Texas death row inmate set to die for woman's murder
12:36 PM CDT on Tuesday, September 25, 2007
LIVINGSTON, Texas � Two of Marguerite Lucille Dixon�s seven children returned to their darkened home 21 years ago to find her body, hours after a stranger she had offered a drink of water on a hot August day shot and sexually assaulted her before stealing two televisions and a van from the home.
Michael Richard, 49, was set to die Tuesday night in Huntsville for the 1986 murder of the 53-year-old nurse from Hockley. He�d be the 26th inmate executed this year in the nation�s most active death penalty state and the first of two set to die this week.
Richard insists he didn�t kill Dixon.
�I�m to the point now, ain�t nothing I can do,� Richard said last week from a tiny visiting cage outside death row in Livingston. �Crying ain�t going to stop nothing. Being mad ain�t going to stop nothing. Being scared ain�t going to stop nothing.�
Richard had been freed from his second prison term only two months when he walked up to Dixon�s home to ask whether a van parked outside was for sale.
It wasn�t, but Dixon invited him inside for a drink of water. When Richard left, he saw two of Dixon�s kids leave right after him. He returned to the house, pulled a gun on the woman, sexually assaulted and fatally shot her, and took two televisions as he left in the van, evidence at his trial showed. Then he went to Houston, about 30 miles to the southeast, and gave the .25-caliber pistol to a friend and swapped the TVs for some cocaine.
Richard�s lawyers argued he is mentally retarded and not eligible for lethal injection under a U.S. Supreme Court order barring execution of mentally retarded people. On Friday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an appeal that urged the court to stop the scheduled punishment and reconsider similar appeals that had been turned down earlier.
�There�s a lot of things I don�t know and understand,� said Richard, who said he learned to read and write a little since coming to death row 20 years ago. �They have been messing over me all these years, so it�s nothing new.�
Two of Dixon�s children found a sliding glass door open and the house dark and ransacked when they returned to it that August day. They sought the help of a neighbor and came back to find their mother�s body in her bed and covered with paper and clothing. A fingerprint on the glass door led police to Richard, who confessed the shooting was an accident.
Lee Coffee, who prosecuted Richard in 1987, said he offered Richard a deal for a guilty plea in exchange for a life prison sentence but it was refused.
�His comment to me was the death penalty in Texas is the last high, that it would be the ultimate high to give him a bunch of drugs and put him to sleep,� Coffee, now a judge in Memphis, Tenn., said last week.
Richard said he signed a confession he couldn�t read.
�They say I confessed, but I didn�t write any of that,� he said from death row. �The cops wrote it.�
Richard was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in 1987. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals threw out his conviction in 1992 because jurors improperly were not allowed to consider evidence that as a child Richard had been abused. In 1995, a second jury convicted him again and again sentenced him to die.
At least one psychological assessment of Richard two years ago put his IQ at 64, well under the 70 considered the threshold of retardation. In March, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed a judge�s finding that Richard was not mentally retarded and his execution date was set for Tuesday.
�I have prayed every day that I would live long enough to see that man die,� Mary Chance, 79, Dixon�s sister, told the Houston Chronicle.
Lynn Hardaway, a Harris County district attorney contesting his appeals, said evidence showed Richard took police to where he left the gun, which was matched to the bullet in his victim. In prison, she said, Richard has been able to exchange letters with supporters in Europe, play chess, read books from the prison library and learn to type. The former auto mechanic showed an ability to adapt and function even if his test results were poor, she said.
�It�s not unusual for these guys to not do well on the tests because they have no incentive to do well,� she said.
Richard, known on death row as �Louisiana Red,� first went to prison in 1978 with a six-year term for burglary. He was paroled about three years later, then returned to prison in 1985 with a five-year sentence for theft and forgery. He was released on mandatory supervision after 17 months. Dixon�s slaying occurred eight weeks later.
�I did things in my life I deserve to be locked up for,� he said. �But I didn�t kill anybody.�
On Thursday, a Dallas man, Carlton Turner, 28, is set to die for killing his parents in 1998.
Turner was 19 when he was convicted for killing his parents, Carlton Turner Sr. and Tonya Turner, in the family�s Valley Ranch home in 1998. Their bodies were left in a sweltering garage while the son they adopted as a toddler used their belongings to buy clothes and drugs and party with friends, according to testimony.
Convicted killer executed for woman's death 21 years ago
By MICHAEL GRACZYK
Associated Press Writer
HUNTSVILLE, Texas � A U.S. Supreme Court decision to review whether lethal injection procedures are unconstitutionally cruel failed to stop the execution of a Texas man as the high court allowed his punishment to be carried out.
