Tag Archives: Texas

Last Night’s Execution: John Quintanilla, Texas

Article from the Associated Press. Read the original here

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — A Texas man convicted of fatally shooting a retired sheriff’s deputy during the robbery of an amusement center more than a decade ago was put to death Tuesday.

John Manuel Quintanilla received lethal injection for gunning down 60-year-old Victor Billings at a game room in Victoria, about 125 miles southwest of Houston. The 2002 slaying came just a few months after Quintanilla had been released from prison after serving a sentence for several burglary convictions.

Asked to make a final statement before his execution, Quintanilla told his wife he loved her.

“Thank you for all the years of happiness,” he said.

He never acknowledged his victim’s friends or relatives, including two daughters, who watched through a window.

As the lethal drug began taking effect, he snored about a half dozen times, then stopped breathing. At 7:32 p.m. CDT – 15 minutes after being given the drug – he was pronounced dead.

Quintanilla’s wife, a German national who married him by proxy while he was in prison, watched through an adjacent window and sobbed.

Quintanilla, 36, became the ninth Texas inmate to receive lethal injection this year and the 501st since the state resumed carrying out capital punishment in 1982. His was the first of two executions set for this week; the other is planned for Thursday.

Quintanilla’s punishment was carried out after the U.S. Supreme Court refused two last-day appeals.

His lawyers contended his confession was coerced by authorities threatening to also charge one of his sisters and that the statement improperly was allowed into evidence at his trial in 2004. The lawyers obtained affidavits from two jurors who said the confession was a key to their decision to convict him.

“It is clear that Quintanilla would not have been convicted of capital murder if his confession had not been admitted – a fact confirmed by two of his jurors,” appeals lawyer David Dow told the high court.

The appeal also argued Quintanilla had deficient legal help during his trial and in earlier stages of his appeals, and that his case would give justices the opportunity to define filing rules in light of recent death penalty rulings from the court.

The Texas attorney general’s office said the appeal was without merit and improperly filed, and that the juror affidavits also were improper.

“There wasn’t any coercion whatsoever,” Dexter Eaves, the former Victoria County district attorney who was lead prosecutor at the trial, recalled last week. He also said that while the robbers, who fled with about $2,000, were masked, witnesses were able to “describe very clearly who the triggerman was.”

Court records show Billings, a retired chief deputy from nearby Edna in adjacent Jackson County, was at the game center with his wife on the Sunday before Thanksgiving in 2002 when the gunmen came in through a back door. Billings approached one of them and grabbed the barrel of the gunman’s rifle “so no one else was going to be hurt and paid for it dearly,” Eaves said.

He said Billings was shot three times, the last one fired while he was on his knees.

“A very cold killing,” Eaves said.

During questioning by detectives for an unrelated robbery some two months later, Quintanilla made references to the still unsolved Billings case, then led authorities to a canal where divers recovered items used in the holdup.

“They had the mask, the guns and his statements saying who did what,” Jim Beeler, Quintanilla’s lead trial lawyer, said. “He told them everything.”

Beeler said the trial judge overruled his objections and ruled the statements proper and admissible into evidence. He also said Quintanilla signed affidavits ordering that his defense team present no mitigating evidence during the punishment phase of his trial, where jurors deciding his sentence could have considered he had virtually no parental supervision while growing up.

“You want to argue your case, completely and totally,” Beeler said. “In that situation, we’re not being allowed to present our case, based on our client.

“It’s extremely frustrating.”

Prosecutors bolstered their case for Quintanilla’s future dangerousness by presenting evidence he attacked a jailer with a homemade weapon while awaiting trial.

“He did not do himself any favors,” Eaves said.

Quintanilla’s accomplice, Jeffrey Bibb, 33, is serving 60 years for murder and 50 years for aggravated robbery.

On Thursday, another Texas inmate is set for lethal injection. Vaughn Ross, 41, is to be executed for a double slaying in Lubbock in 2001.


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Tonight’s Execution: Elroy Chester, Texas

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. 

Elroy Chester’s is one of two executions scheduled for tonight. There is another scheduled in Florida, which you can read about here.

Update: Elroy Chester has been executed.

