Huntsville

Texas executes Tommy Lynn Sells


april 4, 2014

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — A serial killer has been put to death in Texas after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his lawyers’ demand that the state release information about where it gets its lethal injection drug.
Tommy Lynn Sells was executed Thursday evening. He became the first inmate injected with a dose of newly replenished pentobarbital that Texas prison officials obtained to replace an expired supply of the sedative.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials pronounced him dead at 6:27 p.m., about 13 minutes after he was injected with a fatal dose of pentobarbital.

As he waited word on his U.S. Supreme Court appeal Thursday, Sells was kept in a small holding cell just outside the execution chamber in Huntsville, said Jason Clark, spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Sells was quiet, reserved and accompanied by a chaplain. He had access to a phone, Clark said.

His attorneys had hoped the courts would force prison officials to reveal more information about the pharmacy that supplied the drug. They argued the new pentobarbital could lead to unconstitutional pain.

Lawyers for Sells argued, in part, that, “the increasing scarcity of execution drugs — and consequent concerns about the quality and states’ desperate efforts to keep the source of drugs secret — have become the central feature of botched executions and Eighth Amendment concerns.”

The state prison agency wants the information kept secret to protect the pharmacy from threats of violence.
A Val Verde County jury sent Sells, 49, to death row in 2000 for the December 1999 stabbing death of 13-year-old Kaylene Harris in her family’s trailer home near Del Rio. He confessed after a friend who was sleeping over that night survived having her own throat slit and helped identify him to authorities.

He later pleaded guilty in Bexar County to strangling 9-year-old Mary Beatrice Perez, who was abducted from a Fiesta event at Market Square in 1999. District Attorney Susan Reed agreed to drop her bid for a second death sentence, instead settling on life in prison, in exchange for the plea.

Court records show Sells claimed to have committed as many as 70 killings in states including Alabama, California, Arizona, Kentucky and Arkansas.

The families of both slain children were on a list to witness the execution. Kaylene’s witnesses included her father, brother and two grandmothers. Also present were the mother and grandmother of Mary.

Sells’ execution is the fifth lethal injection this year in Texas, the nation’s busiest state for the death penalty.

Source: AP, April 3, 2014

TEXAS – EXECUTION RAY JASPER – March 19, 2014 at 6 PM CDT EXECUTED 6.31 PM


Officials announced Jasper dead at 6:31 Wednesday, after a lethal dose of pentobarbital was injected into his system.

exExecution Watch with Ray Hill
can be heard on KPFT 90.1 FM,
in Galveston at 89.5 and Livingston at 90.3,
as well as on the net here
from 6:00 PM CT to 7:00 PM CT

No one from Jasper’s family was in Huntsville Wednesday to witness the execution. No one from the Alejandro family, who are against the death penalty, attended either. They instead opted to spend the evening together in San Antonio.

March 19, 2014

CORRECTS DATE TO MARCH 19 - This undated photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice shows Ray Jasper III. Jasper, convicted in the 1998 murder of David Alejandro, is set for lethal injection Wednesday evening, March 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Texas Department of Criminal Justice)  uncredited

HUNTSVILLE — San Antonio rap musician Ray Jasper has never disputed his involvement in an attack and robbery more than 15 years ago that left a 33-year-old recording studio owner dead.

But Jasper testified at his capital murder trial that although he cut the throat of David Alejandro, a partner was responsible for the victim’s fatal stab wounds.

A Bexar County jury wasn’t convinced and deliberated only 15 minutes at Jasper’s January 2000 trial before convicting him. The panel then took less than two hours to decide he should be put to death.

Jasper’s lethal injection with a dose of pentobarbital was set for this evening.

Jasper, 33, would be the third Texas inmate put to death this year and among at least five scheduled to die over the next five weeks in the nation’s busiest capital punishment state.

Lawyers for Jasper, who is black, argued that the punishment should be stopped to examine whether prosecutors had improperly removed a black man from possibly serving on his trial jury. San Antonio-based U.S. District Court Judge Fred Biery rejected that appeal on Tuesday.

Jasper was 18 at the time of the November 1998 attack. Records showed he had a criminal past beginning about age 15.

Evidence at his trial showed he’d been expelled from school for marijuana possession, then was expelled from an alternative school. Authorities said he also had attacked an off-duty police officer who tried to stop him during an attempted burglary and led police on a high-speed chase.