Michael Richard, 49, was put to death Tuesday evening by Texas corrections officials with a toxic combination of drugs that justices hours earlier decided they would examine after a challenge from two condemned inmates in Kentucky.
Lawyers for Richard had gone to the court asking the lethal injection in Texas be halted and cited the Kentucky case in their appeal. The justices, however, rejected the appeal.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's office had challenged Richard's appeals while Gov. Rick Perry's office insisted the execution � the 26th this year in Texas, by far the highest number in the nation among states with the death penalty � would go forward as planned.
About two hours after he was scheduled to die, Richard was taken to the Texas death chamber. In a brief final statement, he asked that his family take care of themselves and expressed love to a friend.
"Let's ride," he said just before the drugs began flowing. After several seconds and as the lethal concoction began taking effect, he added: "I guess this is it."
Nine minutes later he was pronounced dead.
Death penalty foes fighting tight deadline
Appeals court, Perry to be asked to delay tonight's execution of killer
By PATTY REINERT
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON � Death penalty opponents scrambled Wednesday to block tonight's scheduled execution of a Texas inmate in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to consider whether lethal injection should be banned as cruel and unusual punishment.
The high court accepted the lethal injection case from Kentucky on Tuesday and hours later refused to block the execution in Huntsville of inmate Michael Wayne Richard for a 1986 killing near Houston.
But defense attorneys said they will try again to convince the courts that executions in Texas should be halted while the injection issue is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court for several months.
David Dow, a professor at the University of Houston Law Center, said he will ask Gov. Rick Perry and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to delay the execution of Carlton Turner, a double murderer from Dallas County. Failing that, he will ask the high court to intervene.
"I hope they realize we shouldn't be executing people in Texas if the Supreme Court is deciding this issue," Dow said of the lower court. "The state court is going to have to say something about it. If it rules in our favor, I expect it will shut down executions in Texas until March or April or May or June" when the high court issues its decision.
EXECUTIONS SET DESPITE KY. CASE REVIEW
Lawyers for two murderers set to die by lethal injection Thursday say the executions should be delayed because of the U.S. Supreme Court's plans to review that method of capital punishment, but officials in both states involved intend to press ahead.
In Texas, attorneys for Carlton Turner Jr. hurriedly prepared appeals Wednesday challenging lethal injection.
In Alabama, attorneys for Tommy Arthur are seeking a stay of his execution not only because of the high court's plans, but because Gov. Bob Riley decided Wednesday to change the state's lethal injection procedures. The procedures can't be changed in time for Thursday's scheduled execution, but state officials say the procedures already in place are constitutional.
The Supreme Court announced Tuesday that it will hear a challenge early next year from two inmates on death row in Kentucky -- Ralph Baze and Thomas Clyde Bowling Jr. -- who claim that lethal injection as practiced by the state amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
Legal experts say it's unlikely the high court will issue a national moratorium while the case is considered. It declined to halt Tuesday's execution of Michael Richard in Texas, conducted just hours after it announced it would review the Kentucky case.
Doug Berman, a sentencing expert at Ohio State University's law school, said he expects some state courts to stop executions while awaiting the outcome of the Kentucky case.
If neither execution scheduled for Thursday is stopped, he said, "It will be a pretty strong statement that it's business as usual."
One possible explanation for the Supreme Court's decision to accept the Kentucky appeal, yet allow other lethal injection executions to proceed, lies in the different number of votes needed to take a case and block an execution.
Supreme Court rules require just four votes to accept a case but five justices to block an execution. [And doesn't that give a clue as to the vote on the underlying issue accepted for review?]
Condemned Dallas killer wins reprieve
By POLLY ROSS HUGHES
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau
AUSTIN � The U.S. Supreme Court blocked the scheduled execution of Texas murderer Carlton Turner Jr. late Thursday after his attorneys argued that death by lethal injection amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.
Turner, 28, was to die for killing his parents in 1998.
"All I can say is all glory to God," Turner told prison officials, according to The Associated Press.
The high court stopped the execution more than four hours after Turner could have been put to death and less than two hours before his execution warrant would have expired.
The court order made no mention of its reasons for stopping the punishment. On Tuesday, the court agreed to review a case in Kentucky which uses the same method of execution.
"I'm relieved that the Supreme Court stepped in," said Morris Moon, a member of Turner's defense team. "I'm hopeful that the state of Texas now recognizes that this is a serious constitutional issue and ... will step in and stop those executions itself."