Elroy Chester was executed tonight by lethal injection in Huntsville, Texas, but a hearing scheduled for today could derail the state’s plan to carry out the sentence. Update: The Fifth Circuit has ruled against Chester and the motion to stay his execution has been denied. Barring a stay from a higher court, the execution proceeded as planned.

Chester was convicted of the 1998 killing of local firefighter Willie Ryman during a one-man crime spree in which he racked up more than two dozen crimes, including multiple killings. Chester confessed to killing Ryman when he was arrested for the crime, and pled guilty to capital murder. He was sentenced to death in September 1998.

While there is very little doubt about his guilt, the question in Chester’s case is whether he is mentally competent to be executed. His attorneys have argued that he is mentally retarded (I realize this is not the appropriate term for his condition, however it remains the standard term in matters of criminal liability) and thus ineligible for execution under the 2002 Supreme Court ruling deeming execution of the mentally impaired as “cruel and unusual punishment” and thus unconstitutional.

From Jordan Smith’s piece “Smart Enough to Die” for the Austin Chronicle:

Chester repeatedly scored below 70 on IQ tests – the generally accepted upper limit for mental impairment; spent almost his entire childhood in special education classes; never learned to read, to shop or cook, or to live on his own, or even to distinguish among colors, according to court testimony; and was placed in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Mentally Retarded Offenders Program during his previous stays in the pen. Nonetheless, the courts have repeatedly determined that Chester has not proven he is mentally retarded, and is thus eligible for execution.

At issue is the criteria by which Texas defines mental impairment, which I’ve covered before in my posting on last year’s execution of Marvin Wilson. Rather than the standards laid out in the 2002 Supreme Court case Atkins v. Virginia, Texas uses a set of criteria called the Briseño factors. From The Nation‘s Liliana Segura:

“Named after another Texas death row case, these seven non-clinical measures are meant to show whether a given defendant displays a “level and degree of mental retardation at which a consensus of Texas citizens would agree that a person should be exempted from the death penalty.” As an example, the Briseño court cited the fictitious character of Lennie Small, the mentally impaired migrant worker from John Steinbeck’s novel, Of Mice and Men.

Up until now all Chester’s appeals have been denied, and while experts and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals agree he is mentally disabled, the courts have ruled under Briseño that he is not disabled enough to be barred from execution. In 2012 the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the same way, denying another appeal that Chester was mentally disabled.

But now the judge that wrote that ruling came under fire. From Jordan Smith’s piece “Smart Enough to Die” for the Austin Chronicle:

That ruling was penned by the court’s then-Chief Judge Edith Jones about whom a serious complaint of misconduct was filed by a handful of civil rights groups, with the Fifth Circuit’s current Chief Judge Carl Stewart. The complaint alleges that Jones made a number of racist and biased comments during a lecture on the death penalty she gave at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law in February. In addition to claiming that blacks and Hispanics are more violent than are whites, and that claims of racism and innocence made by death row inmates are mere “red herrings,” Jones also opined that the Supreme Court decision that outlawed execution of the intellectually disabled does the disabled a disservice and represents a “slippery slope” in death penalty jurisprudence…

…During the lecture Jones allegedly singled out Chester’s case (among a handful of others) for derision, even though his execution at that time had not yet been carried out, and his case may yet have come back to the Fifth Circuit, and to her, for review….”She said that Chester claimed to be mentally retarded and had been slow in school but he still managed to go on a burglary spree,” reads the affidavit. “In the context of talking about this case and others involving claims of mental retardation, Judge Jones commented that she believes it may do a disservice to the mentally retarded to exempt them from death sentencing.”

In light of Judge Jones’s comments, Chester’s attorney, Susan Orlansky, filed a motion to stay the execution, arguing the injection should be delayed until either a new panel reviews Chester’s case or the complaint against Jones is resolved.

“The Court should not permit Mr. Chester to be executed amid troubling questions about the actual or apparent partiality of the judge who cast the deciding vote [denying his appeal] and [who] authored the opinion in his case,” she wrote.

Yesterday the Fifth Circuit court agreed and assigned a three judge panel to review the previous appeal, but declined to stay the execution, giving the judges just 24 hours to come to a decision.

