S.A. killer faces death today
Web Posted: 03/05/2007 10:38 PM CST
Given the chance to take a different path, alleged Mexican Mafia general Robert "Beaver" Perez was the kind of leader who could have been the CEO of his own company, a federal prosecutor recalled.
But Perez has spent the past eight years on Texas' death row for the path some say he chose to take instead.
Perez, 48, is set to die by lethal injection in Huntsville today for the 1994 shooting deaths of two men at the Mirasol Homes housing project. Perez was convicted in 1999 for the murders, described as the result of internal power struggles within the prison gang.
On Thursday, Perez lost a bid to stay his execution based on a civil rights lawsuit that contends lethal injection constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. He has no appeals pending in federal court, said Jerry Strickland with the Texas attorney general's office.
Barring any last-minute stays, he will be the seventh inmate executed in Texas this year.
To officials who pursued him, Perez was ruthless and calculating; a man who by the time he was put on trial for his crimes with the Mexican Mafia had already been convicted for attempted murder in the brutal 1986 stabbing of a man he said was having an affair with his then-wife.
Prosecutors fingered Perez as the general who ordered his soldiers to carry out killings for drugs and money during a period in the mid-1990s when San Antonio's homicide numbers broke records.
Among the killings was a quintuple murder at an apartment on West French Place that is considered one of the bloodiest homicides in recent San Antonio memory.
As general of the Mexican Mafia, Perez was "pivotal in wreaking havoc in San Antonio during that period," said federal prosecutor Bill Baumann, who prosecuted Perez in a federal racketeering case.
Perez's attorneys contend prosecutors exaggerated his role in the West French murders and that he was sacrificed at the hands of fellow gang members who testified against him in exchange for immunity.
Perez never testified on his own behalf in the state's capital murder case or the federal trial.
He declined an interview request by the San Antonio Express-News based on the advice of his attorney, according to a Feb. 27 letter.
Known as alternately private, stoic and charismatic, Perez's personal life always seemed a lesson in contradictions.
His wife argues the man she knows is nothing like the bloodthirsty gang leader depicted in the trials but a loving father of nine.
"The Robert I know is nothing like the Robert that all the newspapers and the media and (Bexar County District Attorney) Susan Reed and everybody portrays," said Mary Perez, a nurse from Killeen who first came into contact with her husband two years ago when they became pen pals.
In Perez's federal trial, prosecutors connected him and several co-defendants to a laundry list of crimes ranging from drug dealing to murder.
At the center of the federal trial were the execution-style West French killings. The victims � four of them teenagers � were bound with duct tape and shot in the head. The scene was so bloody, prosecutor Baumann got sick in a men's room after looking at the crime scene photos.
Other gang members were found culpable for the killings. The reason for the bloodshed was never entirely clear. But federal prosecutors argued that as the proclaimed general of the gang, Perez ordered his men to rob the apartment and leave no witnesses behind.
"He had foot soldiers who were carrying out his bidding for him," said Assistant U.S. Attorney David Counts, who prosecuted the federal case with Baumann. "He's the worst monster of them all."
Perez was found guilty of racketeering and conspiracy to racketeer and sentenced to life in federal prison. The state's death sentence trumps the federal punishment.
During the punishment phase of the state's capital murder trial, prosecutors produced five mannequins draped in the bloody clothing of the five West French victims.
It was an inflammatory display that unfairly swayed the jury, said David Bires, a Houston attorney who represented Perez in his state trial.
"I think that killing Robert Perez is a gross injustice," Bires said.
The exact nature of Perez's connection with the Mexican Mafia today is unclear, but prison records still list him as a member, said Michelle Lyons, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
As of Monday, no family members of any of his alleged victims have signed up to witness his death, Lyons said.
Roger Tobias lost his 18-year-old son Chris during the shooting at West French. He had no plans to watch Perez's execution because, he said, he never blamed him for his son's death.
"I know the Lord will forgive him, because I forgive him for what happened," Tobias said. "Maybe we'll see each other in the next lifetime, under better circumstances."
Prison gang chief executed for 1994 S.A. slayings
By MICHAEL GRACZYK
HUNTSVILLE A leader in a notorious prison gang who authorities said sanctioned more than a dozen killings during an unprecedented wave of violence in San Antonio in the 1990s was executed this evening for a double slaying in the Alamo city.
