Friday, October 14, 2005

October 6, 2005

...."That was a totally valid serious defense"...

Last Meal: Howard had no final meal request.

The skinny: Ronald Ray Howard was executed for fatally shooting a state trooper, a slaying his trial attorneys argued was prompted by Howard's listening to anti-police rap music.

More skinny: A Texas Department of Public Safety trooper stopped a vehicle for having a broken headlight. The driver of the vehicle, Ronald Ray Howard, shot the man in the neck. The vehicle Howard was driving was stolen. At least eight people witnessed the shooting and provided a description of the gunman. Howard fled the scene of the shooting, but he was arrested within a couple of hours after a police chase during which he lost control of his vehicle and struck a horse. He had the murder weapon, a nine millimeter handgun loaded with hollow point bullets, in his possession. Howard fled in the stolen GMC Jimmy to Victoria, Texas where he was captured Howard confessed to killing the trooper and repeated his confession to a grand jury.

The rap music defense: Defense attorneys argued at his trial that Howard's constant exposure to gangsta rap music and its anti-police messages influenced him to pull the trigger. "He grew up in the ghetto and disliked police, and these were his heroes, these rappers . . . telling him if you're pulled over, just blast away," his trial attorney, Allen Tanner, recalled last week. "It affected him. That was a totally valid serious defense."
Howard told a grand jury that he was listening to "Soulja's Story" by Tupac Shakur before the shooting. In the song, a black teenager is pulled over by police and opens fire: They finally pull me over and I laugh, "Remember Rodney King?", And I blast on his punk ass, Now I got a murder case.

Leading up to: In an interview Wednesday on death row, Howard recalled the trooper pulling him over on U.S. 59 for a broken headlight. "How you doing?" the trooper asked Howard, who was armed with a 9 mm pistol. "But I was already in motion," Howard said. "I'd already shot as I hear him saying that."

Howard said the trooper earlier had pulled alongside of him, sped off, then was waiting over a hill on the side of the road as Howard drove past. The trooper then flicked on his lights and pulled him over, Howard said. "I felt like I was being taunted," Howard said, adding that his previous encounters with police, particularly in his hometown of Houston, had soured him on police officers.

Last words and such: Asked if he had a final statement, Howard looked at the victim's family and said he hoped that "this helps a little. I don't know how, but I hope it helps." Then he turned to friends and a brother who were among his witnesses, expressing love and thanking them for finding two of his children, who visited him on death row within the past week. "Love you all. Thank you so much," he said. As the drugs were administered, he lifted his head from the gurney and mouthed that he loved them, urged them to be strong and said "I'm going home."

Factoids: Howard was the...

42nd murderer executed in U.S. in 2005
986th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
14th murderer executed in Texas in 2005
350th murderer executed in Texas since 1976.