Saturday, September 20, 2003


Races of killer, victim made for rare execution

By Michael Graczyk
Associated Press

HOUSTON — When convicted killer Larry Allen Hayes went to his death last week, his lethal injection marked the first time since capital punishment resumed in Texas 21 years ago that a white person was executed for killing a black person.

State records go back to 1924, when Texas took over execution duty from individual counties. They show no white inmate executed for killing a black person, although there are three instances where the victims, all women, are listed as race unknown, said Mike Viesca, spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Most crimes are white against white and black against black, and more than half of all people executed in the United States have been white for crimes against whites, said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, an organization opposed to capital punishment.

But when the crime involves a black offender and a white victim, it's more likely the black offender will receive the death penalty than when it's a white offender and a black victim, Dieter said.

Hayes was convicted of killing two people — his wife, Mary, and store clerk Rosalyn Robinson, 18. Mary Hayes was white; Robinson was black.

At least three white men are on death row now in Texas for killing a black person.

John William King and Lawrence Russell Brewer are awaiting execution for killing James Byrd Jr., in Jasper in 1998. A third, Lee Taylor, reportedly a member of the Aryan Brotherhood, was sentenced to die for killing a black inmate in 1999 at the Telford Unit in Bowie County in northeast Texas.

Dieter points out that 97 percent of all prosecutors around the country, who decide whether to seek the death penalty, are white and the majority of jurors are likely to be white.

NAACP Legal Defense Fund statistics show nationally there are only a dozen cases where a white offender was executed for killing a black person. That's just over 1 percent of the U.S. executions carried out since the Supreme Court allowed the death penalty to resume.