[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----TEXAS
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Oct 31 01:44:20 CDT 2007
Testimony describes events leading to officer's slaying----Fort Worth:
Court hears that suspect led police on chase, then to shootout
2 days before he shot a police officer, Stephen Lance Heard was running
from the police, a former Lake Worth officer testified Monday on the first
day of Mr. Heard's capital murder trial. Mr. Heard is accused of killing
Fort Worth Officer Hank Nava in November 2005.
Mike Luther, the former Lake Worth officer, testified that he was one of
several officers involved in a truck chase with Mr. Heard on Nov. 27,
2005, at speeds that reached 100 mph. They wanted him in connection with
the theft of gas from a station.
When authorities stopped the vehicle, Mr. Heard had fled on foot. Police
arrested 2 women inside the truck and got information from them about the
"They said that the subject who had run from the vehicle had a weapon,"
said Officer Luther, who now works for the North Richland Hills Police
The next time authorities had contact with Mr. Heard was Nov. 29 when
Officer Nava and two other officers got involved in a shootout at a mobile
home in far Northwest Fort Worth that left Officer Nava mortally wounded.
Police went there because a suspected identity thief was visiting the
Prosecutors say Mr. Heard, 41, who had prior convictions for theft and
drug-related offenses, shot Officer Nava to make good on his vow never to
return to prison.
"I'm not going back to jail. That was this defendant's motto," Tarrant
County Assistant District Attorney Betty Arvin said during Monday's
opening statements. "He did everything in his power to make his wish come
true - all at the expense of Hank Nava."
Officer Nava, 39, died Dec. 1, 2005, two days after he was shot.
Defense attorney Mark Daniel called Officer Nava a fine public servant and
said that his death was a tragedy. But he said that the circumstances
surrounding his death did not amount to capital murder.
Mr. Heard, who was on parole for unlawful use of a car, did not know that
the 3 men who had come to the trailer that day were officers, Mr. Daniel
A gunbattle ensued, Mr. Daniel said, with officers doing most of the
shooting. "34 shots were fired - 9 by Nava," Mr. Daniel said, adding that
Officer Nava's partners fired an additional 25 shots.
He said his client "acted consistently with what the law allows," though
he conceded Mr. Heard should not have had a weapon.
"There was no reason for him to know who was coming into that trailer,"
Mr. Daniel said, adding that Mr. Heard "fired a blind, wild shot - meant
to go nowhere."
That shot, prosecutors said, struck Officer Nava.
Mr. Heard, Mr. Daniel said, fled the trailer home following the shooting.
"He was trembling and shaking like a frightened animal," Mr. Daniel said.
Mr. Heard's trial is being heard in the courtroom of Criminal District
Court Judge Elizabeth Berry under tight restrictions. Testimony is
expected to last about 3 weeks.
If Mr. Heard is convicted, prosecutors have said they will seek the death
(source: The Dallas Morning News)
Temple brothers owned many shotguns, witness says
Contradicting the assertions of David Mark Temple's defense lawyer, a
family friend testified this morning that Temple and his brothers owned 4
12-gauge shotguns, including a 13-inch sawed-off. Prosecutors are likely
to argue at closing that any of the shotguns could have been the weapon
that killed Temple's wife.
Clint Stockdick, a close friend of David Temple's younger brother Kevin,
testified that while growing up with the Temples, he saw a 12-gauge
shotgun with a barrel that had been blown out. He later saw the sawed-off
shotgun with padding and a duct tape forming a pistol grip.
Temple's defense attorney, Dick DeGuerin, said in his opening statements
that the only 12-gauge shotgun that Temple owned had the barrel blown out
when he was a child and the gun was lost, presumably thrown away.
David Temple is accused of shooting his wife in the back of the head on
Jan. 11, 1999. 8 months pregnant, Belinda Tracie Temple was killed with a
12-gauge shotgun.The weapon was never found.
Because DeGuerin said that Temple owned only a 20-gauge shotgun,
prosecutors are likely to ask the defense to explain the 4 12-gauge
Growing up on a rice farm and owning shotguns from the time he was 7,
Stockdick, 35, said he hunted with Kevin in Katy every weekend and
sometimes during the week. David also went along regularly.