Jasper had previous sessions with Alejandro, who was the lead singer of a San Antonio Christian-based music group in addition to running his recording studio. At his trial, Jasper described Alejandro as “one of the nicest people I ever met in my life.”

“I’m not a killer and I didn’t do it,” he testified during the punishment phase of his trial.

He refused interview requests from The Associated Press as his execution date neared, but reiterated his claim of innocence in a letter published on the Gawker website.

Jeff Mulliner, one of the prosecutors at Jasper’s trial, said it was undisputed that Jasper organized and participated in the most premeditated murder he’d seen.

Testimony showed that a week before the attack, Jasper purchased large bags he intended to use to hold stolen studio gear. He recruited two friends, Steven Russell and Doug Williams, brought two vans to the studio and reserved time under the pretense of a rap recording session.

“This was not a spur-of-the-moment thing,” Mulliner said.

As their session was ending, Jasper approached Alejandro from behind and slashed his throat from ear to ear with a kitchen knife he’d hidden in his jacket.

“Anybody on the planet that looks, presently or past, at the photos of David Alejandro’s corpse and saw the gash to his neck, it would be impossible to cut someone that deep and that badly across the entire path of the neck without having specific intent to cause his death,” Mulliner said. “He just didn’t quite get it done.”

Mulliner said Jasper then held Alejandro while Russell stabbed him some two dozen times, leaving the knife buried to its hilt in their victim’s body.

Evidence showed Jasper used a black sheet he brought from home to cover Alejandro, then began loading recording equipment worth as much as $30,000 into the vans.

When an off-duty officer unexpectedly showed up and questioned the activity, Jasper fled on foot. He was arrested a few days later and confessed to planning the crime and recruiting two accomplices. Court documents showed his confession was corroborated by his girlfriend, who testified he’d told her days earlier that he planned to steal the equipment and kill Alejandro.

DNA evidence and fingerprints also tied Jasper to the slaying scene. The gear they’d hoped to sell was left behind.

Williams, now 35, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Russell, 34, also is serving life after taking a plea deal.

Next week, a Dallas-area man, Anthony Doyle, 29, is set for execution for the robbery and beating death of a woman who was delivering food to his home.

Read Ray Jasper’s final letter here.

From Ray Jasper’s book called Walking in the Rain

THE CHAMBER

some want to live
some want to die

blood drips
like sweat from a forehead

voices scream for justice

hired for murder

merciless people

their apologies were no good
your ears would not hear
your heart would not love

death
death is all you love

the grave is your mistress
death is all you love

death is all you love

The victim’s brother, Steven Alejandro, wrote a letter back to Gawker about the incident claiming Jasper was not repentant and still did not take blame for the death. 

Read Steven Alejandro’s letter in full below:

“Previously, a post from Hamilton Nolan on Gawker shared a statement from a Texas Death Row inmate named Ray Jasper. The letter from Jasper is touted as the last statement Jasper may make on earth. Huffpo has it as a must read. Jasper is on Death Row for his involvement in a stabbing murder committed during a robbery in November of 1998. I’m about to comment on Jasper’s statement without having read it. In fact more than likely I will never read it. I imagine it is not much more than the statement he made in court to my family. My name is Steven Alejandro, and it is our brother, son, grandchild and cousin, the forever 33 year old, David Mendoza Alejandro who was killed by Jasper and his two accomplices.

The facts of the case are readily available on the internet, but allow me to plainly restate them here. David was killed on November 29 1998. It was roughly seven to ten days before this date when, unbeknownst to him, David received his death sentence. Jasper, according to his testimony, needed money so that he could move out of his parents house and into an apartment with the mother of his child, his girlfriend. Jasper decided to rob David.

Jasper was an aspiring rapper who had been recording music at David’s self owned recording studio. (An important note here is that Jasper was not a business partner of David’s as has been claimed elsewhere.) This was a self-made independently owned recording studio, by the way. David had leased an old apartment complex office, and with his own hands, and the help of our father, fashioned it into a affordable space for struggling local musicians. He offered low rates for artists who, much like himself, could not afford more spacious digs. My brother had no apartment of his own; he would crash on a couch at our parents house or, more often, sleep on a makeshift bed on the floor in the studio. He eschewed nicer living quarters so that he could pour his available money into the studio.

