additional crimes if he could, that he likely wouldn’t have been caught if he’d killed the two clerks, and that he got “like a rush” from shooting Vandever. (In a courtroom outburst, Cobb denied saying that.) Thomsen also testified that he was not given any deal or done any favors by the state in exchange for his testimony.
As it happened, that wasn’t entirely accurate: In January 2003, the prosecutor, Elmer Beckworth, penned a short letter to Thomsen’s parole officer, advising that he would not seek to prosecute Thomsen on a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm. The letter had been put into Adams’ file, but not Cobb’s; it was turned over a day before closing arguments, but the defense chose not to use it, a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in a May 2012 opinion. Two months after Cobb was convicted and sentenced to death in 2004, a prosecutor reviewing Adams’ file found another letter, this one from Thomsen, written in 2002, reminding Beckworth that during a meeting a week earlier the prosecutor had “agreed to completely clear” his pending weapons charge and to have a parole hold lifted so that Thomsen could be released; in the letter Thomsen also offers additional details about what Cobb told him about the robbery and murder. Cobb then appealed, citing the failure of prosecutors to turn over this second letter. But each of Cobb’s appeals has been denied, and on Feb. 21 the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider the case.
Yesterday Cobb’s attorneys filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari and an application for stay of execution. However the U.S. Supreme Court denied that stay and the execution proceeded on schedule.
Supreme Court denied Richard Cobb’s appeal. He will be executed at 6pm.
— Field Sutton (@KYTXFieldSutton) April 25, 2013
Cobb’s execution was the fourth execution in Texas this year, the third this month and the 496th since the death penalty was reinstated.
“There’s really nothing left to do,” Cobb told the Jacksonville Daily Progress recently in a jailhouse interview last month. “ … I accept it, you know what I mean? For what it is. There’s no getting away from it. At the same time I don’t want to die, but I’m ready to die.”
He also expressed remorse for his crimes and told the Progress reporter he has many regrets.
“You survey ever single mistake you’ve ever made over and over again,” he said. “It doesn’t stop. Every day. There’s regret in the water. Regret every time you look in the mirror. That’s just part of life. There’s no escaping it…The damage, the regret, the remorse. I wish I could go back and make this never have happened. Just change it all.”
Cobb was pronounced dead at 6:27 p.m. CT at the Walls Unit in Huntsville.
In his final statement, Cobb said “Life is death, death is life. I hope that someday this absurdity that humanity has come to will come to and an end. Life is too short; I hope anyone that has negative energy towards me will resolve that. Life is too short to harbor feelings of hatred and anger. That’s it.”