Saturday, October 20, 2007

August 15, 2007

...two men had "broken into the house and shot Mommy"...

Last Meal: Parr had no final meal request.

The skinny: Parr, 27, was executed for the rape and fatal shooting of a woman during a break-in at her home nearly 10 years ago.

More skinny: The eight-year old daughter of the victim testified at trial that she was awakened in the night at her home by her mother screaming, “Oh my God. Help me.”

She saw two men who had broken into the home, with bandanas over their face, one with a gun, telling she and her mother to get on the floor. As the girl, her six-year old brother, and her mother lay on the floor crying, they demanded to know the location of any jewelry.

The girl described how her mother was then raped, then shot twice in the head. The men threatened the girl then stole their car. After 30 minutes or so, the girl called her grandparents and told them that two men had "broken into the house and shot Mommy."

Much of the property that was stolen from the home was later recovered from the apartment of Monica Silva, Parr’s girlfriend. Silva recounted how Parr had confessed the burglary and murder to her.

Michael Jiminez, Parr’s half-brother and accomplice, also confessed and was later convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Jiminez said, “We were going to kill the kids, but the gun messed up.”

Parr was on parole from the Texas Youth Commission ("TYC") at the time of the murder. At his trial, evidence showed that he wrote a rap song about killing the woman and how he was planning to murder again.

The Jan. 21, 1998, slaying was the only homicide that year in Matagorda County, about 100 miles southwest of Houston. The timing — just days after Parr's 18th birthday — is significant because the U.S. Supreme Court has barred execution for those convicted of crimes committed when under 18. Parr's lawyers raised the age issue in earlier appeals but lost.

Not a model prisoner: After convicted of her murder and sent to death row, prison records show Parr continued to pile up disciplinary infractions.

Parr first threatened to harm female prison staff members and then broadened his threats to include others working at the facility, said Michelle Lyons, a spokeswoman for Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Because of the threats Parr had made to prison staff, Texas took the rare step of banning him from conducting death-row media interviews. "He flipped out when he found out we weren't going to do media stuff." But Parr went to the death chamber without incident, she said.

Steven Reis, the Matagorda County district attorney who prosecuted Parr, said the prisoner's history since being locked up was no surprise and shows jurors were correct to give him a death sentence. "He is the clearest example of how even death row inmates are dangerous," Reis said. "Many people suggest that once a defendant is incarcerated for life, they pose no danger to society. This misleading statement presumes that the people who work within the prisons are not members of society, which is preposterous. Those people are at risk from the likes of Parr."

Last words and such: Parr had only a brief final statement Wednesday evening as he received a lethal dose of drugs, responding "Yeah" when asked by the warden if he had anything to say. "I just want to tell my family I love y'all, man," he said. "Keep your head up, y'all."

Several distraught relatives, including his mother, were overcome with grief as they watched him die and sobbed uncontrollably.

Factoids: Parr was the....

33rd murderer executed in U.S. in 2007
1090th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
20th murderer executed in Texas in 2007
399th murderer executed in Texas since 1976

July 26, 2007

Last Meal: Grayson had a final meal request of an egg and cheese omelette and fresh sliced tomatoes.

The skinny: Grayson was executed for killing an 86-year-old woman in 1980.

More skinny: The body of the 86-year old victim was found by her son on Christmas Eve 1980. She lived alone and had been severely beaten and raped.

Police found a trail of playing cards leading from the victim’s home to the home of Victor Kennedy, a known burglar. Knowing that Kennedy and Grayson had been seen together the previous night, they eventually found Grayson hiding in bushes near his home. Jewelry from the home was found in his wallet.

On at least three instances, Grayson admitted to police that he had planned with Kennedy for a couple of weeks to rob the woman to get money for Christmas. They broke into her house, found her alone in bed, taped a pillowcase over her head, raped her repeatedly and beat her, demanding to know where the valuables were kept.

Grayson also testified at trial and said later that he was too drunk to remember what happened.

Investigators found Grayson's blood-splattered shirt hidden under a rock near his home. The blood stains matched the victim's blood type.

Kennedy was also convicted of capital murder in a separate trial and was executed in 1999.

Leading up to: Anti-death penalty groups appealed to Alabama Gov. Bob Riley for a stay of execution until DNA testing could be done. They said the state only provided Grayson's original lawyer, Richard Bell, with $500 to hire experts and conduct the defense.