The new panel denied the motion to stay the execution, writing that they “perceive no injustice, nor any incorrectness, in the affirmance of the district court’s order denying habeas relief, and we correspondingly decline to exercise our discretion to recall mandate.” (Read the court’s full opinion here.)

According to 12 News, media witnesses were called in to view the execution at 6:21 p.m. local time. Chester was pronounced dead at 7:04 p.m. He was the 499th execution in Texas since the death penalty was reinstated.

A reporter for the Associated Press wrote that in his final words, Chester again confessed to the crimes and asked the victims’ family not to have “hate in your heart for me”:

Elroy Chester, 44, said that he didn’t want relatives of his victims to have “hate in your heart for me.”

Chester said he confessed to killing firefighter Willie Ryman III because “you should know who killed your loved one.”

“Don’t hate me. I’m sorry for taking your loved one,” Chester said. “Elroy Chester wasn’t a bad man, I don’t care what anybody says. A lot of people say I didn’t commit those murders. I really did it.”

The next execution in Texas, which will be the 500th, is scheduled for June 26, when Kimberly McCarthy is slated for lethal injection.

Related Reading:

Chief Judge: New Panel Will Be Assigned to Consider Death Row Appeal

Death Watch: Chester to Die June 12

Appeals Panel Rethinks Killer’s Case After Judge’s Comments

Smart Enough to Die

Execution Watch: Elroy Chester to Die June 12

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Tonight’s Execution: Jefferey Williams, Texas

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Correction: This post was supposed to auto-publish today, but was accidentally published yesterday. Williams’ execution is set for tonight. Please pardon the mistake.

Editor’s note: There are inconsistent spellings of Jefferey/Jeffrey’s name in news reports. I’ve gone with the one listed on the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s site. 

Attorneys are appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to stop tonight’s scheduled execution in Texas.  Update: Jefferey Williams has been executed in Texas.

Jefferey D. Williams was slated to die this evening in Huntsville for the 1999 shooting of Houston police officer Troy Blando. From the Associated Press

Blando was working as a plainclothes officer doing auto theft surveillance when he stopped Williams, who was driving a stolen Lexus. As Blando was putting handcuffs on Williams, he was shot.

Williams’ lawyers argue his punishment should be halted while the high court reviews whether his legal help at his trial and in earlier stages of his appeals was deficient.

When Williams was arrested shortly after the shooting, he was still wearing the officer’s handcuff on one of his wrists.

Williams’ attorneys argued that his earlier trial attorneys were inefficient, missed filing deadlines and failed to present evidence during the sentencing hearing that would have spared him the death penalty.

However, according to the Houston Chronicle, Williams’ other claims of ineffective counsel were unsucccessful. From the Chronicle: 

To date, Williams’ ineffective counsel claims have fizzled. Now, Sheldon hopes a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Martinez v. Ryan, will prompt the courts to take another look.

The ruling allows reconsideration of a rejected ineffective counsel claim if it is “substantial” and if it can be proved that an appeals lawyer’s performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness. It requires proof that, had legal representation been adequate, the trial’s outcome may have been different.

Williams, 37, was represented in his February 2000 trial by veteran Houston defense lawyer Donald Davis. Months after Williams’ conviction, Davis committed suicide. Williams’ appeals attorney was Jules Laird, a former Harris County assistant district attorney.

Laird on Friday said he filed two petitions on Williams’ behalf, one dealing with constitutional issues of the killer’s initial trial, and a second asserting mental disability claims. “I talked to the family, reviewed the files and did my own investigation,” he said. “… I don’t recall filing late, but if the court says I did, I did.”

Laird said he does not remember whether he raised the issue of ineffective counsel.

Williams last-minute appeals were denied and the execution proceeded as planned. The lethal injection began at 6:10 p.m. local time and Williams was pronounced dead at 6:36 p.m.

According to the Houston Chroniclethere were no witnesses that were related to or friends of either the victim or Williams. The witness chamber was filled instead with police officers.  In his final statement, Williams insulted the police and accused them of getting away with murder.

The Chronicle story also includes a response to Williams’ last statement from Ray Hunt, president of the Houston Police Officers Union.

