Tuscan officials want executed Texan buried in Italy
By MARIA SANMINIATELLI
ROME � Officials in the Italian region of Tuscany are seeking to have a convicted killer executed in Texas buried in a small town near Pisa at the man's request, a teacher who is leading the effort said today.
Gregory Summers, 48, was executed by lethal injection Wednesday for initiating a murder-for-hire plot that authorities said led to the fatal stabbings of his parents and an uncle. He had been corresponding with students from a local middle school for several years from prison.
"He let it be known that he wanted to be buried in a white coffin with the (school) children's signatures," said the teacher, Maria Carmela Carretta. "He wanted it to be white as a symbol of innocence, and I too have decided that while it is not my favorite color, I will wear something white at the funeral."
Massimo Toschi, Tuscany's official in charge of international cooperation, said the region and the municipality of Cascina, 11 miles east of Pisa, both had agreed to have Summers buried there at their expense.
"This is dependent, obviously, on getting consent from the family," Toschi said.
Susanna Chiarenza, with the group Spring for Summers, said the necessary documents had been forwarded to the Italian consulate in Houston, which was in the process of translating them.
As of late Thursday, Summer's body was still at a funeral home in Huntsville, Texas, and had not been claimed, said Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons. If it was not claimed "in a reasonable time period," she said Texas prison officials would bury Summers at the prison cemetery.
Carretta said she began writing to Summers about 10 years ago, after reading an article about him in the Catholic news magazine Famiglia Cristiana. She decided to send a contribution for his defense, and he sent a thank you note.
In 1998, she got students from a local middle school involved and last October, they collected signatures for a moratorium against the death penalty and gave them to Texas State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, a Democrat from San Antonio, when she visited Florence.
Italy is a firm opponent of capital punishment, which is banned throughout the European Union. Since 1999, the lights illuminating Rome's ancient Colosseum have turned from white to gold every time a death sentence is commuted somewhere in the world or a country abolishes capital punishment.
Summers was convicted for his role in the fatal stabbing of Gene and Helen Summers, both 64, and Billy Mack Summers, 60, in 1990. Their home in Abilene, Texas, was set on fire after they were attacked, and their bodies were found in the rubble.
Another man, Andrew Cantu, was executed seven years ago for killing them in exchange for $10,000. Cantu, 31, had denied involvement and blamed the killings on two companions who testified against him.
Authorities said the slayings were the result of Summers' parents' frustration with bailing their son out of his financial problems and Greg Summers' attempt to get $24,000 in life insurance.
Hit man who shot witness executed
'I took his life for the love of a friend,' condemned man says.
By Michael Graczyk
Thursday, November 02, 2006
HUNTSVILLE � A man convicted of collecting $200 to kill a teenager to keep him from testifying about a drive-by shooting was executed Wednesday evening.
Donell Jackson expressed love to his family and friends and assured them that he was fine.
"I'm all right. Make sure Mama knows," he told relatives who watched through a nearby window.
He turned his head and addressed Curtis Smith, the uncle of 17-year-old shooting victim Mario Stubblefield.
"I just want you to know that I wronged your family," Jackson said. "I received nothing. I was not paid. I took his life for the love of a friend."
Eight minutes later, at 6:21 p.m., Jackson was pronounced dead.
Jackson, 33, was the 23rd convicted killer executed this year in Texas. On Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. Supreme Court refused appeals to review Jackson's case and block his execution.
Stubblefield was targeted after telling a grand jury about a drive-by shooting he witnessed. He was shot outside his Houston home before he could repeat his testimony in court.
"Basically, it was a murder for hire, a situation where the defendant admitted a friend paid him to kill," said Denise Nassar, the lead Harris County prosecutor at Jackson's trial.
Smith, a Houston police officer who convinced his nephew to testify, said he appreciated Jackson "acknowledging that he was wrong in what he did" but called the execution bittersweet.
"I advised he needed to do the right thing," he said of his nephew. "And by doing so, he lost his life." Jackson was 20 when he lured Stubblefield out of his home into the front yard, then shot him in the head and neck.
Witnesses identified another man waiting outside as David Smith, who was fingered as the gunman in the earlier drive-by shooting.