Texas executions probably on hold until next year
State awaits High Court ruling on lethal injection
By POLLY ROSS HUGHES and R.G. RATCLIFFE
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau
AUSTIN Despite objections from state officials, executions in Texas are likely to come to a halt until sometime next year when the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether certain methods of lethal injection are inhumane, several death penalty experts said Friday.
The high court granted a stay late Thursday for Carlton Turner Jr., of Irving, based on its decision to hear a Kentucky case that argues the chemicals used in lethal injections there risk cruelly subjecting inmates to undue pain or even torture. Texas uses the same chemical cocktail as Kentucky.
Four Texas men, with execution dates already set in the most active death chamber in the nation, are expected to seek stays based on Turner's ruling, defense lawyers said.
Turner's narrow escape from the gurney contrasts with the fate of fellow Texan Michael Richard, whose appeal for a Supreme Court stay was rejected Tuesday just hours after it agreed to hear the Kentucky case.
Lawyers said Richard's fate was sealed by appellate procedures and timing that worked against him. [That's a polite way of saying that the defendant's lawyer waited too long and filed the wrong kind of paperwork.]
Turner was granted a stay so the Supreme Court could hear his argument that the lethal injection question in Kentucky also applies to Texas.
Lawyers for Honduran Heliberto Chi, who is scheduled to die Wednesday, plan to ask the Supreme Court for a similar stay by Monday.
Call for moratorium
While several death penalty experts and one prominent district attorney predicted a lull in executions in Texas and elsewhere, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Gov. Rick Perry said efforts to carry out executions will move forward.
"The Supreme Court's decision to stay convicted murderer Carlton Turner's execution will not necessarily result in an abrupt halt to Texas executions," said Abbott spokesman Jerry Strickland.
"State and federal courts will continue to address each scheduled execution on a case-by-case basis."
Perry believes the fate of death row inmates lies with the courts, said spokeswoman Krista Moody.
"The governor does not have the authority to issue a moratorium nor does he believe there's a reason for one," she said.
Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire, D-Houston, said Perry should issue a moratorium because the Supreme Court likely will grant a stay in every Texas execution until the Kentucky case is decided.
Whitmire noted that Perry, until overturned by the Legislature, attempted to use his executive order power to require teenage girls to be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted disease.
"If he can tell a state agency to vaccinate people, I think he can tell a state agency not to execute people," Whitmire said. [Doesn't Whitmire remember that the vaccination decision was reversed by the Legislature?]
District trial courts could withdraw existing execution dates or chose not to set new ones, said David Dow, a University of Houston Law Center professor who filed the motions for stays for Turner and Richard.
"If trial courts don't act, all of these inmates will file challenges probably in state court the way Carlton Turner did," he said.
"I would predict in the next case at least one of the (Texas Court of Criminal Appeals) judges would change their mind. I just can't help but think that will happen." [You can always dream. Actually, I'm betting the liberal arm of the Court will take the chance to pontificate on the issue.]
Dow said he believes the Supreme Court might have been swayed by the Texas court's narrow 5-4 decision not to grant Turner's stay.
"It's always better if you're going to have to go from the state to federal court that the (vote) is 5-4 compared to 9-0," he said. "I think that was a helpful fact."
Tough on crime
Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley, who frequently lobbies the Legislature to get tough on crime, said there likely will be an "ad hoc moratorium" as courts stay death sentences pending the high court's decision, but "I don't think it ultimately will have any effect at all."
Bradley said because lower courts had approved the Kentucky execution procedure, he believes the Supreme Court took the case up in order to affirm the state's method of lethal injection as constitutional. [The decision, after all, is largely a factual decision. The trial judge heard evidence, assigned weight and made credibility decisions. Appellate judges generally defer to such decisions. Federal judges should be deferring to state court factual decisions.]
Other legal experts noted that Supreme Court decisions in recent years have been to bar the death penalty for the mentally retarded and those who committed crimes as minors.
Even if the Supreme Court throws out the Kentucky procedure, Bradley said all Texas will have to do is change its mixture of chemicals to match the Supreme Court ruling before executions begin again.
"You would have some high-profile public hearings (on TDCJ rules)," Bradley said. "They would simply change the procedure and carry on."
Texas prison system spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said currently there are no plans to change the chemicals used in the Texas lethal injection procedure.
Jordan Steiker, a University of Texas law professor and co-director of the Capital Punishment Center, said the Kentucky case is "modest in its own terms."