“The fact that to the end he continued to ridicule police officers shows what a thug he was,” Hunt told reporter Allan Turner outside the chamber. “I have no sympathy for him. I have sympathy for his family, but not for him.”

Williams was the 498th execution in Texas since the death penalty was reinstated.

Related Reading:

Cop Killer Makes Last-Ditch Appeal to Save His Life

Death Watch: New Appeal Argues Ineffective Defense

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Tonight’s Execution: Carroll Parr, Texas

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Editor’s Note: I’m traveling throughout April and May, and will have intermittent access to internet. Because of that, postings may be less frequent or updated at a slower pace than usual.

There were two executions scheduled for tonight and it’s likely the controversy of one will overshadow the other. In a highly-criticized case in Mississippi, state officials say there should be no DNA or fingerprint testing for Willie Manning, who has always maintained his innocence. In a rare move, the Department of Justice and the FBI have admitted reports and testimony by FBI examiners from the original trial were inaccurate and have offered to do additional DNA testing. There is no physical evidence tying Manning to the crime and activists, legal analysts and members of the media are calling for the tests to be done prior to his execution.

UPDATE: By a vote of 8-1, the Supreme Court of Mississippi this afternoon halted Manning’s execution, just hours before he was to be put to death by lethal injection at Parchman prison. Read more about the latest in Manning’s case here.

Meanwhile in Texas, not much was being said about the execution of Carroll Parr, slated to die at 6 p.m. who was executed tonight for the 2003 shooting of a drug dealer in a robbery gone wrong. His execution was the 497th in Texas since the death penalty was reinstated.

For the sake of easy posting from a place with dodgy internet, here’s more on Parr’s case from The Associated Press:

LIVINGSTON, TX — Condemned Texas inmate Carroll Parr says he’s OK with capital punishment but doesn’t believe he should be facing lethal injection this week.

“I’m not guilty of what I’m on death row for,” Parr said recently from a tiny visiting cage at the East Texas prison that houses the state’s 275 condemned men. “I believe in the death penalty. I believe in the Bible. I disagree in how it’s carried out.”

Parr, 35, a Waco drug dealer who was known on the streets at “Outlaw,” is set to die Tuesday evening for the 2003 robbery and fatal shooting of a man following a drug deal outside a convenience store.

Parr would be the fifth Texas inmate executed this year. At least 10 others have execution dates scheduled for the coming months, including one next week.

“I have been dealing with death all my life,” Parr told The Associated Press. “This is nothing I fear. … My execution is a release for me and a relief.”

Attorneys for Parr last week argued unsuccessfully in state courts and to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that a witness at Parr’s 2004 trial had provided an affidavit saying his testimony was false and that he’d been encouraged by McLennan County prosecutors to testify falsely. Trial prosecutors denied the accusations and said the witness’ retraction wasn’t credible.

The 5th Circuit last year rejected another appeal from Parr, and the U.S. Supreme Court in January refused to review his case.

Parr was convicted of the slaying of 18-year-old Joel Dominguez.

According to court records, Parr bought marijuana from Dominguez at a convenience store in Waco, then came back with a friend, Earl Whiteside, to get his money back.

Dominguez and another man, Mario Chavez, were hustled to a fenced area next to the store, where Parr pistol-whipped Dominguez and demanded his money back. Dominguez complied.

Parr ordered Whiteside to “smoke ’em,” according to court documents. Whiteside shot Chavez in the hand, critically wounding him. Parr then shot Dominguez in the head.

“He grabbed a gun and the gun went off,” Parr said of Dominguez from prison. “I wasn’t holding the gun. I wasn’t at the scene of the crime.”

A surveillance video showing him at the store was from an hour or more before the robbery, Parr said, and manipulated by authorities who fabricated evidence against him.

“They chopped the tape,” Parr said. He declined to identify the shooter, saying he had told the people involved in the shooting: “I ain’t going to tell on y’all.”

“I gave the dudes my word,” he said.

Witnesses testified Parr subsequently was angry with Whiteside for not killing Chavez because a witness to the shootings remained alive. Whiteside, who wound up with a 15-year prison term for aggravated robbery, and Chavez both identified Parr as the killer.