But Riley rejected a plea for DNA testing and said in a statement on Wednesday that "no new evidence has come to light that would warrant either a reprieve or a commutation." "DNA testing would not exonerate him even if there is no DNA evidence that he raped Mrs. Orr. Non-DNA evidence of the convicted murderer's guilt ... is abundant," Riley said.

"The killer's own numerous confessions, his own trial testimony where he himself admitted guilt and the overwhelming physical evidence, left a jury no doubt he perpetrated a cruel and monstrous crime upon a helpless elderly woman," he said.

The day of: As the execution hour approached Thursday, Grayson read two newspapers and his mail and watched TV, requesting a last meal of egg and cheese omelet with fresh sliced tomatoes. He met with his spiritual adviser, his sister, two nephews and two nieces, and three attorneys. His mood was described by prison officials as good, laughing and talking with staff. He spent most of his time, however, on the telephone brought to his cell. In a will, he left his few possessions, including a radio and TV, to four fellow inmates.

Last words and such: During his execution, Grayson raised his head to look at Esther Brown, an anti-death penalty activist who had become his friend, and smiled. "I love you," she mouthed, and he answered in kind. Asked by the warden if he had a statement, he answered, "Peace" and smiled again.

As witnesses were escorted out of the witness rooms, Brown stood and said, under her breath, "Bloody murderers."

Factoids: Grayson was the...

32nd murderer executed in U.S. in 2007
1089th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
2nd murderer executed in Alabama in 2007
37th murderer executed in Alabama since 1976

July 24, 2007

Johnson had no final meal request.

The skinny:Johnson, 44, was executed for the fatal shootings of two teenagers 17 years ago.

More skinny: In the early morning hours Johnson approached the two teens at a convenience store and asked them for a ride.

The store clerk saw the victims leave in the pickup, with Johnson seated between them. When they were about 4 miles from the store, Johnson forced the pair out of the vehicle at gunpoint and shot each of them several times.

One victim ran away from the scene but Johnson chased him for a distance of about 350 feet before catching and killing him. Johnson then stole the truck and drove to Austin to see his girlfriend, who worked at a topless club. He told her that he had killed two boys. He later dumped the stolen truck in San Marcos, Texas, and sold the murder weapon for cocaine.

He was arrested after two weeks and he claimed that he killed the boys in self-defense after the pair pulled a gun and made racial threats against him. Johnson was black, his two victims white..

The bodies were found beside a rural road. One had been shot four times, the other twice.

Before the trial: While in Harris County Jail awaiting trial in the capital murders, Johnson hit a fellow inmate during an argument over a newspaper, fought with another inmate over cleaning supplies, struck an inmate with a writing pen, piercing the inmate’s lip, and broke a broom handle over the head of another inmate.

Leading up to:"I am innocent by reason of self-defense," Johnson said in an interview from death row the week before his execution. "The only difference between me and James Byrd Jr. is that I lived," he said. Byrd was a black man who was dragged to death behind a pickup truck in Jasper County in 1998. Juries found three white men guilty of capital murder in Byrd's killing. Two were sent to death row, and the third was given a life sentence.

Johnson had told prison officials he was sure he'd be spared the executioner. "He was pretty confident his appeals would keep him alive," said Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark, who saw Johnson when he arrived at the death house.

Johnson got about an extra 30 minutes while the U.S. Supreme Court considered his final appeal. Then the appeal was rejected, and the 44-year-old Johnson became the 19th Texas prisoner put to death this year.

Last words and such: "It's been a joy and a blessing," he told a friend who watched through a window in the death chamber. "Give everybody my regards and my love. I'll see you in eternity. Father, take me home. I'm gone, baby. I'm ready to go."

Six relatives of his victims, including each of their mothers, watched through another window but Johnson never looked at them. They declined to speak with reporters following the lethal injection.

Factoids: Johnson was the...

31st murderer executed in U.S. in 2007
1088th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
19th murderer executed in Texas in 2007
398th murderer executed in Texas since 1976

Death penalty opponents noted Johnson was the 100th person executed after being given a death sentence by a Harris County jury. The occasion was marked by about a half-dozen anti-death-penalty protestors, who stood on the sidewalk outside District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal's home for about an hour Tuesday evening.