Stockdick testified in-depth about repeatedly reloading 12-gauge and
20-gauge hulls. He said he never saw a Temple brother with a 20-gauge
He also said David Temple bought a 12-gauge shotgun from Everett's jewelry
and loan, across from Katy High School, in the years after he graduated in
1990. He said Temple owned at least 3 12-gauge shotguns through the years,
2 pump shotguns and a semi-automatic shotgun.
During cross-examination, DeGuerin worked to show that the guns were
usually in the hands of Kevin Temple, not David. He also noted that
Stockdick last saw the sawed-off shotgun in 1986, and did not know what
happened to it.
The trial continues today in visiting State District Judge Doug Shaver's
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Jury dismssed in KFC case
Jurors in the Kentucky Fried Chicken mass murders case have been dismissed
but say they won't talk about testimony they heard over the past 2 weeks.
Convicted burglar Romeo Pinkerton agreed Monday to plead guilty to 5
murder charges in exchange for life in prison.
State District Judge J. Clay Gossett said a gag order he imposed in
Pinketon's case remains in effect because Pinkerton's cousin, Darnell
Hartsfield, still must be tried for the 5 killings 24 years ago that
became one of the longest unsolved mass murders in Texas.
The 2 Tyler men were accused of robbing and abducting five people from a
KFC restaurant in Kilgore in 1983, then fatally shooting them about 15
miles away. Relatives of the five victims say they're satisfied with the
(source: Associated press)
KFC family members find closure, anger-----Plea deal spares Pinkerton
Words of anger, vindication and closure poured Monday from the witness
stand of the 4th District Court as relatives of the Kentucky Fried Chicken
murder victims talked about the crime's effect on their lives.
In a plea deal, defendant Romeo Pinkerton received five life sentences to
be served simultaneously. He had been on trial for 2 weeks in a Bowie
Relatives of each victim had the opportunity to express how the killings
changed their lives.
Kathy Hamilton, sister of victim David Maxwell, said the murder of her
brother ruined her father's health and led another sibling to commit
"This case haunted (my father) until the day he died," Hamilton said.
"You're not only a murderer, but a coward."
Lana Childs, married to Maxwell at the time of his death, said she had
almost went with him to the restaurant the night of the killings. They had
left on a motorcycle, but he turned around and brought her back home
because "3 people couldn't ride," referring to their unborn child.
"When you're 18 years old and you get married, you don't think bad things
are going to happen," Childs said softly.
She said she was not able to tell her family that her husband was missing
24 years ago, and she did not truly accept Maxwell was dead until she
could grasp his hand before his funeral.
"I wanted to say thank you because (the guilty plea) answers a lot of
questions in my mind," she said.
Childs embraced her son, David Maxwell Jr., as she stepped down from the
stand and returned to her seat in the courtroom.
Jack Hughes, married to Opie Hughes at the time of her death, said he
hoped Pinkerton would live 100 more years because he wanted to see him
"rot every day of (his) life."
"When you draw your last breath, that's when your punishment will begin,"
Merle Hughes, Jack and Opie Hughes' son, wrote in a prepared statement
read to the court that Pinkerton deserved "a front seat in hell."
Once the family completed their statements, Judge J. Clay Gossett ordered
Rusk County Sheriff Glen Deason and deputies to lead Pinkerton out of the
"May God be with him," Gossett said after Pinkerton had exited.
Gossett said he had learned of the plea deal late last week, and he had
scheduled Monday as a day off for the jury because of the pending deal.
The deal was finalized early Monday afternoon.
All of the families approved of the deal, Gossett said. No previous
announcement about it had been made because Gossett was concerned media
coverage might affect the jury's deliberations, he said.
"Pinkerton's admission of guilt ends decades of uncertainty for the
families of 5 innocent victims," said Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott
in a press release. "For too long, justice eluded these families."
Daryll Bennett, a Longview-based attorney who represented James Earl
Mankins Jr. when he was a suspect in the case, said the plea deal was "a
victory for both sides." He said the deal would keep Pinkerton from the
death penalty, win a conviction for the prosecution and bring an end to 24
years of misery for the families.