Robert Perez greeted his wife, two sons and a brother with a big smile as they entered the death chamber
"Tell all the kids I love them and never forget," he said in a brief final statement. "Tell everybody I love them. Stay strong. Bye-bye."
After exchanging "love you" with his relatives, he remarked, "I got my boots on like the cowboys."
Just before slipping into unconsciousness after the lethal dose began, Perez said he could "taste it." Seven minutes later, at 6:17 p.m., he was pronounced dead.
2nd condemned Texas inmate in as many days set to die
Associated Press Writer
HUNTSVILLE, Texas � Condemned inmate Joseph Nichols acknowledges being in a Houston convenience store more than a quarter century ago, accompanied by a friend and attempting to hold up the place.
What baffles Nichols, however, is why he's likely to die Wednesday evening when his friend pleaded guilty to fatally shooting the 70-year-old store clerk � who died of a single bullet wound � and already has been executed for the slaying.
"I was there, I don't deny that," Nichols said recently from death row, where he's been locked up for 25 years for the 1980 death of Claude Shaffer. "I never told them, word for word, that I killed this man."
I guess because he didn't admit to the killing, he shouldn't die. Following that argument there have been a great number of miscarriages! What a dreadful misconception all of us in the criminal justice system have been laboring under.
Since both defendants shot at the victim and the victim died, it seems each is as culpable as the other. That no bullet was recovered by which to identify the shooter makes not a lick of difference. Or did I miss something????
Great post, JAS! And I would add that for some, not even an admission of guilt by the accused is enough to warrant society's ultimate punishment.
Convenience store robber put to death
By Michael Graczyk
Thursday, March 08, 2007
HUNTSVILLE � More than a quarter-century after he and a buddy walked into a Houston convenience store to hold up the place, Joseph Nichols was executed Wednesday evening for the fatal shooting of the 70-year-old store clerk.
Asked by the warden whether he had a final statement, Nichols said, "Yes. Yes, I do."
Then he referred to a supervisory corrections officer on death row by name and uttered a string of obscenities about her. "That's all I got to say," he said. He winked toward the area where his parents and three brothers watched.
Guess he got the last word. Now she won't be able to pull a Costanza on him a couple of hours later.
"Yeah! Well the Jerk store called and....".
March 13, 2007, 3:11PM
Oldest condemned Texas inmate loses appeal
By MICHAEL GRACZYK
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Nearly 30 years since a Houston convenience store worker was shot to death, a man condemned for the slaying has lost a federal appeal that inches his punishment closer to being carried out.
Jack Harry Smith, who would turn 70 this year, is the oldest person on death row in Texas and one of the longest-serving of Texas' condemned inmates, ranking seventh in seniority among the state's 374 convicted killers awaiting lethal injection.
In a ruling late Monday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans denied an appeal that challenged his 1978 conviction.
Dallas man executed for 1997 robbery-slaying
08:13 PM CDT on Tuesday, March 20, 2007
HUNTSVILLE, Texas � A man with a history of robberies was executed Tuesday evening for a fatal shooting during a convenience store holdup in Dallas nearly 10 years ago.
From the death chamber gurney, Charles Anthony Nealy blamed a more than 20-minute delay in his execution on technicians' inability to find a suitable vein to carry the lethal chemicals.
"I used to tear up the doctor's office," Nealy said. "I hate needles."
Charles Anthony Nealy
In a lengthy statement, Nealy wished his friends and relatives well and expressed love. "I'm not crying, so y'all don't cry. Don't be sad for me. I'm going to be with God and Allah and Momma."
He asked witnesses to tell the guys on death row "I'm not wearing a diaper" and then launched into a criticism of the Dallas County assistant prosecutor who handled the state's appeals in his case.
"You messed up," he said. "Now to cover it up the state is killing me. I'm not sad and bitter. I feel sad for everyone else � you have to stay here. I'm going to someplace better."
Nealy had one request, that he not be buried "in that prison graveyard. Bury me next to Momma."
Nealy had at least three earlier convictions for aggravated robbery plus an extensive juvenile record for shoplifting, burglary and theft. The Dallas man insisted he was in Oklahoma and not in Texas the night of Aug. 20, 1997, when an Expressway Mart just south of downtown Dallas was robbed of some $4,000 and the store owner and a clerk were gunned down.