It is not trying to throw out the death penalty or even lethal injection, he said. It only wants a method of lethal injection that is more humane.
"We're not likely to see a pathbreaking decision, even if the court were to strike down the existing protocol," Steiker said.
He said the most important aspect of the case is that it will cause a "de facto moratorium" of up to a year on executions in states with lethal injection. Steiker said that may create a time of reflection on whether the nation wants to continue with capital punishment. [Right, because it is just so darn hard to stop and think about the death penalty when you are rushing to execute a death sentence some 10-20 years after the trial.]
Second condemned Texas death row inmate commits suicide
06:47 PM CST on Monday, February 4, 2008
HOUSTON � A second convicted murderer awaiting execution killed himself in his cell just three days after another condemned man committed suicide, prison officials said Monday.
William Robinson, 49, used a sheet to hang himself from a vent in his cell at a psychiatric facility on Friday, Texas Department Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said.
Only eight other condemned killers have taken their own lives since death row reopened in 1974, including Jesus Flores, who killed himself on Jan. 29.
Robinson, who was sentenced to death for a 1985 murder, had been held at the Jester IV psychiatric facility in Richmond since September and had spent time there periodically throughout his years on death row, Lyons said.
Officers found Robinson hanging at about 5 a.m., Lyons said. They cut the sheet and performed CPR. He was taken to a hospital alive but unresponsive and was put on life support.
Robinson's mother decided to terminate life support after doctors said he was most likely brain dead, Lyons said.
Lyons said privacy laws prevented her from discussing Robinson's medical records, but she said he did injure himself with a razor in 2006.
Michael Charlton, Robinson's former attorney, said Robinson was a paranoid schizophrenic who repeatedly attempted suicide.
"Despite years of that history, to leave William unsupervised and not on a suicide watch to me, it's just appalling," Charlton said.
Lyons said officers at Jester IV routinely check on inmates every 15 minutes.
It took a jury just 11 minutes to convict Robinson of capital murder for the shooting death of 26-year-old Steven Michael Creasey in a Houston apartment complex.
According to prosecutors, Robinson and two other men robbed Creasey and a female friend and then tried to abduct the woman. Creasey was shot between the eyes when he tried to help her.
The woman told police she was raped for hours by all three men before she was released.
Prosecutors said Robinson had just gotten out of prison after serving seven years for robbery when Creasey was murdered. The killing was part of a crime spree that also included a carjacking and the robbery of three men, a shoe store, and a bus driver.
Robinson admitted to raping the woman but said his co-defendent killed Creasey. In state and federal appeals that were pending when he died, attorneys for Robinson claimed he was mentally retarded and was not sufficiently represented his trial.
Flores' suicide last week was the first by a death row inmate since October 2006, when Michael Johnson killed himself the same day he was supposed to be executed for the slaying of a convenience store clerk near Waco.
A corrections officer found Flores' body in his cell at the Polunsky Unit, home of Texas' male death row in Livingston. He had lacerations on his throat and forehead, Lyons said.
Texas death row inmate convicted of Kaufman slaying denied appeal 10:58 AM CT
11:56 AM CDT on Monday, March 17, 2008
HOUSTON - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to review the case of a North Texas man on death row for the robbery, beating, rape and strangling of a 93-year-old woman in her home.
William A. Murray, 39, was condemned for the 1998 death of Rena Ratcliff, killed in her small home in Kaufman, east of Dallas, where she lived alone. The convicted murderer's mother had once cared for the elderly woman as a home nursing aide.
For details on this case, in which the inmate has volunteered for execution, click here.
7 Mexican-born Texas death row inmates lose appeals
By MICHAEL GRACZYK
Seven Mexican-born inmates on Texas' death row lost their bids for appeal today before the U.S. Supreme Court, following the court's ruling last week that another Mexican-born inmate's case couldn't be reopened despite an order from President Bush.
Rest of story.
Supreme Court rejects appeal by death row inmate from Fort Worth
BY JOHN MORITZ
STAR-TELEGRAM STAFF WRITER
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up the case of a Fort Worth killer whose lawyers said should be spared the death penalty because he was mentally retarded when he and an accomplice strangled a 65-year-old war veteran during a 1993 robbery.
The action, two days before the 15th anniversary of the crime, means that the last hope for Elkie Lee Taylor to avoid lethal injection in Huntsville might be that the Supreme Court strikes down the method of execution employed by Texas and 36 other states and the federal government. Justices are expected to issue their much-anticipated ruling later this year.