Bennett said some of Mankins' relatives were present as Pinkerton's plea
was announced. He said the plea was a relief to the Mankins family.
"It vindicates their son," he said.
Pinkerton's cousin, Darnell Hartsfield, 46, also will face capital murder
charges in the killings. Hartsfield's trial date has not been set.
Timeline of events
- Sept. 21, 1983: Convicted burglar Romeo Pinkerton of Tyler is paroled.
- Sept.23, 1983: Five people - 4 employees and 1 friend of a worker - are
reported missing at 11:30 p.m. from the Kentucky Fried Chicken in Kilgore.
- Sept. 24, 1983: At 10:20 a.m., an oilfield worker finds the bodies of
the 5 missing people along an oil lease road
- Feb. 13, 1984: Pinkerton's cousin, Darnell Hartsfield is sentenced to 9
years for burglary and 25 years for robbery.
- May 8, 1984: Pinkerton is sent to prison for 25 years for January 1984
Smith County burglary while on parole.
- Jan. 27, 1988: Pinkerton paroled.
- June 8, 1989: Pinkerton parole revoked for April 1988 burglary while on
parole. He gets 50 years.
- March 1995: Rusk County grand jury begins hearing KFC testimony.
- April 27, 1995: James Earl Mankins Jr., son of a former state
legislator, indicted on 5 counts of capital murder after fingernail
recovered from clothing of KFC victim said to match Mankins.
- Aug. 11, 1995: Hartsfield taken to prison with 40-year sentence from
Smith County for delivery of controlled substance and engaging in
organized criminal activity.
- Nov. 13, 1995: Charges against Mankins dropped after fingernail evidence
determined to not be his.
- Dec. 1, 1998: Pinkerton paroled.
- December 2000: Rusk County Sheriff James Stroud hires a former FBI
agent, George Kieny, to work on the KFC case. He finds evidence scattered
at labs from Austin to Dallas.
Sept. 11, 2001: Kieny requests DNA test on blood-stained box that held
cash register tape rolls at KFC restaurant. The splatter on the white box,
about the size of a dress-shirt gift box, had never been tested.
Hartsfield's blood is identified.
Sept. 2003: Rusk County grand jury begins hearing KFC testimony. Five
months later, grand jurors released.
- Nov. 10, 2004: Hartsfield indicted on aggravated perjury charges for
lying about whether he was in KFC restaurant the night of the abductions
- Dec. 8, 2004: Pinkerton paroled.
- July 30, 2005: Pinkerton arrested in Tyler in school burglary.
- Oct. 26, 2005: Jury convicts Hartsfield of aggravated perjury; he is
sentenced to life because of 6 earlier felony convictions.
- Nov. 17, 2005: Texas attorney general announces capital murder
indictments against Hartsfield and Pinkerton in the KFC slayings.
- Aug. 5, 2006: Pinkerton's capital murder trial moved from Henderson to
- Aug. 6: Jury selection begins.
- Oct. 15: Pinkerton's trial begins in New Boston.
- Monday: Pinkerton pleads guilty to 5 charges of murder, escapes death
At a glance
- Background: 5 people were abducted from a Kentucky Fried Chicken on
Kilgore the night of Sept. 23, 1983. They were later found dead on an oil
lease in rural Rusk County about 14 miles from the restaurant.
- Guilty: Romeo Pinkerton, 49, of Tyler pleaded guilty to the 5 counts of
the lesser charge of 1st-degree murder in the deaths of Mary Tyler, 37;
Opie Ann Hughes, 39; Joey Johnson, 20; David Maxwell, 20; and Monte
Landers, 19. Had Pinkerton been convicted of capital murder, he could have
been sentenced to death. The case was moved to Bowie County, about 100
miles from Kilgore, because of publicity.
Previous Suspects Have Sought to Clear Their Names
Over the years, people identified as suspects in the KFC case have said
they want to clear their name.
Gregory Muse was questioned by a grand jury about his suspected
involvement, and voluntarily submitted a DNA sample to investigators.
In 2003, Muse, who was then incarcerated in Belo I Unit outside of
Palestine on an attempted murder conviction, told the Tyler Paper in an
exclusive interview that he was innocent.