In late appeals to the federal courts, lawyers for Nealy alleged prosecutor misconduct and false testimony led to Nealy's conviction and death sentence. In November, Nealy won a reprieve from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals three days before he was scheduled to die. State courts subsequently rejected the claims.
In the hours before he was scheduled to die, his lawyers also tried to raise claims in the federal courts that Nealy was mentally retarded and therefore ineligible for execution, but state attorneys said the attempt was improper and incorrect.
India-born store owner Jiten Bhakta, 25, was shot to death with a shotgun as he dozed in the store office. One of his employees, Vijay Patel, also 25, was fatally shot with a pistol.
Nealy was convicted of Bhakta's death. His nephew, Claude Nealy, 17 at the time of the slayings, is serving life in prison for Patel's killing.
Bhakta's brother, who also was in the store at the time of the holdup, identified Charles Nealy as the robber with the shotgun and Claude Nealy was the man with the handgun.
A third man charged in the case, Reginald Mitchell, testified he was with the pair that evening and waited in a car as Nealy and his nephew went into the store. He said Charles Nealy admitted the slayings to him, explaining later that night the two men were shot because they refused to sell him a cigar known as "Blackie mounds."
Mitchell, who was sentenced to two years in prison, also testified Charles Nealy threatened to kill him if he told anyone about the robbery and shootings.
"There's all kinds of weird stuff going on in this case," Charles Nealy said last week from death row, denying any involvement in the shootings. He said he was in Ardmore, Okla., at the time of the slayings, picking up a relative's truck.
"There was plenty of evidence in the case," said Jason January, a former Dallas County assistant district attorney who prosecuted the case. "I don't have any doubt or I wouldn't have prosecuted it."
A grainy videotape image from a security camera at the store showed a man with a shotgun and another with a pistol taking money from a cash register and then grabbing a bottle of wine and a couple of six-packs of cold beer.
"I wasn't one of them." Nealy said in an interview.
He acknowledged the prospect of execution was scary.
"Since I've been here, my dad died, my stepdad died, my mother died, one of my friends commited suicide," he said. "And I'm up here where people are dying, it seems, like every week.
"Sometimes the Prozac just isn't enough."
[Interesting how the defendant's latest friend has decided that the only explanation for his behavior is "bravado" or a mental illness. Just couldn't be a decision to be evil, could it?]
Opposite portraits emerge of S.A. killer set for execution tonight
Web Posted: 03/27/2007 11:39 PM CDT
The young, tattooed convict scheduled to die tonight after spending almost his entire adult life on death row has vacillated between two very different ways of making his exit.
Vincent "Flaco" Gutierrez told one friend he intends to aim a scathing last statement at prison officials and a witness who testified against him in 1998, when he was convicted of carjacking and killing an Air Force captain.
He told another pen pal he doesn't want an angry death. He'd rather set a forgiving example for Catholic school children who recently mailed him kind words from Spain.
Such are the impulses at war inside the inmate during his final days as half of Bexar County's first double death sentence case.
"He's just really running awfully scared now," said Sister Doris Moore, a nun who has corresponded with Gutierrez for eight years and will visit with him in the hours before the execution. "He's kind of like ... fighting for your life ... y'know what I mean?"
Gutierrez was condemned to death along with Randy Baez Arroyo for the abduction and murder of Air Force Capt. Jose Renato Cobo, a 39-year-old stationed at Lackland AFB and the father of a teenage daughter.
Arroyo, then 17, wanted parts from Cobo's Mazda RX-7 to fix his own sports car.
During the carjacking, when Cobo tried leaping from the vehicle, Gutierrez, then 18, shot him and dumped him on a rain-soaked shoulder of Loop 410 West.
Arroyo's sentence was commuted to life in prison two years ago after the Supreme Court ruled it's cruel and unusual to execute juvenile killers. Gutierrez was 6 months too old to be similarly spared.
Should Gutierrez choose mild last words, it would be the first time he has shown the public a gentler side.
Now 28, the convict recently offered a cool and blunt explanation during an interview with the San Antonio Current for why he killed the Air Force instructor.
At the time of the carjacking, Gutierrez, who prefers to be called Vicente, had only weeks earlier finished serving time at a boot camp for three burglaries. He feared going to prison if Cobo escaped to later identify him.
"So I went ahead and shot him twice," Gutierrez told the Current.
