Saturday, June 09, 2007

March 7, 2007


Last Meal: Nichols had no final meal request.

The skinny: Nichols, 45, who spent 25 years on Texas death row, was executed by lethal injection for a 1980 murder of a 70-year old deli worker. Prison officials had to carry him to the death chamber.

More skinny: Nichols and Willie Ray Williams drove to Joseph’s Deli in Houston. Both men were armed and pointed handguns at a deli employee who was behind the counter. When the man saw the guns he began to bend over or squat down, both Nichols and Williams opened fire.

Nichols and Williams ran to the door and Nichols went out. Williams turned and fired once more at man then went behind the counter and grabbed the deli’s cash box, then ran out of the deli. Nichols and Williams then joined accomplices Charlotte Parker and Evelyn Harvey in a waiting car and drove away. Nichols told Parker and Harvey “he had shot the man” and “he thought he shot him in the chest,” and that Williams said he had run back into the deli and shot the man again.

The man died from a single gunshot wound.

Nichols was on felony probation for theft at the time of the murder and evidence was also presented that he had engaged in a string of robberies just before the murder.

Accomplice Willie Ray Williams was also sentenced to death in a separate trial and was executed in 1995.

The single bullet: Nichols' execution came despite appeals and protests from death penalty opponents that focused on the fact one bullet wound killed the man, and that Williams was prosecuted and convicted of being the shooter. Nichols, who said he'd fled the store when the fatal shot was fired, also was labeled as the shooter by Harris County district attorneys who prosecuted the case.

Prosecutors defended Nichols' conviction, saying Texas' law of parties makes non-triggermen just as culpable in crimes like this murder.

"I never denied being there," Nichols said recently from death row, "I'm not telling you I'm not guilty of anything." But he insisted that when Williams fired the fatal shot, "I had already left." In the robbery, Williams "got some change," he said. "I got nothing."

Nichols missed by 30 days a change in Texas law that would have given him an automatic life term when jurors were unable to reach unanimity on a death sentence. Instead, he was tried a second time.

Last words and such: Nichols described by Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials as uncooperative throughout the day, had to be carried to the death chamber and strapped to the gurney by the five-man tie-down team, but did not put up a fight, then used his final statement for a profanity-filled diatribe against a supervisory corrections officer.

When the warden asked Nichols if he wanted to make a last statement, he answered, "Yes, yes I do." He then mentioned the officer on death row by name and uttered a string of obscenities about her. Then he said, "That's all I got to say." He winked toward a window where his parents and three brothers watched.

The similarities between Nichols and his longtime friend, Willie Ray Williams, ended in their final moments. Williams in 1995 spoke of "love and peace of Islam" as he was executed.

Factoids: Nichols was the...

9th murderer executed in U.S. in 2007
1066th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
8th murderer executed in Texas in 2007
387th murderer executed in Texas since 1976

The lethal injection was the second carried out in Texas in as many days.