"I want people to know Im talking about this because I didn't do it, and I
want to ease my mother's pain," he said. "These are some serious
allegations. This kind of thing can get you the death penalty."
Muse said he feared being "framed" for the murders.
"I told them to do all the tests they wanted to because mines (DNA) not
going to be there."
In Oct. 2005, Jimmy Mankins Jr. of Kilgore, who was once identified as the
"prime suspect," said being wrongly associated with the crime "ruined my
life, my name and my family's name."
His attorney, Darrell Benett Bennett, said Mankins was a "scapegoat."
Investigators focused on Mankins, the son of a former state
representative, after they learned he had had a torn fingernail. Parts of
a torn nail were found on the body of one of the victims.
DNA evidence proved the nail did not belong to Mankins.
"DNA is a wonderful thing. I imagine if it wasnt for DNA then they
(prosecutors) would have convicted me and sent me to death row. I could
have easily been executed," he said in the 2005 interview.
State District Judge Clay Gossett has ordered that Mankins' record be
expunged from all mention of the KFC indictments.
(source: Tyler Morning Telegraph)
Father Faces Capital Murder For Son's Death
A Travis County jury could soon decide the fate of a 22-year-old man
accused of killing his son.
Zavian Thomas faces charges of capital murder and injury to a child for
the death of his 4-month-old son, Zavian Thomas Jr.
The jury got the case around 10:45 a.m. Tuesday.
"I feel like everything's going to be OK," said Ethel Thomas, the
defendant's mother. "I know it is. It's going to be out as soon as the
jury gets done, and I'm not expecting them to be out very long. I think
The defense called more doctors Monday, who said Zavian Thomas could not
have shaken his son to death in the incident that happened in a Northeast
Austin apartment complex in May 2006.
Thomas and his family contend the baby choked to death from a juice
The defense called an ophthalmologist, who said the baby's retina did not
show signs of Shaken Baby Syndrome.
The prosecution tried to discredit the doctor in front of the jury by
pointing out some of his fees for testifying.
All this has taken a toll on Thomas' family, who has stood by his side the
"You had to know him and see him with this child," said Ethel Thomas. "To
know that he would never do anything like that. He loved his baby, he
loved his baby."
Thomas' family said they expect the jury to begin deliberating Tuesday.
If convicted of capital murder, Thomas faces the possibility of life in
prison without parole.
If convicted of injury to a child, he faces a life sentence with the
possibility of parole.
(source: KXAN News)
Opening Halls of Justice
It may be impossible to remove the stain that Sharon Keller, presiding
judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, has placed on the state's
judiciary. But 2 lawyer-driven actions might keep it from spreading.
More than 300 members of the Texas bar joined a petition last week asking
Judge Keller's court to adopt modern procedures and allow e-mailed filings
in death penalty cases. Of course it should.
Electronic filing in life-or-death cases might have avoided Judge Keller's
disgraceful decision Sept. 25 in which she refused a condemned man's plea
for a 20-minute extension beyond the court's usual 5 p.m. closing. The
man, convicted killer Michael Richard, was executed minutes later, despite
indications that he had a strong basis for appeal.
His attorneys needed the extra time because computer glitches prevented
their making paper copies, as required. Such considerations should never
stand in the way of appeal when a life is in the balance. Most states now
have e-mail filing provisions, and the Supreme Court of Texas allows them
in civil matters .
If the Court of Criminal Appeals hesitates, state lawmakers could force
the issue in their 2009 session by inserting an imperative in the Code of
Criminal Procedures. It would be a disappointment if things came to that.
Separately, lawyers across the state are seeking to have Judge Keller
disciplined as a result of her decision to bar the courthouse door. One of
the complaints filed with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct
accurately states that she is a "source of scandal to the citizens of the
state." It might add that she makes the nation's leading death penalty
state look overeager to carry out its grim business.
Her decision is particularly hard to stomach because other judges who were
working late Sept. 25 said they would have reviewed the post-deadline
Judge Keller's judgment is morally offensive. Texans deserve to know
whether it also offended legal or judicial standards that seek to keep the
court system open and fair.
(source: Editorial, Dallas Morning News)
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