Smith later was convicted of paying Jackson the $200 to shoot Stubblefield and was sentenced to life in prison.
I wonder what that school teacher in Italy is thinking. Did he tell her about how he abused his ex-wives and children. Did he tell her that the reason he had his parents killed is because he had a warrant out for being over $16000 in arrears in child support. Oh yes he is a good example for children of Italy to follow!!!!!!!!!!
[This message was edited by pkdyer on 11-02-06 at .]
Nov. 8, 2006, 2:10AM
Shattered family relives carjacking as execution nears
Killer scheduled to die today in the 1992 slaying of a father waiting outside a store
By ROSANNA RUIZ
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle
Willie Marcel Shannon says he never intended to kill. He just needed some wheels to make his way back to Louisiana.
But Benjamin Garza of Lubbock would not easily part with his 1978 Ford station wagon.
On July 19, 1992, the two men struggled until Shannon fatally shot the father of three in the head. Garza's wife, Soila, and their children, then ages 17, 16 and 14, rushed from a southwest Houston shoe store and found him dying on the pavement.
"To me, it's like it happened yesterday," Garza's widow recalled during a telephone interview from the West Texas town of Olton. "I held him in my arms until he took his last breath."
Garza and her children will be there today when Shannon, 33, is scheduled to be put to death in Huntsville. Shannon would be the 24th person executed this year in Texas, the nation's busiest death penalty state.
Despite his attorneys' efforts, Shannon said he has no faith in the justice system and he's prepared to die.
His own case and the acquittal of New York billionaire Robert Durst are the basis for his reasoning, Shannon explains.
"I'm willing to accept my punishment for the crime," Shannon said during a recent interview from death row in Livingston.
"There was justice in my being convicted, but the death penalty is revenge. It's overboard."
As Shannon's thoughts return to that day, he freely admits that he made a bad choice.
"I'm no killer," he said. "I made a mistake."
Carjacker executed for 1992 slaying
Victim was inside parked car as his family was shopping.
By Michael Graczyk
Thursday, November 09, 2006
HUNTSVILLE � Convicted killer Willie Shannon was executed Wednesday night for the carjack-slaying of a man who was on vacation with his family in Houston more than 14 years ago.
Shannon spoke directly to the widow, two children and brother of his victim and acknowledged that he "took a father."
"It wasn't my fault. It was an accident," he said of the shooting of Benjamin Garza.
Shannon, 33, was smiling and humming as witnesses entered the death chamber. He told the Garza family that his smile was "not from happiness. If my life could bring your father back, then let it be. Don't take my smile for disrespect."
Shannon said he was going to heaven. He said if he saw his victim, he would ask Garza for forgiveness.
"I'll say when I see him, 'I'm sorry.' "
Ten minutes later at 6:24 p.m., he was pronounced dead.
Shannon has said that his gun went off as the two men struggled in a parking lot when the Lubbock man refused to surrender his station wagon.
Shannon was the 24th Texas prisoner executed this year in the nation's most active capital punishment state.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday afternoon turned down a request from Shannon's lawyers to stay the execution.
Garza, 38, was trying to catch a catnap in a parking lot while his wife and three kids were shopping nearby when Shannon jumped inside, pulled his gun and demanded the family's 15-year-old Ford wagon.
"He punched me inside the car," Shannon said, describing from death row the July 19, 1992, confrontation. "He snapped. He said: 'You young punk!' I thought this was no ordinary Joe."
What Shannon, then 19, didn't know was that Garza had been in the federal Witness Protection Program for a decade and had been living under a new identity after testifying at drug trials in the Rio Grande Valley.
"As a federal protected witness, he's thinking his time has caught up with him," Shannon said. "So he sees somebody with a gun. 'Oh, my God, they've finally caught me.' And he's fighting for his life. He thought I was there to kill him.
"I was just unlucky. And he was unlucky, too."
Shannon fired three shots, one of them striking Garza in the head. He kicked his victim out of the station wagon and to the parking lot pavement, then sped away, driving over Garza's hand as he fled.