Four other people, including Parr’s girlfriend, testified he told them he was the shooter.

Parr, from prison, described himself as a third-grade dropout who “grew up on the streets since I was 9” and fathered five children.

“Unfortunately, Carroll has some sort of seedy criminal history,” Russ Hunt Sr., one of Parr’s trial lawyers, said. Parr also had an abusive childhood and a “hellacious environment where he grew up,” Hunt said.

Evidence showed at the time of the slaying Parr already had been convicted of three counts of delivery of cocaine and placed on probation. He also had other drug convictions, a parole violation and a conviction for evading arrest. He was also linked to but not charged with a fatal drive-by shooting, as well as another shooting and an assault.

“We did our best for him,” Hunt said. “I’d say it’s always disappointing and frustrating to have a jury not agree with you.

“They believed him to be a cold-blooded murderer.”

Parr was pronounced at 6:32 p.m. CT, 19 minutes after the procedure began. An Associated Press report has details of his final words:

In the seconds before being injected with a lethal dose of pentobarbital, Carroll Joe Parr told his victim’s wife she should talk to her brother to learn “the truth about what happened to your husband.”

Then, in what he called a “statement to the world,” Parr said he was “in the midst of the truth.”

“I am good. I am straight,” he said.

He added that he wanted his “partners” or friends to know that he would “be back” like the Arnold Schwarzenegger “Terminator” film character.

“I’m on my way back. … These eyes will close, but they will be opened again,” Parr said before telling his family he loved them and thanking his spiritual adviser.

The next lethal injection in Texas is scheduled for next week, when Jeffrey Williams is slated for execution for the 1999 killing of a Houston police officer.

Related Reading:

Death Watch: No Place for Mitigation

DA Rejects Death Row Inmate’s Claim of More Waco Killings

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Tonight’s Execution: Richard Cobb, Texas

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.

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.”

Related Reading:

Last Interview: ‘I’m Ready to Die’

Killer in East Texas Slaying-Abductions Set to Die

Despite Prosecutor’s Deal With Snitch, Cobb Loses Appeals

Transcript of the interview with Death Row inmate Richard Cobb

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Tonight’s Execution: Ronnie Threadgill, Texas

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. 

Editor’s note: I’m traveling at the moment, with intermittent internet access, so updates might be a bit slower than usual. For more up-to-date information, see the Twitter feed for this blog, at www.twitter.com/floridadeathrow.

Update: Ronnie Threadgill has been executed.

The busiest death chamber in America carried out another lethal injection tonight, in what was its 495th execution since the death penalty was reinstated.

Texas executed Ronnie Threadgill for the 2001 shooting of a 17-year-old boy outside a nightclub. According to the Associated Press, “Dexter McDonald had been in the back seat of a friend’s car in the parking lot of a club south of Corsicana when a bandana-wearing gunman later identified as Threadgill jumped in an open door, started shooting and drove off. McDonald died of a gunshot wound to the chest.”

Threadgill’s attorneys asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay, arguing he had inadequate defense at his original trial. From the Austin Chronicle:

“At issue is whether his trial attorney – and then the state habeas attorney – rendered ineffective assistance of counsel on several counts: by failing to ask the court for jurors to be given the option of convicting Threadgill on the lesser charge of felony murder (attempting to commit one crime and engaging in a dangerous act that causes someone to lose life; unlike capital murder, there is no intent to kill in felony murder) and by failing to thoroughly investigate a previous shooting case out of Limestone County. In order to prove Threadgill would remain a future danger unless sentenced to death, prosecutors brought a host of evidence about his past. Indeed, at the time of the McDonald killing, Threadgill, then 29, had spent almost all of his adult life in prison; among the bad acts prosecutors used as evidence against him was an allegation that he had shot a man named Erik Martin in a previous and unrelated incident in another county. What Thread­gill’s defense apparently did not find out was that those Limestone County charges had been dropped after prosecutors found that there was ‘conflicting evidence’ in the case.

