Saturday, August 28, 2004

August 26, 2004


Last Meal: For his final meal, Allridge requested a double-meat bacon cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato and salad dressing. He also asked for shoestring OR crinkle-cut French fries with ketchup and banana pudding OR banana pudding ice cream and watermelon OR white seedless grapes.

The skinny: James Allridge, whose case attracted attention of celebrity capital punishment opponents, was executed for killing a Fort Worth convenience store clerk 19 years ago.

More skinny: Allridge and his older brother, Ronald Allridge, left their apartment to rob a convenience store in East Fort Worth. Allridge and his brother drove to a Circle K store where James Allridge used to be an employee of the store.

Ronald dropped his younger brother off at the store and drove around the corner to wait for him. The victim, a store clerk, had locked the doors to the convenience store since it was closed for the night. Allridge approached the front door and requested change to make a telephone call.

Because he had worked with Allridge at the store, the victim made change for Allridge, who left the store after pretending to use the telephone. After getting back to the car around the corner from the store, Ronald accused his younger brother of “chickening out.”

Allridge decided to go back to the store. The clerk again opened the doors for Allridge. When he did, Allridge pointed his pistol at the attendant and forced his way into the store. Once inside, Allridge took the man to the storeroom, tied his hands behind his back, and proceeded to empty the cash register and safe of $300. He went back to the storeroom, and finding that the man had moved, forced him to his knees and shot him twice in the back of the head, execution style.

Crime SPREE! Allridge committed seven other aggravated robberies after the robbery and murder. He was involved in the robbery-murder at a Whataburger in Fort Worth, wherein his older brother Ronald received the death penalty. (Executed in 1995)

The birth of the murderabilia law... While on death row, James Allridge made art prints and greeting cards. He sold the items, many of which depicted flowers, on an internet web site set up and operated by sympathizers. According to the web site, proceeds went into Allridge's legal defense fund.

In 2001, the state legislature passed a "murderabilia" law, which was intended to prohibit convicts from profiting from the sale of items in connection with their inmate status. In July 2003, Allridge's web site received international media attention when actress Susan Sarandon, who had been pen pals with Allridge for 8 years, visited him on death row. Andy Kahan, a crime victims' advocate who was a driving force behind the 2001 law, filed a formal complaint with TDCJ and with the Polk county district attorney's office, asking them to shut down Allridge's site. At the time of Allridge's execution, the request was still under investigation.

Hollywood loves the murderers....The previous month, Academy Award-winning actress Susan Sarandon visited with Allridge for two hours. She would not comment except to say she was trying to maintain "a low profile." But in response to the reaction of the victim's family to her visit, she released a written statement Thursday. "My heart and prayers go out to the Clendennen family. They have suffered a terrible loss, one that I would not presume to know. I hope they have found a way towards healing from the senseless murder of Brian Clendennen. My friendship with James Allridge in no way diminishes my feelings of sympathy for the Clendennen family. It merely reflects the fact that James Allridge is a human being and is more than the worst act that he has ever committed," the statement said.

For 17 years, Shane Clendennen has waited for justice after his brother's killer was sent to death row. When James Vernon Allridge III was finally been assigned an execution date on Aug. 26, Clendennen cannot understand why Susan Sarandon made a special trip to death row to visit Allridge. Death penalty opponents say she wants his sentence commuted to life. "How would she feel if someone tied up her child and shot him in the back of the head, then she had to watch him on life support for three days until he died?" asked Clendennen, 34, a machinist from Fort Worth. "She should not have a voice in this unless she has gone through that kind of pain and loss."

Last words and such: Allridge thanked his family and friends for loving him and expressed remorse. "I am sorry. I really am. You, Brian's sister, thanks for your love. It meant a lot. Shane, I hope he finds peace. I am sorry I destroyed you all's life. Thank you for forgiving me. To the moon and back. I love you all. I leave you all as I came - in love."

Sister Helen Prejean, the New Orleans-based nun of "Dead Man Walking" fame, was among the people who witnessed the execution. She whispered a brief prayer after Allridge slipped into unconsciousness and comforted Allridge's relatives.

Factoids: During 17 years on death row, Allridge earned a college degree.

Two other sets of brothers have received lethal injection in Texas, which by far leads the nation in carrying out the death penalty. Prison records show four pairs of brothers were put to death in the 1920s and 1930s, when the electric chair was the method of punishment.

Allridge was the....

42nd murderer executed in U.S. in 2004
927th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
12th murderer executed in Texas in 2004
325th murderer executed in Texas since 1976