"To me, it's like it happened yesterday," Garza's widow, Soila, told the Houston Chronicle. "I held him in my arms until he took his last breath."
Shannon wrecked the car hours later in Chambers County, about 50 miles east of Houston. When a sheriff's deputy approached Shannon to ask him about the accident, he ran into nearby woods. He was arrested about five hours after the shooting at a truck stop in Beaumont, 30 miles to the east, when a security guard spotted a man with a pistol in his pants looking for rides and notified police. Shannon tried to run away again but was captured after a brief chase.
Garza had driven with his family from Lubbock for a vacation to the Astroworld amusement park and the Houston Zoo.
"I needed a ride," Shannon said. "I thought I would doing something smart. I chose a raggedy car, where somebody wouldn't fight me.
"I'm not saying I'm innocent. I wish it didn't happen. But it did. And there's nothing I can do about that."
Vic Wisner, the Harris County district attorney who prosecuted Shannon, said the 10th-grade dropout who had a juvenile record and had served a year in jail for assault was looking for a getaway vehicle after raping a maid at a hotel. Shannon was never charged with that attack, a crime he denied committing.
Wisner also disputed Shannon's contention that Garza's killing was unintentional.
"There's nothing that even indicated an accident," Wisner said. "He was just waiting outside in the car. He was with his family. Shannon shot him and literally kicked him out of the car."
Do you mean to tell me that a federally protected witness with a new identity and new lease on life, gets awarded a 15-year-old Ford station wagon, that even a murdering carjacker described as "raggedy," to drive his family around in?! I don't think they show such as that on TV. Might give pause to the next guy thinking about getting out of the Cosa Nostra Damus and testifying against the boss.
HUNTSVILLE � Before Willie Marcel Shannon was put to death on Wednesday, he told Benjamin Garza's relatives that he would ask his victim for forgiveness when the two meet in heaven.
He might get to talk to his victim, but I think it will be a long distance call from where he is going.
His last words: "No God, Just Allah."
Dec. 30, 2006, 1:56AM
Official: Saddam 'totally surrendered'
By CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA and QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA
BAGHDAD, IRAQ ? Saddam Hussein, the shotgun-waving dictator who ruled Iraq with a remorseless brutality for a quarter-century and was driven from power by a U.S.-led war that left his country in shambles, was taken to the gallows clutching a Quran and hanged today.
In Baghdad's Shiite enclave of Sadr City, people danced in the streets while others fired guns in the air to celebrate the former dictator's death. The government did not impose a round-the-clock curfew as it did last month when Saddam was convicted to thwart any surge in retaliatory violence.
It was a grim end for the 69-year-old leader who had vexed three U.S. presidents. Despite his ouster, Washington, its allies and the new Iraqi leaders remain mired in a fight to quell a stubborn insurgency by Saddam loyalists and a vicious sectarian conflict.
President Bush called Saddam's execution "the kind of justice he denied the victims of his brutal regime."
He also said "it is an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain and defend itself, and be an ally in the war on terror."
State-run Iraqiya television news reported that Saddam's half brother Barzan Ibrahim and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, the former chief justice of the Revolutionary Court, also were hanged. However, three officials said only Saddam was executed.
"We wanted him to be executed on a special day," National Security adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie said.
Al-Rubaie said Saddam "totally surrendered" and did not resist. He said a judge read the sentence to Saddam, who was taken in handcuffs to the execution room. When he stood in the execution room, photographs and video footage were taken, al-Rubaie said.
"He did not ask for anything. He was carrying a Quran and said: 'I want this Quran to be given to this person,' a man he called Bandar," he said. Al-Rubaie said he did not know who Bander was. He could have been speaking of his co-defendant, Awad Hamed al-Bandar
"Saddam was treated with respect when he was alive and after his death," al-Rubaie said. "Saddam's execution was 100 percent Iraqi and the American side did not interfere."
Sami al-Askari, political adviser of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said: "Saddam was taken by force to the gallows but he was composed when taken to execution."
Mariam al-Rayes, a legal expert and a former member of the Shiite bloc in parliament, told Iraqiya television that the execution "was filmed and God willing it will be shown. There was one camera present, and a doctor was also present there."
