Saturday, February 08, 2003

February 6, 2003

Well Dunn...

Last Meal: Cheeseburger--extra cheese, pickles, onion, lettuce and salad dressing, tray of french fries, ketchup, 25 fried shrimp, 4 cans of pineapple juice, 2 banana splits with a bottle of Hershey's syrup and one jar of apple butter jam.

The skinny: Dunn, a member of a gang that terrorized gays in an east Texas town was executed for the abduction and murder of a 23-year-old man.

Gay Angles: Nicolas West was gunned down during an abduction and robbery near Tyler, Texas more than nine years ago. West, a medical clerk, was grabbed by three men in a gay cruising area. He was taken to a remote area of Smith County, was stripped, ordered to his knees and shot as many as 15 times. Police said West was targeted solely because he was gay.

Not Gay Angle: The former fast-food restaurant worker also denied West's killing was motivated by hate. "I don't hate homosexuals," Dunn, who was 19 at the time of the killing, said. "That's their right to be that way if they want to." "I didn't even know him, I didn't pick him up. I'm sad it happened but I still don't think I'm responsible for the actual shot that killed him. I never got that close. Nicolas West was still alive at the time we left."

Helpers: Dunn and two other men were later arrested and charged with the murder. Dunn always maintained he was not the triggerman. Donald Aldrich, believed to have been the leader, also is on death row for the West slaying. A third man, David Ray McMillan, who was 17 when the crime occurred, received a life prison term. Authorities believed Aldrich was the leader of what became know as the "CB gang" -- because they first became acquainted over CB radios.

Papillon Moment: Dunn was among seven death row inmates who tried to escape from prison Thanksgiving night 1998. Only one, Martin Gurule, cleared a pair of fences that surrounded the Ellis Unit prison northeast of Huntsville. He was found drowned a week later. He never made it off prison property. Because of that escape, the Texas death row was moved to another prison at Livingston, although executions are still carried out at the Walls Unit in Huntsville.

Last Words and such: Before being strapped down on a gurney where the lethal injection was administered, Dunn had a message for the West family. "I hope you can find it your heart to forgive me." In a written statement released following his death, he said the death penalty in Texas is broken. He said unqualified attorneys were appointed for him under state law.

"When the officials of any state, such as the state of Texas, has so much confidence in their justice system, mistakes will be made, and innocent people will be executed," he wrote. "Texas has executed innocent people, and tonight, Texas has shown just how broke and unfair its system is."

Factoid: Dunn was the eighth convicted killer executed in Texas this year and the 297th since the state restored the death penalty in 1982. Three more are scheduled for lethal injection later this month.

Former reporter Rebecca Mullens-Berkley: "The community was completely in shock over the brutality of the crime. But they were surprised to learn why the victim was targeted. And most people here in East Texas didn't want to believe that we had a gay community."