Woman sentenced in death of mother-to-be
BY JOHN MARSHALL
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A woman was sentenced to death Friday for killing a Missouri mother-to-be and cutting the baby from her womb. Lisa Montgomery becomes the third woman on federal death row.
She was convicted in October of kidnapping resulting in death in the Dec. 16, 2004, killing of Bobbie Jo Stinnett. Montgomery was arrested at her farmhouse a day after showing off Stinnett's baby as her own.
Murderer aims to speed up execution
Selwyn Davis expected to pursue only a required appeal.
By Steven Kreytak
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
In a move that could trim his stay on Texas' death row from the norm of about 10 years to less than two, condemned killer Selwyn P. Davis wants to waive most of his appeals, according to his lawyer.
Irving man loses appeal in '99 stabbing death
09:01 PM CDT on Thursday, April 10, 2008
An Irving man sent to death row for the robbery-slaying of his former girlfriend in a 1999 attack that also left her 8-year-old son with severe stab wounds has lost an appeal, moving him closer to execution.
Austin killer wants quick execution
Selwyn Davis tells judge he's 'certain' of his decision to skip appeals.
By Steven Kreytak
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Sentenced to die for the 2006 killing of his girlfriend's mother, Selwyn P. Davis told a judge in Travis County on Friday that he wants to waive most of his appeals because he is guilty and he doesn't want to spend his life in prison.
"I'm certain of what I want," Davis told state District Judge Julie Kocurek. "The quality of life is not, basically, to my standards, you know what I am saying? Basically, jail sucks."
Supreme Court lifts stay of execution for Texan, 2 others
By MARK SHERMAN
WASHINGTON � The Supreme Court cleared the way today for Alabama, Mississippi and Texas to set new execution dates for three inmates who were granted last-minute reprieves by the justices last year.
His case makes constitutional case law and he avoids the ultimate sentence.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- A death row inmate who was challenging Alabama's method of lethal injection died Tuesday, apparently of complications from cancer, officials said.
Prison system spokesman Brian Corbett said Daniel Siebert, 53, was pronounced dead at 1:35 p.m. at Holman prison near Atmore, where he had been awaiting execution for more than 21 years for strangling four people.
For the rest of the article, see: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/D/DEATH_ROW_DEATH?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT
June 3 execution date set for Sonnier
By MICHAEL GRACZYK
Associated Press Writer
HOUSTON � Condemned inmate Derrick Sonnier received a June 3 execution date Wednesday, bringing to at least three the number of Texas death row prisoners to get an execution date following last week's U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the constitutionality of the lethal injection process.
State District Judge Michael Wilkinson set the date for Sonnier, 40, condemned for the 1991 slayings of Melody Flowers, 27, and her 2-year-old son Patrick at their apartment in the Houston suburb of Humble. Flowers had been stabbed, beaten with a hammer and strangled. Her child was stabbed eight times. Both victims were found floating in a bathtub.
Medellin set to die Aug. 5 for Ertman-Pena slayings
By DALE LEZON
Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle
A Houston man who was convicted of capital murder for the gang rape and slaying of two teenage girls received a death date today after the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for his and other killers' executions.
Jose Medellin, 33, is set to die by injection on Aug. 5 for the 1993 murders of Jennifer Ertman, 14, and Elizabeth Pe�a, 16.
Ga. execution would be first since Supreme Court ruling
BY SHANNON MCCAFFREY
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
ATLANTA -- Georgia moved forward with preparations to execute a convicted killer, who on Tuesday night could become the first inmate put to death since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a three-drug lethal injection procedure.
'He took everything from us'
Victim's children reflect on their lives as execution date nears for their mother's killer
By ROSANNA RUIZ
Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle
It was midnight, but Melody Flowers had to get something off her chest.
The single mother of five woke her eldest. "If something should ever happen to me," she whispered to 8-year-old Tameka, "I want you to know that I will always love you all. I want you to be there for your brothers and sisters. Even if you are not able to see me, I'm still with you all."
The next afternoon, the 27-year-old Flowers was dead.
She had been bludgeoned with a claw hammer, raped, strangled and stabbed. Her body was dumped in the partially filled bathtub of her Humble apartment. The lifeless body of her toddler, Patrick, also stabbed, lay on top of her.
Now, 17 years later, memories of the horrific murders and the years that followed came to the fore for her surviving children with word that their mother's killer would be executed.
Derrick Sonnier, who authorities said stalked Flowers for months, was convicted of the Sept. 16, 1991, murders and sentenced to die. On June 3, the 40-year-old will be the first in Texas to be executed since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of lethal injections last month.
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