Al-Rayes, an ally of al-Maliki's, did not attend the execution. She said Al-Maliki did not attend, either, but was represented by an aide.
The station earlier was airing national songs after the first announcement and had a tag on the screen that read "Saddam's execution marks the end of a dark period of Iraq's history."
The execution came 56 days after a court convicted Saddam and sentenced him to death for his role in the killings of 148 Shiite Muslims from a town where assassins tried to kill the dictator in 1982. Iraq's highest court rejected Saddam's appeal Monday and ordered him executed within 30 days.
As his execution drew near, Saddam's lawyers filed an appeal trying to stave it off. However, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly rejected the challenge. She said U.S. courts do not have jurisdiction to interfere in another country's judicial process.Saddam's attorneys argued that because Saddam faces a civil lawsuit in Washington, he has rights as a civil defendant that would be violated if he were executed.
Al-Maliki had rejected calls that Saddam be spared, telling families of people killed during the dictator's rule that would be an insult to the victims.
"Our respect for human rights requires us to execute him, and there will be no review or delay in carrying out the sentence," al-Maliki's office quoted him as saying during a meeting with relatives Friday.
Human Rights Watch criticized the execution, calling Saddam's trial "deeply flawed."
"Saddam Hussein was responsible for massive human rights violations, but that can't justify giving him the death penalty, which is a cruel and inhuman punishment," said Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch's International Justice Program.
The hanging of Saddam, who was ruthless in ordering executions of his opponents, will keep other Iraqis from pursuing justice against the ousted leader.
At his death, he was in the midst of a second trial, charged with genocide and other crimes for a 1987-88 military crackdown that killed an estimated 180,000 Kurds in northern Iraq. Experts said the trial of his co-defendants was likely to continue despite his execution.
Many people in Iraq's Shiite majority were eager to see the execution of a man whose Sunni Arab-dominated regime oppressed them and Kurds.
Before the hanging, a mosque preacher in the Shiite holy city of Najaf on Friday called Saddam's execution "God's gift to Iraqis."
"Oh, God, you know what Saddam has done! He killed millions of Iraqis in prisons, in wars with neighboring countries and he is responsible for mass graves. Oh God, we ask you to take revenge on Saddam," said Sheik Sadralddin al-Qubanji, a member of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.
On Thursday, two half brothers visited Saddam in his cell, a member of the former dictator's defense team, Badee Izzat Aref, told The Associated Press by telephone from the United Arab Emirates. He said the former dictator handed them his personal belongings.
A senior official at the Iraqi defense ministry said Saddam gave his will to a half brother.
In a farewell message to Iraqis posted Wednesday on the Internet, Saddam said he was giving his life for his country as part of the struggle against the U.S. "Here, I offer my soul to God as a sacrifice, and if he wants, he will send it to heaven with the martyrs," he said.
One of Saddam's lawyers, Issam Ghazzawi, said the letter was written by Saddam on Nov. 5, the day he was convicted in the Dujail killings.
The message called on Iraqis to put aside the sectarian hatred that has bloodied their nation for a year and voiced support for the Sunni Arab-dominated insurgency against U.S.-led forces, saying: "Long live jihad and the mujahedeen."
Saddam urged Iraqis to rely on God's help in fighting "against the unjust nations" that ousted his regime.
Najeeb al-Nauimi, a member of Saddam's legal team, said U.S. authorities maintained physical custody of Saddam until the execution to prevent him being humiliated publicly or his corpse being mutilated, as has happened to previous Iraqi leaders deposed by force. He said they didn't want anything to happen to further inflame Sunni Arabs.
"This is the end of an era in Iraq," al-Nauimi said from Doha, Qatar. "The Baath regime ruled for 35 years. Saddam was vice president or president of Iraq during those years. For Iraqis, he will be very well remembered. Like a martyr, he died for the sake of his country."
Saddam's own regime used executions and extrajudicial killings as a tool of political repression, both to eliminate opponents and to maintain a reign of terror.
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Convicted murderer of 3-year-old boy executed
By MICHAEL GRACZYK
Associated Press Writer
HUNTSVILLE, Texas � A New York man convicted of the fatal stabbing of his girlfriend's 3-year-old son was executed Wednesday evening.