“Threadgill’s claims were ultimately shot down, however, because they had not been raised in his first appeal. And on April 3, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his most recent appeal, which argued that the state habeas attorney was also ineffective for not calling into question the efficacy of the trial counsel. Whether these specific types of appeals can be made in Texas is actually the subject of a pending case before the U.S. Supreme Court, styled Trevino v. Thaler. The Fifth Circuit last week declined to stay Threadgill’s execution, however, arguing that regardless of the outcome of the Trevino case, Threadgill is procedurally barred from having his claim heard. Threadgill’s attorney, Lydia Brandt, is appealing that decision to the Supremes.”

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the appeal though and the execution went forward as planned. Threadgill’s time of death was 6:39 p.m. CDT, 25 minutes after the injection began.

“To my loved ones and my dear friends, I love y’all and appreciate y’all for being there,” Threadgill said. “I am going to a better place. To all the guys back on the row, keep your heads up, keep fighting. I’m ready. Let’s go.”

Texas has 10 more executions scheduled through July.

Related Reading:

Ronnie Threadgill Files Last Appeal to Supremes

Texas Man Convicted in Carjack Slaying Set to Die

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Tonight’s Execution: Rickey Lynn Lewis, Texas

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

UPDATE: Rickey Lewis has been executed.

Photo from the Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice

Photo from the Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice

In one of 12 scheduled executions over the next few months, Texas carried out its 2nd lethal injection of 2013 tonight as it enforced the death sentence handed down to 50-year-old Rickey Lynn Lewis.

According to a story by Michael Graczyk for the Associated Press, “six months after he was paroled in early 1990 from a 25-year term for a third burglary conviction, Lewis was arrested for shooting and killing 45-year-old George Newman, raping Newman’s fiancée and stealing her truck after breaking into the couple’s home about 90 miles east of Dallas in Smith County.”

Two other men were involved in the attack but were never identified or arrested.

An execution date was previously set for 2003, but it was stayed to consider a mental impairment claim. However, according to The Austin Chronicle, “Lewis was granted an evidentiary hearing in district court, where a state district judge concluded that Lewis had not demonstrated by a preponderance of evidence that he is deficient; in November 2012, the Fifth U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Appeals agreed.”

Lewis was denied clemency last Friday by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his case on Monday, April 1.

“I think at this point we’re out of options,” Lewis’ attorney, Seth Kretzer, told the Associated Press

Newman’s fiancée, who survived the attack, told AP reporter Michael Graczyk that she will be in Huntsville tonight but has not yet decided if she will witness the execution.

“I’m not looking forward to it,” Hilton said of Lewis’ lethal injection. “I was there when George was killed. … It’s not something you want to remember. But I’m looking forward to a final decision, putting an end to that, to the appeal process.

“It’s been going on 23 years. It’s an emotional roller coaster. Every couple years something comes up and you’re constantly reminded of it.”

There are three more executions scheduled in Texas this month and an additional eight set through July. Lewis was the 494th inmate executed in the Lone Star state.


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Tonight’s Execution: Kimberly McCarthy, Texas

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

UPDATE: Kimberly McCarthy has been granted a reprieve until April. State District Judge Larry Mitchell rescheduled her execution April 3 to give her attorneys could have more time to pursue an appeal focused on whether her predominantly white jury was improperly selected on the basis of race. The Associated Press has more details here.

Executions are not unusual in Texas, the state that has carried out 492 executions since the death penalty was reinstated there. However, tonight’s scheduled execution stands out even in Texas.

The inmate scheduled to die, Kimberly L. McCarthy, is a woman and barring any stays, she will be only the fifth woman to be put to death in the Lone Star State since 1854 and the 13th to be executed nationwide in the past 40 years. The last time a woman was executed was the lethal injection of Teresa Lewis in Virginia on Sept. 23, 2010. The last time a woman was executed in Texas was in 2005.

McCarthy, who was previously married to New Black Panther Party founder Aaron Michaels, is one of only 10 women on death row in Texas.

McCarthy was sentenced to death for the fatal stabbing and bludgeoning of her 71-year-old neighbor, Dorothy Booth. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas described the crime as follows:

“On July 21, 1997 McCarthy entered the home of her 71-year-old neighbor Dorothy Booth under the pretense of borrowing some sugar and then stabbed Mrs. Booth five times, hit her in the face with a candelabrum, cut off her left ring finger in order to take her diamond ring, and nearly severed her left little finger as well. McCarthy then took Mrs. Booth’s purse and its contents, along with her wedding ring and fled in her car. Later, McCarthy bought drugs with the stolen money, used the stolen credit cards, and pawned the stolen wedding ring.”