Ray Jasper knew well that he could not rob David’s studio equipment without being fingered to the police by him later. So it was, seven to ten days prior, Jasper made the decision to end David’s life. He enlisted the help of two others. That night (and this is all from on-the-record courtroom testimony and statements he gave police in his confession) the three men made the recording appointment. They were there for roughly two hours working, recording, David sitting at the control console. Jasper admits to then grabbing David by his hair, yanking his head back and pulling the kitchen knife he brought with him across David’s throat, slicing it open. David jumped up and grabbed at his own throat from which blood was flowing. He began to fight for his life. At this point Jasper called to one of his accomplices who rushed into the room with another knife. His accomplice then stabbed David Mendoza Alejandro 25 times. David collapsed, already dead or dying—we will never know. The final stab wound was at the back of David’s neck; the knife plunged in and left there.

He was then covered with a sheet and the three men proceeded to tear out as much equipment as they could and load it all into the van they drove there. As they were loading they were spotted by an off-duty Sheriff who called out to them. They took off running, and were eventually caught. The evidence was overwhelming; DNA, fingerprints, confessions. This is and was an open and shut case, as they say in all the cheesy TV murder investigation shows. One defendant was offered the choice of a trial by jury, which could end in a death sentence, or he could avoid the death penalty by admitting his guilt. He chose to admit his guilt. Jasper, given the same choice, apparently decided to take his chance with a jury trial.

During the trial, testimony from the Medical Examiner revealed that it was not technically Jasper’s injury to David that caused death, but the subsequent 25 stab wounds. Jasper’s defense team seized upon this as a defense tactic against a murder charge, and Jasper joined that opinion. Never mind that Jasper delivered the first attack. At one point while he was on the stand testifying, he asked to speak to us— David’s family members. He looked us square in the eye and exclaimed “I didn’t kill your son. He was one of the nicest guys I ever met, but I did not kill him.” Jasper’s reasoning was that since the M.E. cited the 25 stab wounds as the cause of death and not the throat slit committed by Jasper, he was technically not guilty of murder. You can make of that what you will, but it seems any reasonable person would hold Jasper as culpable in the murder as the other defendant who finished off David. So the long and short is this final statement is based in a fantasy that Jasper has convinced himself of. All evidence to the contrary, it seems he denies he is a murderer and therefore he feels he should not be executed for the crime.

And now to the Death Penalty issue. I must stress that I speak only for myself here and for no other family member. Our extended family is much like the rest of the United States. We are a large American family. There are Liberals and there are Conservatives in our midst. There are pro-death penalty and anti-death penalty folks in our tree as well. I am one of those opposed to the death penalty. As far as I can remember I have been in opposition to it. My brother David was not opposed to the implementation of the death penalty. We used to debate the topic often. Sometimes vigorously. During the trial the prosecutors in the case decided to use me on the witness stand in an effort to give David a voice. David was one year older than me. We had been roommates the whole time we lived with our parents. I was the Best Man at his wedding. I hesitate to say I was happy to testify, since it remains the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. But I willingly agreed to testify on David’s behalf. At the trial, the first thing the prosecution wanted to do was to introduce David to the Jury through my words, so I was the first witness called.

After I was sworn in and sat in the chair, the prosecutor handed me a picture of David. It was a postmortem picture. It was a close up of David’s face from the neck up. His eyes still open. The gash from Jasper’s knife visible. I let out a gasp and when the Prosecutor asked me what the picture was of I told him, “it’s my brother, David.” Through tearful testimony, I tried my best to bring my brother back to life in that courtroom. When I got off the stand I reached for my father’s embrace and sobbed as I had never before and have not since.

As I wrote earlier, this was an open and shut case and the jury did not take long to return a guilty verdict. All that was left was the punishment. During the punishment phase the prosecutor outlines the State’s case for the death penalty and, of course, the defense argues for the sparing of the defendant’s life. I’m sure if you asked, under the Freedom Of Information Act, you would be able to wade through the trial documents; the prosecutor’s case was convincing for a death penalty verdict from the jury. Ray Jasper did not grow up on the wrong side of the tracks, he came from a family wherein his father, a career military man, and his mother were still happily married. Jasper was not defended by a court appointed lawyer; his defense was comprised of a well paid for and well known private practice firm. Jasper had a history of arrests and in fact was out on bail when he participated in the murder of David. He had, weeks before, assaulted an off-duty police officer who had stumbled upon Jasper attempting to break into a house.