In a brief final statement, Carlos Granados, 36, expressed love to his family and others and addressed Katherine Jiminez, his former girlfriend and the mother of the child he killed more than eight years ago.
"Kathy, you know I never meant to hurt you," he told the woman who also suffered 27 stab wounds during the attack. "I gave you everything and that's what made me so angry. But I never meant to hurt you. I'm sorry." [He stabbed her 27 times, and stabbed her 3-year old son in the chest, killing him. No, he didn't intend it.]
She stood up against the death chamber window as he made his statement, but Granados never looked at her.
At 6:21 p.m., seven minutes after the lethal drugs began flowing, he was pronounced dead. He was the first person to be executed this year in the nation's busiest capital punishment state, where 24 convicted killers were put to death last year and where more than a dozen already are scheduled to die in 2007. Four more executions are set for this month.
The following description by the capital murderer set for execution on Wednesday appeared in the San Antonio newspaper:
Moore vividly recalls the same pre-dawn morning. His explanation for what happened has less clarity. Years later, he offers "fear and stupidity."
By his own account, Moore was then 20 years old, usually stoned, sleepless and mean. Enamored with guns, anarchy and the film "Natural Born Killers," he had paranoid notions about the apocalypse and preparing for war. Days earlier, this had driven him to toss a pipe bomb into an empty car while videotaping the explosion.
The morning of the burglary, Moore said he and two friends were leaving the house when they saw the brake lights of a passing car. They climbed into their car as the other car reversed and pulled into the driveway.
It still was dark. Dominguez appeared seconds later at the passenger side of their vehicle. He had his gun aimed and demanded their car keys. Moore couldn't see the uniform but assumed this was a cop.
Sitting on the passenger side, he had one hand on his own gun when Dominguez put his pistol to Moore's head.
Instead of raising his hands, Moore said, he shoved the officer's pistol away, thumbed the safety off his own weapon and fired several shots out the window. Dominguez collapsed.
When the car door opened, the interior light revealed Dominguez's fallen Glock. Moore picked it up and went to search for the car keys, which had been tossed out the window.
Thoughts darted through his head as he walked past the sprawled officer. What if Dominguez survived as a vegetable? What if he survived to seek revenge?
Then, Moore wondered, was the Glock loaded? Had the officer just held a loaded gun to his head? If so, Moore decided, Dominguez would pay. Moore squeezed the trigger.
"The pistol � his weapon � damn near jumped out of my hand," he said. "Which in itself woke me up again, all over again. Now I pulled off two more rounds after that. Just to vindicate myself."
Moore felt momentarily triumphant. The sensation curdled quickly and eventually hardened into regret.
Convicted San Antonio cop killer executed Wednesday
By MICHAEL GRACZYK / Associated Press
A self-described fascist who adopted the dark punk and goth lifestyle was executed Wednesday for the slaying of a San Antonio police officer 12 years ago.
Johnathan Moore repeatedly apologized to the officer's widow.
"It was done out of fear, stupidity and immaturity. It wasn't until I got locked up and saw the newspaper; I saw his face and smile and I realized I had killed a good man." Moore told Jennifer Morgan, who stood next to the death chamber window surrounded by comforting friends.
He wished her happiness. He then counseled a friend who was a witness to quit using heroin and methadone. He told his father that he loved him.
He was pronounced dead at 6:21 p.m., eight minutes after the lethal dose of drugs began.
Moore, 32, was the second condemned Texas prisoner executed this year and the second of five scheduled to die this month in the nation's busiest capital punishment state.
Death row inmate spurns appeals before execution
02:55 PM CST on Tuesday, January 30, 2007
HUNTSVILLE, Texas -- Condemned killer Christopher Swift was headed to the Texas death chamber Tuesday, spurning appeals that could stop or delay his execution for the slayings of his wife and mother-in-law in suburban Dallas.
The lethal injection of Swift, 31, would be the third this year in Texas, the nation's most active capital punishment state.