According to the state, the crime was fueled by drugs, as McCarthy had a crack cocaine problem and needed money to buy more. Prosecutors say McCarthy entered the home under the pretense of asking to borrow some sugar. On Nov. 17, 1998, a Dallas County jury found McCarthy guilty of capital murder and after a separate punishment hearing, she was sentenced to death.

According to the Austin Chronicle, “McCarthy’s original 1998 conviction was overturned by the Court of Criminal Appeals, which ruled that the trial court violated McCarthy’s due process and right against self-incrimination by admitting into evidence a statement McCarthy made to police after she had “unambiguously invoked her right to legal counsel,” according to a July 2012 opinion from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. McCarthy was retried and again sentenced to die. Although the act of committing a murder in the course of robbery is what made McCarthy’s a death-eligible case, it seems likely that her jury may have been more inclined to invoke the ultimate punishment after prosecutors offered evidence during the punishment phase of McCarthy’s trial that she may have been responsible for the murders of two other elderly women, an 81-year-old and an 85-year-old, a decade before, also in an effort to find money for drugs. Whether McCarthy did actually committed those murders remains an open question; she has never been tried for either crime.”

McCarthy’s last federal appeal was denied in July 2012, and on Jan. 7, the U.S. Supreme Court declined, without comment, to review McCarthy’s case, clearing the way for the execution to proceed. But one of her attorneys told the Austin Chronicle that they were still exploring other avenues of trying to block the execution.

If the execution proceeds, it will be the 2nd of 2013 and the first of eight already scheduled in Texas for 2013.

If you’re interested in following tonight’s execution, the radio show Execution Watch will be broadcasting from outside the prison starting at 6 p.m. CT. You can listen online as well.

Related Reading:

First Woman to Be Executed Since 2005

Kimberly McCarthy, Texas Inmate, Set To Be First Woman Executed In U.S. Since 2010

Executing Women In the USA

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Tonight’s Execution: Preston Hughes, TX

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

UPDATE: Preston Hughes has been executed.

Editor’s Note: This is a rather complicated case, with a lot of information and controversy surrounding it. Many other journalists have already explored it in great detail so in the interest of  brevity, I’ve kept this rehashing brief and simply linked to their work in the related reading links at the bottom of this post. They are well worth checking out. 

The last Texas execution of 2012 was a controversial one, as the state prepared to execute Preston Hughes for the 1988 slayings of 3-year-old Marcell Taylor and his 15-year-old cousin Shandra Charles.

Preston HughesCharles and her young cousin were attacked in a field behind an apartment complex where Hughes lived. The police were called to the area by a man who was searching for his wife, but while they were searching, a man approached and told them he had found a body while walking home to the apartment complex.

Taylor was dead when they arrived but police say Charles was still alive. She had been stabbed through the neck and was bleeding profusely, but according to police testimony, she managed to tell the officer who asked what happened that “he tried to rape me.” When they asked who, she said the name “Preston.” By the time Charles arrived at the hospital, she was dead.

It didn’t take long for the police to track down Hughes, who was the only person named Preston at the nearby apartment complex. Police obtained two confessions from him and within seven months, Hughes was sentenced to death.

Hughes’ case has drawn international attention from a wide variety of supporters who say his case contains errors and irregularities that should halt his execution. One of the his most dedicated supporters is California-based blogger John Allen, known online as The Skeptical Juror. Allen came across the case while he was investigating James Bolding, the head of blood analysis for the Houston Police Department crime lab at the time of the murders. Since then, he has combed through the details of the case and written more than 60 stories about the case.

According to The New York Times, “after reviewing documents related to the trial, appeals and evidence, he [Allen] deduced that Ms. Charles must have lost brain function within two minutes, and she could not have told the police the name of her attacker.”

Allen also says crime scene evidence suggests that police framed Hughes, planting and tampering with evidence. For more on that, The Austin Chronicle explored some of those possibilities in a lengthy piece called ‘Framing the Guilty?