His logic was equally cool when he explained why he felt no sorrow about Cobo's death.
"In order for me to be remorseful, I have to feel for somebody," Gutierrez said. "And I didn't know him, so I don't feel for him."
The convict's callousness stunned Joey Contreras, a former assistant district attorney who helped prosecute the case. Cobo's brother Ruben was similarly appalled.
Ruben Cobo said he'd felt some sympathy for the murderer until he read Gutierrez's remarks that he'd shot at more than one person before being locked up, that anger had only hardened him and that he'd wreak havoc in Texas if he was ever released.
"He's probably one of the individuals I can actually say that he shouldn't be here with us," Cobo said. "God forgive me for what I say, but I mean ... he's like the devil himself."
Gutierrez's coarse comments also surprised Moore, the Daughter of Charity who now lives in Arkansas but started corresponding with Gutierrez after meeting his mother at a conference of death penalty opponents in San Antonio.
Moore knows the inmate has long wrestled with anger and rebelliousness � he has repeatedly been disciplined for ignoring prison rules against long hair and beards � but she dismisses his harsh talk.
It's either false bravado, she said, or possibly a symptom of undiagnosed bipolar disorder.
The "real" Gutierrez, she said, prays sincerely, talks earnestly about Bible passages and punctuates the greetings in his letters with smiley faces.
Killer of Air Force officer executed
Man one of two sentenced to die for crime
By Michael Graczyk
Thursday, March 29, 2007
HUNTSVILLE � A San Antonio man convicted of killing an Air Force officer during a carjacking 10 years ago was executed Wednesday evening.
In a brief final statement, Vincent Gutierrez said, "I'd like to tell everybody I'm sorry the situation happened. My bad. Everybody is here because of what happened."
It was unclear from his statement whether he was apologizing for the fatal shooting. He thanked a number of relatives and friends and expressed love for them.
"Where's a stunt double when you need one?" he said, laughing.
. He said a brief prayer and was pronounced dead at 6:23 p.m., seven minutes after the lethal drugs began to flow.
[QUOTE]Originally posted by JB:
Killer of Air Force officer executed
"Where's a stunt double when you need one?" he said, laughing.
Who's laughing now? These kind of punks are one big reason for me why we need the death penalty. Some people just don't deserve to live on this earth.
I always knew there was a reason I liked you, M, besides your trumpet playing ability.
From gurney, killer proclaims innocence in 1994 killings
Convict admits kidnapping but denies being there for double slaying
By ROSANNA RUIZ
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle
HUNTSVILLE � In his final moments Thursday, convicted murderer Roy Lee Pippin maintained his innocence, blasting those he said were responsible for his wrongful execution.
"I charge the people of the jury, trial judge, the prosecutor that cheated to get this conviction," Pippin said while strapped to a gurney in Texas' death chamber. "I charge each and every one of you with the murder of an innocent man. You will answer to your maker when you find out you have executed an innocent man."
Pippin, 51, was put to death for the 1994 kidnappings and fatal shootings of Miami cousins Elmer and Fabio Buitrago.
Pippin, a member of a Colombian drug ring, admitted he helped kidnap the men but said he was not present when they were killed. The men were suspected of pocketing almost $2 million from the operation.
In his final statement, Pippin again admitted his role laundering drugs and money.
"I ask forgiveness for all of the poison I helped bring into the U.S., the country I love," said Pippin, who owned an air-conditioning business in southwest Houston.
He also expressed his love to his family, including his son and daughter, before he concluded with: "That's it. Warden, go ahead and murder me."
As the lethal drugs began to flow at 6:34 p.m., Pippin uttered: "Jesus, take me home."
He was pronounced dead eight minutes later � the second man to be put to death in Texas this week.
Despite his earlier promise to put up a struggle before his execution, Pippin was calm as he was escorted to the chamber.
He had, however, set a fire in his cell Thursday morning by piling trash and connecting a copper coil to an electrical outlet. Officers put out the fire within minutes. It generated smoke but no damage or injuries, a prison spokeswoman said.
Pippen had also been on a six-week hunger strike until Monday.
To read the last words of past capital murderers, click here.
Convicted killer of Amarillo couple set to die today
HUNTSVILLE � Ryan Dickson achieved his not-so-lofty childhood aspirations.