"Receiving the death penalty is what he's wanted from Day 1, from the first day I met him," said Derek Adame, who was one of Swift's trial lawyers. "He and I had several discussions about it. It was frustrating for me. That's what makes it hard to deal with. It's the ultimate punishment."
Evidence showed Swift's 5-year-old son watched as the former laborer and parolee stabbed and strangled his pregnant wife, Amy Sabeh-Swift, in the family recreational vehicle in Irving. Then he took the boy to a mobile home park in Lake Dallas and strangled his wife's mother, Sandra Stevens Sabeh, 61, at her home.
Swift spent about 21 months on death row. The average condemned Texas inmate is in prison about 10 years before execution. The shortest time on death row was Joe Gonzales, who in 1996 received lethal injection 252 days after he arrived.
[This message was edited by JB on 01-30-07 at .]
Convict executed for killing wife, mother-in-law
By MICHAEL GRACZYK
Associated Press Writer
HUNTSVILLE, Texas � Condemned killer Christopher Swift was executed Tuesday, spurning appeals that could stop or delay his execution for the slayings of his wife and mother-in-law in suburban Dallas.
Asked if he had a final statement, Swift responded: "no."
Man executed for killing 2 girls
'Warden, murder me,' condemned man says before dying.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
HUNTSVILLE � A parolee condemned for killing his two stepdaughters during a strangling spree almost 10 years ago that also claimed the life of his wife was executed Wednesday night.
James Jackson thanked his family and expressed love for them.
"This is not the end but the beginning of a new chapter for you and I together forever," he said.
"See you all later," he told witnesses, who included a brother and sister.
"We'll be waiting for you," a couple of them replied.
Jackson told the warden standing over him: "Warden, murder me. I'm ready to roll. Time to get this party started."
Seven minutes later he was pronounced dead.
Feb. 11, 2007, 12:11PM
Texas Seven escapee looking to speed up execution
DALLAS � A prison escapee who helped kill an Irving police officer on Christmas Eve 2000 notified court officials he wants to drop all appeals to speed up his execution.
Michael Anthony Rodriguez, 44, would become the first member of the notorious Texas Seven escapees to face execution. One of the escaped inmates killed himself before his capture more than six years ago. The five other surviving escapees are all on death row and are still appealing their sentences.
In January, a judge ordered Rodriguez to undergo psychological evaluation to determine whether he is competent to waive his appeals. Rodriguez wrote a letter dated Feb. 2, 2007 declaring his intention to seek dismissals of his appeals after the psychological evaluation.
"I certainly appreciate the court respecting my wishes and protecting my constitutional rights," he wrote. "I am still going to move forward in this process."
At the time of the Dec. 13, 2000, escape, Rodriguez was serving a life sentence for hiring a hit man to kill his wife.
During the escape, the inmates who became known as the "Texas Seven" overpowered some prison workers at the Connally Unit, near Kenedy in South Texas. The prisoners took the workers' clothes and fled in a pickup truck after taking 16 guns from the prison armory.
The escapees committed a string of robberies, ending with the Christmas Eve holdup at an Irving sporting goods store where officer Aubrey Hawkins, 29, was shot 11 times.
The seven escapees were found a month later in Colorado. One committed suicide before he was captured. The other six were later convicted and sentenced to death.
Rodriguez was convicted of capital murder in May 2002 in the death of the police officer.
Man executed for Tyler killings
An apologetic career burglar was executed Thursday evening for torturing and killing a retired couple during a break-in at their Tyler home eight years ago.
"For all those that want this to happen, I hope you get what you want and it makes you feel better and gives you some kind of relief," Newton Anderson said as he looked at the couple's relatives and friends. "I don't know what else to say."
Anderson was pronounced dead at 6:17 p.m.
In a handwritten statement distributed after his death, Anderson again apologized to the family of his victims.
He was the fifth Texas inmate executed this year and the first of four set to die over the next two weeks.
This has been in the news here in the Tyler area. Based on the news reports the murder was brutal, sexual assault was involved and the house was burned to cover up the crime. The victim's were in their 80's. And the reporter calls this an apology.