Ellis McCullough, one of Hughes’ trial lawyers, told The Associated Press this week he was convinced no evidence was planted or mishandled. From the article:

“He said Hughes, brought to a police station for interviews in the early morning hours after the slayings, made phone calls from the police interrogation room to acquaintances, including his probation officer, that ‘were pretty devastating taken as a whole.’

‘He didn’t help himself any,’ McCullough said. ‘It was pretty convincing he was the guy.’ ”

However, Hughes’ current attorney, Patrick McCann, said in the same story, “I don’t give a damn and never have whether he is innocent. I give a damn whether he got a fair trial. And I don’t think he did.”

Hughes’ requests for clemency and a variety of appeals have all been denied. The U.S. Supreme Court declined another appeal Thursday night, approximately two hours before the execution was scheduled to begin.

There was a brief delay in the execution, however both the U.S. Supreme Court and a federal district court denied his last-minute appeals and the way was cleared for the procedure to move forward. Hughes was declared dead at 7:52 p.m. CT.

According to the Texas Tribune, “before he was executed, Hughes thanked Allen and others for their work on his case and maintained that he did not commit the murder, according to officials at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. ‘Please continue to fight for my innocence,’ he said, ‘even though I’m gone.’ ”

Related reading:

Man to Die for Killing Houston Cousins, 15 and 3

Media Advisory: Preston Hughes III Scheduled for Execution

Thursday Execution Still on Schedule After Killer Denied Commutation

A Death Row Struggle Between Advocates and Lawyers

State on Track To Execute Its 15th in 2012

Framing the Guilty?

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Tonight’s Execution: Ramon Hernandez, TX

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates. 

In the first of two scheduled executions in 48 hours, Texas executed 41-year-old Ramon Hernandez. Hernandez was sentenced to death for the 2001 slaying of Rosa Maria Rosado, a 37-year-old single mother.

Hernandez was a registered sex offender who was on parole from an 18-year term when Rosado was abducted from a bus stop in San Antonio. It was his girlfriend who let to his arrest, when, 5 days after Rosado’s disappearance, she met with police and showed them to the body, as well as the motel room where Rosado was killed. Hernandez and his friend Santos Minjares were arrested for the killing.

Hernandez initially denied any knowledge of the crime, but eventually he told police he and Minjares had pulled up to Rosado at the bus stop and tried to snatch her purse. When she refused to let go, Minjares pulled her into the car and they sped off. She was later taken to a motel room and raped and eventually killed.

The shovel used to bury Rosado in a shallow grave was discovered and used to tie Hernandez to the crime. Both he and Minjares were convicted of the murder and sentenced to death. Minjares died in January on death row of septic shock and organ failure.

Hernandez, who has also been linked to the strangling of two cousins from San Antonio in 1994, declined to speak with the media in the days leading up to his execution.

Hernandez’s attorney, Robin Norris, requested that his sentence be commuted to live without parole, arguing Hernandez was there but was not the one that raped or killed Rosado. Norris said Hernandez was afraid of Minjarez and was also having withdrawal symptoms from the medication he was taking to treat anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder. Norris said Hernandez’s anxiety stemmed from watching his father get shot in front of him.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review Hernadez’s case last month and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles has denied his clemency request.

“I’m not at this point expecting any further judicial proceedings,” Norris told the Associated Press.

Hernandez was pronounced dead at 6:38 p.m. in Huntsville, 26 minutes after the injection procedure began.

According to The Associated PressHernandez told a family member he was “sorry for putting you through all this” after a warden asked if he wanted to make a final statement. “Tell everybody I love them,” he said.

“I’m very sorry for all the pain,” he said as he glanced at the victim’s family members. Hernandez then told the other death row prisoners to “keep fighting; don’t give up.”

Hernandez was the state’s 14th execution this year. Another execution is set for Thursday in Texas, when the state plans to execute Preston Hughes.

Related Reading:

Execution Looms for Serial Rapist, Murderer

San Antonio Man Set to Die for 2001 Slaying of Woman; Also Linked to at Least 2 Other Murders

Final Confession Sought From Death Row Murderer

Sex Offender to Die for San Antonio Woman’s Death

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