"I told a teacher I was going to end up in jail," said Dickson, 30. "I just didn't know for what."
Two capital murder convictions � for the fatal shooting of an Amarillo couple at their grocery store during an attempted beer theft more than a dozen years ago � put Dickson in a cell on Texas' death row.
Dickson was set for lethal injection Thursday evening, an execution that would make him the 13th inmate put to death this year in Texas, the nation's busiest capital punishment state.
"I'm hopeful � in life � but not in my case," said the former street gang member, who was on probation at age 9 for stealing bikes and was two weeks past his 18th birthday when he was arrested hours after the slayings of Carmelo Surace, 61, and his 60-year-old wife, Marie.
"I believe in God, just not in that heaven or hell thing," Dickson told The Associated Press in an interview. "I've had people trying to kill me all my life, so I guess it's almost normal. A lot of my friends ask me how I deal with it. I say it's not unusual."
Dickson's lawyer, Ronald Spriggs, said he planned "a last-minute effort" in the courts "to prevent him from getting killed," arguing Dickson could be mentally retarded and ineligible for execution and that evidence of childhood abuse should mitigate his punishment.
A customer found the two shooting victims. A witness recognized a quartet running from the store Nov. 27, 1994, as young toughs from the neighborhood. Dickson and his companions, one of them his 14-year-old brother, soon were under arrest.
"If you ever had a reason for a death penalty case, this was it," said Rebecca King, a former Potter County district attorney who prosecuted two capital murder trials � one for each victim � that resulted in convictions and death sentences for Dickson.
Thursday's punishment is for Carmelo Surace's slaying.
"He robbed them and he killed them," said King, now in private practice. "He made a statement that he basically did this to get his teardrop to prove it to his gang."
The teardrop � a small tattoo � would show his fellow gang members, known as the "Varrio 16," that he'd carried out a killing.
"That's a big part of my case," Dickson said. "I'm a gang member. I've never denied it."
Dickson and his brother, with two friends, walked to the store a few blocks from their home in Amarillo. They'd been smoking marijuana. Dickson wanted some beer.
"I was high," Dickson said. "It was just something spur of the moment I thought of."
The two friends waited outside. Dickson walked in. His brother, Dane, stood watch at the door.
"The man came out from behind the counter," Dickson said. "He walked in the aisle with me. He grabbed my gun, tipped the gun. ... When I jerked it back, I pulled the trigger. And that's how he was shot."
Marie Surace reached under the counter. Dickson said she was getting a gun. Prosecutor King said the woman was trying to dial an old-style rotary phone when she was shot.
"When the shooting started, I wasn't thinking about beer no more," said Dickson, who fled the store empty-handed. "I attempted to shoot over her head and we ran out. I didn't even know I shot her until later that night when they told me."
King said ballistics evidence disputed Dickson's account.
"She was on her knees," King said. "She had the phone in her hand. He bent down. She was looking up at him. Ballistics showed it was execution-style."
Prison records show Dickson last December stabbed a corrections officer in the eye.
"I'm a fighter," he said. "It's pretty much a given that I can't beat the system, but I can create some difficulties for them after the fact. If they go ahead and kill me, that's fine."
Dane Dickson testified against his brother and is serving a 15-year prison term.
At least nine other Texas inmates have execution dates in the coming months. Scheduled next is Jose Moreno, 40, set to die May 10 for the abduction and fatal shooting of a San Antonio man 21 years ago.
Convicted killer of Amarillo couple executed
By MICHAEL GRACZYK / Associated Press
A street gang member convicted of fatally shooting an Amarillo couple during a botched beer theft at their grocery store more than a dozen years ago was executed Thursday evening.
Ryan Dickson, 30, spoke rapidly when asked if he had anything to say, expressing love to his family and apologizing to the relatives of his victims. No witnesses from his family or the victims' family attended the execution.
"I am sorry for what I did, and I take responsibility for what I did," said Dickson, the 13th prisoner to be executed this year in the nation's busiest capital punishment state.
Kansas prison escapee Charles Edward Smith was executed this evening for the fatal shooting of a sheriff's deputy who was trying to pull him over for stealing $22.50 worth of gasoline from a service station.
Asked if he had a final statement, Smith replied, "No sir."
"I'm glad he didn't say anything negative," she said. "You wait on something 18 years that should have been done years ago, it's just the right thing to have happen."
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