[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----TEXAS
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Dec 12 23:25:08 UTC 2006
Death Row dean has date with executioner
Ronald Chambers arrived on death row when Gerald Ford was president and
George W. Bush was still in business school. Since then, 380 of his fellow
prisoners have been executed in the nation's most active capital
Now time may finally be running out for Chambers, who is scheduled to die
next month after becoming the longest-serving death row inmate in Texas.
"I knew it was coming," said the 51-year-old Chambers, who was convicted
in the robbery, abduction and killing of one college student and the
beating of another.
"No rich folks here," he added. "I'm not mad at that. But again, if I had
the money, I wouldn't be here."
Chambers' longevity gets him the designation "Old School" by younger
"Patience is the key, to be here as long as I have," Chambers told The
Associated Press in a recent interview. "They give you space better than
they would for somebody their age. I don't know if it's respect. I call it
His encounters with other inmates are infrequent since death row inmates
are kept isolated. They spend only one hour a day outside their cells,
exercising alone in a small concrete enclosure.
Daughter visited recently
Chambers, a former house painter, recently received a visit from his
daughter, who brought her infant son to see his grandfather for the first
time. It was a rare meeting with a relative.
"Always nice to see people," Chambers said. "But then again at the same
time, I've been gone a long time."
Chambers' tenure makes him one of the longest-serving death row inmates in
the nation. The longest-serving death row prisoner is Gary Alvord, a
convicted murderer in Florida who was sentenced to death on April 9, 1974,
according to the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center.
In 1972, the Supreme Court struck down the death penalty because of
arbitrary sentencing procedures used by states. Florida lawmakers met
later that year to approve a new death penalty law. 4 years later, the
high court said states could use the death penalty if they added
Chambers arrived on death row on January 8, 1976, three days before his
21st birthday. "By now, I thought it would be one way or another," he
said. "I was looking for it to be executed or to get a life sentence."
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Chambers' conviction eight
years later, ruling that a state-appointed psychiatrist who questioned him
failed to warn Chambers his responses would be used against him.
Convicted a 3rd time in 1992
He was convicted again in 1985, but the Supreme Court threw out that
conviction four years later, ruling that prosecutors improperly excluded
three black people from his jury. Chambers is black.
He was convicted for a third time in 1992 and sentenced again to die.
Chambers' accomplice in the attacks, Clarence Ray Williams, pleaded guilty
to aggravated robbery and murder and is serving 2 life sentences.
Their victims, Mike McMahan and Deia Sutton, had been with friends at a
Dallas club on April 11, 1975. As the 2 students left, Chambers and
Williams confronted the pair at gunpoint and forced their way into the
Williams drove to a levee south of downtown Dallas where the captors
pushed the couple down an embankment. Chambers ordered them to stop near
the bottom, then fired 5 shots at them. As the attackers walked back up
the hill, McMahan called to Sutton to see if she was OK.
"Deia doesn't respond," Dan Hagood, the lead prosecutor at Chambers' 1992
trial, recalled. "She wants him to be quiet. Mike says something louder."
That's when the killers heard him and returned.
Hit with shotgun, strangled
Chambers pummeled McMahan in the back of the head 10 to 20 times with a
shotgun. Williams choked Sutton and tried to drown her in the muddy water.
Chambers also pounded her 3 times with the shotgun. Then they left.
Sutton told police she counted 15 times to 60 before moving, saw McMahan
dead nearby, then managed to walk a half-mile to a hotel to summon police.
"I am probably much better off than most, but only because my faith in God
and family get me through the rough times and nightmares," Sutton said
last week. "The mind is powerful and it replays the attack, the killing,
the fear over and over."
The long wait has also taken its toll on McMahan's parents, who are now in
their 80s and don't plan to travel to Texas to witness Chambers' lethal
"It has been horrible," said mother Bennie McMahan, of Kennewick, Wash.
"No matter what they do, it's not going to bring our son back. ... We
can't understand why this has been put off this long."
(source: Associated Press)
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