During the trial somehow, apparently, the defense team got the idea that some of our family might be opposed to the death penalty and called my father to the stand. Nothing my father said could help their defense. When they called me to the stand the defense attorney asked me what my thoughts on the death penalty were. I knew what he was doing. He was hoping I would confess my opposition to the death penalty, thus maybe sparing Ray Jasper’s life. And I could not assist him in good conscience. I’ve thought often in the years since If I did the right thing. If, when push came to shove, I suppressed my own true thoughts in an effort to avenge David’s murder. This is what happened. The defense asked me what my opinion of the death penalty was. And I said, “I don’t think it’s relevant what my opinion is.” And I paused. And I don’t know where it came from, but I then said, “but I can tell you what David thought of the death penalty.” And the defense attorney asked me, “what was David’s opinion?” And I said, “he always told me that if there was no question of the guilt of a murder defendant, that the death penalty was a just punishment.” I’ll never know for sure, but it’s a pretty good bet David’s words uttered through me sealed Ray Jasper’s fate.

After everything, I’m still opposed to the death penalty. I have no intention of witnessing Jasper’s execution but I have no intention of fighting to stop it either. Does this make me a hypocrite? Maybe, but that’s for me to live with. I harbor no illusions that Jasper’s ceasing to exist will ameliorate the pain I feel daily from the loss of David. The truth is I rarely think of Jasper or the other defendants. I think of David more. Those thoughts are more important to me than anything else. Certainly more important than any last statement from Ray Jasper. Though I purposefully skipped reading Jasper’s statement, I did read through the comments. I have to say to my fellow death penalty opponent friends: Keep up your fight. It is an honorable one. But do not use this man, Ray Jasper, as your spokesperson, as your example of why the death penalty should be abolished. The death penalty should be abolished because it is wrong to kill another human being. Not because a Medical Examiner said your knife wound did not cause immediate death. Ray Jasper is not worthy of your good and kind hearts. He has never accepted culpability or expressed remorse. He is responsible for viciously ending the life of “the nicest man he ever met.” Responsible for ending the life of the nicest man my family ever met, David Mendoza Alejandro

TEXAS – SUZANNE BASSO TO BE EXECUTED TODAY at 6 p.m EXECUTED 6.26 pm


Basso went quietly enough. When asked for a final statement, she said “No, sir,” with a tearful look in her eyes. She reportedly looked to a couple of friends positioned behind a window and “mouthed a brief word to them and nodded.” As the drug began to take hold, she began to snore deeply; the snoring slowed and eventually halted and, eleven minutes after the injection, she was declared dead.

*Last Meal: Last meal requests no longer allowed.

Execution Watch with Ray Hill
can be heard on KPFT 90.1 FM,
in Galveston at 89.5 and Livingston at 90.3,
as well as on the net here
from 6:00 PM CT to 7:00 PM CT
on any day Texas executes a prisoner.

filed  february 4 : 5th circuit appeal  pdf

February 5, 2014

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — A woman convicted of torturing and killing a mentally impaired man she lured to Texas with the promise of marriage was scheduled to be executed Wednesday in a rare case of a female death-row inmate.

If 59-year-old Suzanne Basso is lethally injected as scheduled, the New York native would be only the 14th woman executed in the U.S. since the Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to resume in 1976. By comparison, almost 1,400 men have been put to death.

Texas, the nation’s busiest death-penalty state, has executed four women and 505 men.

Basso was sentenced to death for the 1998 slaying of 59-year-old Louis “Buddy” Musso, whose battered and lacerated body, washed with bleach and scoured with a wire brush, was found in a ditch outside Houston. Prosecutors said Basso had made herself the beneficiary of Musso’s insurance policies and took over his Social Security benefits after luring him from New Jersey.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to halt the execution in a ruling Tuesday, meaning the U.S. Supreme Court is likely her last hope. A state judge ruled last month that Basso had a history of fabricating stories about herself, seeking attention and manipulating psychological tests.

Leading up to her trial, Basso’s court appearances were marked by claims of blindness and paralysis, and speech mimicking a little girl.