Feb. 26, 2007, 12:36AM
Inmate taking his side to grave
By BRIAN ROGERS
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle
A story that began a quarter-century ago is scheduled to conclude Tuesday, when Donald Anthony Miller walks from his cell to the Texas death chamber with a secret he said he plans to take to the grave.
In a letter to the Houston Chronicle last month, Miller declined to talk about what happened the night in 1982 when he helped kill two men, execution style.
"I don't mean to imply I'm a saint," he wrote. "I'm connected to this case just not to the degree portrayed at trial � A tale I'll continue to hold close as a fool becomes a skeleton in the family closet!"
Miller, 44, was put on death row for his role in the aggravated robbery and shooting deaths of Michael Mozingo and Kenneth Whitt.
According to court documents, Miller, Edward Segura and Daniel Woods had Mozingo and Whitt deliver and unload $40,000 worth of furniture to Segura's house. A resident of South Carolina, Mozingo brought the furniture to Houston to sell. Miller and his two partners tied the two men's hands in front of them, took their wallets and drove them and their truck to an empty parking lot.
Once they ditched the truck, the two men were placed in a car and driven to a desolate location off Aqueduct Road near Lake Houston. Woods, with a sawed-off shotgun, then Miller, with a pistol, shot the two men in the back of the head, at the base of their necks, according to court documents.
One in case released
Segura and Woods testified against Miller in plea-bargain agreements. Segura, who got 25 years for robbery, was released in 1997, but his parole was revoked and he finished his time in prison. He was released again about six months ago, said his mother, Dorothy Segura.
Woods received two life sentences and remains in prison.
One of Miller's attorneys said prosecutors offered Miller life in prison, but he turned them down.
"He said, 'Oh, no, that's 20 years, and I'll be an old man when I get out,'" said Sylvia Robertson Brauer.
Miller declined an interview for this story. Brauer said he even refused to talk to his attorneys about what happened until the end of the trial, when he said he'd take the life sentence. By then, she said, the offer was off the table because investigators had found the murder weapon.
Miller was convicted in Mozingo's murder but never tried for Whitt's death. Family members for Mozingo and Whitt watched the trial, but none could be reached for comment on the upcoming execution.
Miller wrote that he refused to plea bargain or talk to anyone involved in the case, but his father signed an affidavit that Miller "begged" his attorney to let him testify in response to testimony by Segura and a man who corroborated Segura's story.
That man, Carlton Ray McCall, and Segura later recanted their stories.
Brauer said she does not remember Miller asking to testify on his own behalf.
Three years ago, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt ruled that Harris County prosecutors withheld information, including inconsistencies in Segura and McCall's stories, that could have persuaded a jury to be lenient. He ruled prosecutors did not let defense attorneys know that the witnesses changed their stories between their initial interviews and the trial.
Hoyt ordered Miller released from death row unless he was retried within six months. But the Texas Attorney General's Office appealed, and the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Hoyt's ruling.
"Traveling from one extreme to the other," Miller wrote. "I'm now awaiting execution which needless to say wasn't exactly my preferred method of freedom."
Miller talked about the climate of the trial, during which five of the jurors received threatening phone calls telling them to vote for death. All of the jurors were then sequestered at a hotel, which had a bomb threat.
Bert Graham, first assistant to District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal, worked on the case and said he was surprised it has taken this long to carry out the execution.
"That's 25 years he got to live that his victim didn't," Graham said. "It was a cold killing."
Juries that give a death sentence must rule that the defendant will probably continue to be a danger to the community.
Appellate attorney James Rytting, who continues along with Philip Hilder to file motions in the case, called Miller "personable and nice ... bright and reflective" and said Miller's lack of a disciplinary record on death row disproves the "future dangerousness."
Still, Rytting acknowledged, "Most likely, the state of Texas is going to kill him."
Feb. 27, 2007, 6:40PM
Prisoner executed for fatal robbery near Houston
By MICHAEL GRACZYK
HUNTSVILLE � A paroled car and truck thief was executed this evening for a robbery and shooting that left two men dead a quarter-century ago outside Houston.
When asked by the warden if he had anything to say, Donald Miller shook his head once. At 6:16 p.m., six minutes after the lethal dose began, he was pronounced dead.
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