TEXAS – YOKAMON HEARN – EXECUTION – July 18 – 6:00 p.m EXECUTED 6:37 p.m


July 18 2012

FILE This photo provided by the Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice shows Texas death row inmate Yokamon Hearn who will be the first prisoner executed under the state's new single-drug procedure. Hearn is set to die Wednesday, July 18, 2012, for the March 25, 1998, murder of stockbroker Frank Meziere in Dallas.  (AP Photo/Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice, File)

Hearn showed no apparent unusual reaction to the drug as his execution began. He was pronounced dead at 6:37 p.m., about 25 minutes after the lethal dose began flowing.

Asked by the warden if he wanted to make statement

he said: “I’d like to tell my family, I love you and I wish you all well. I’m ready.”

Last Meal: Same  salad being fed to every other thug on the row that day

Update :  Condemned prisoner Yokamon Hearn is headed to the Texas death chamber after having his appeals rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.

————————–

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — An inmate who once bragged about the headlines generated by the carjacking and murder that sent him to death row will be noted in Texas history for a different reason: Yokamon Hearn will be the first prisoner executed under the state’s new single-drug procedure.

Hearn, 33, is set to die Wednesday for the March 1998 fatal shooting of Frank Meziere, a 23-year-old suburban Dallas stockbroker who was abducted at gunpoint while he cleaned his car at a self-service car wash in Dallas. Meziere was driven to an industrial area and shot 10 times before his body was dumped on the side of a road.

Hearn will be the sixth Texas prisoner executed this year, but the first since the Texas Department of Criminal Justice announced its switch to single-drug lethal injections amid a drug shortage that has left states scrambling for acceptable alternatives.

Texas said last week it will now use a single dose of pentobarbital, instead of using the sedative in combination with two other drugs. Ohio became the first state a year ago to use a single drug, and several other states have since made the switch. Courts have upheld the practice, despite death penalty opponents’ claims that it takes prisoners take longer to die with a single drug.

Hearn has not made an appeal based on method of execution or claims of innocence. Instead, his appeals have focused on his mental capacity, the competence of his attorneys and whether recent lower federal court rulings improperly blocked his current lawyers from pursuing appeals.

In 2004, a federal court spared Hearn less than an hour before he could have been taken to the Huntsville death chamber so that it could consider arguments that he was mentally impaired and therefore ineligible for the death penalty.

That appeal subsequently was rejected, and attorneys more recently told the U.S. Supreme Court that while tests show Hearn’s IQ is considerably higher than levels determining mental impairment, he suffers from a fetal alcohol disorder that should disqualify him from execution.

Jason January, the former Dallas County assistant district attorney who prosecuted Hearn for capital murder, dismissed claims that Hearn was disabled.

“He was quite capable of functioning and figuring out how to rob people,” January said this week. “What I really recall is the medical examiner at trial placing demonstrative knitting needles through a Styrofoam head 10 times through and through, depicting the different bullets that went through Meziere’s head.”

Hearn, known to his friends as “Yogi,” was 19 at the time of Meziere’s murder and had a lengthy record that included burglary, robbery, assault, sexual assault and weapons possession.

A security camera video at a convenience store next to the car wash captured images of Hearn with two other Dallas men and a woman from Oklahoma City. They had been out looking for someone to carjack, authorities said.

According to trial testimony, Hearn and Delvin Diles forced Meziere into the stockbroker’s car, and Hearn drove it to an area near Dallas’ wastewater treatment plant. The two others, Dwight Burley and Teresa Shirley, followed in a second car.

Meziere, from Plano, was shot with a stolen, assault-style rifle and then with a .22-caliber pistol. Shirley testified that Hearn shot Meziere with the rifle and then continued to fire after he hit the ground. Diles then shot him with the pistol.

She also testified that Hearn later waved around a newspaper account of the crime and was pleased it said Meziere had been shot in the head, or “domed” in street slang. According to The Dallas Morning News, Hearn told her: “I told you I domed him. I told you. I told you.”

Diles, 19 at the time, pleaded guilty and received consecutive life terms for Meziere’s death and an unrelated aggravated robbery. Shirley, 19, and Burley, then 20, pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery and received 10-year prison sentences.

Hearn would be the 483rd inmate executed since Texas resumed carrying out capital punishment in 1982. He is among at least nine men with execution dates in the coming months.

Associed Press – Miami Herald