October 2009 Executions

Three killers were executed in October 2009. They had murdered at least 3 people.
Three killers were given a stay in October 2009. They have murdered at least 4 people.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
October 5, 2009 Virginia Dana L. Thrall, 25
Robert A. Finch, 30
Larry Elliot stayed
At approximately 4:00 a.m. on the morning of January 2, 2001, Mary Bracewell, a newspaper delivery person, was traveling her route in the Woodbridge community of Prince William County, Virginia. Bracewell was aware that there had been several recent vehicle break-ins in the neighborhood and became suspicious when she saw a man standing beside a pick-up truck parked on Belfry Lane. Bracewell observed the man, who appeared to be carrying a flashlight, walk to the north end of Belfry Lane, cross the street, walk onto a grassy area between two townhouses, and then disappear from her view. Bracewell called police on her cellular telephone to report her observations. At 4:15 a.m., Officer Marshall T. Daniel of the Prince William County Police Department received a radio dispatch directing him to respond to Bracewell’s call. He arrived at Belfry Lane three minutes later. Bracewell indicated the parked pick-up truck to Daniel and related to him what she had observed. Daniel noted that the pick-up truck, which was locked, had a Department of Defense windshield identification sticker and that there was a cellular telephone on the passenger seat. At 4:27 a.m., Officer Daniel received a radio call to respond to a report of a domestic disturbance at a townhouse located at 3406 Jousters Way. Jousters Way is located approximately 300 yards north of Belfry Lane. Although the two streets do not intersect, one can reach Jousters Way on foot from Belfry Lane by walking in the same direction that Bracewell had seen the man beside the pick-up truck walking. Tina Miller, who lived in an adjoining townhouse, had made the report of a domestic disturbance at 3406 Jousters Way. Miller telephoned police after being awakened by a crashing sound coming from 3406 Jousters Way at approximately 4:20 a.m. As she placed the call, Miller heard three or four "hollow" sounds followed by "the most horrible scream" she had ever heard. Miller thought that the screaming voice sounded like that of Thrall, one of the occupants of 3406 Jousters Way. Tommy Young, who lived in a townhouse on the opposite side of the street from 3406 Jousters Way, was walking his dog in front of his home at about the same time Miller was awakened by the crashing sound. Young heard two loud "banging noises" coming from 3406 Jousters Way, followed by the sound of a female scream and three more banging noises. Young went back to his house and told his wife to call the police. A few minutes later, Young looked out his front window and saw that the front storm door of 3406 Jousters Way, which had earlier been closed, was swaying back and forth. Young also noted that the front window shades of the home, which were normally left half-drawn, were fully closed. Officer Scott Bigger of the Prince William County Police Department arrived at 3406 Jousters Way at 4:25 a.m. Officer Bigger knocked on the front door, but got no response. Officer Daniel arrived a few minutes later and walked around to the back of the townhouse. The backyard was enclosed by a privacy fence, and Officer Daniel could hear a large dog barking "pretty hysterical[ly], angry" inside the yard. Returning to the front of the home, Officer Daniel observed that Officer Bigger had still received no response to his knocking on the front door. Looking through a gap between the shades of a front window, Officer Daniel was able to see the legs of a person lying prone and motionless in the foyer of the home. Officer Bigger opened the unlocked front door and he and Officer Daniel saw Finch, who lived with Thrall in the home, lying on the floor dead. Finch had suffered three gunshot wounds: one to his head, one to his back, and one to his chest. Officer Daniel immediately returned to the back of the home to secure that area while Officer Bigger waited at the front of the home for additional officers to arrive. When those officers arrived, Officer Daniel immediately returned to the location on Belfry Lane where the pick-up truck had been parked. He arrived at that location at 4:38 a.m. The truck was gone. Officer Sheldon R. Creamer, one of the officers who had responded to the call by the other officers for assistance, arrived at 3406 Jousters Way at approximately 4:45 a.m. Entering the home, he heard "a muffled breathing sound" coming from the kitchen at the back of the home. In the kitchen he found Thrall, shot and lying in a pool of blood. Emergency medical personal called to the scene took Thrall by ambulance to a helicopter, which in turn evacuated her to the Washington Hospital Center in the District of Columbia, where she later died. Thrall had suffered multiple gunshot wounds including a defensive wound to her right hand, three to her head, and one to her chest. She also suffered a blunt force trauma to the back of her head consistent with a pistol-whipping. Officer Creamer found that the backdoor was locked by its doorknob lock, but that the door’s deadbolt lock was not engaged. He could hear the dog barking in the back yard. Entering the yard from the kitchen, Officer Creamer found that the dog had calmed down. He then determined that the gate of the privacy fence was secured with a locked padlock. Meanwhile, because Officer Daniel had reported seeing a child looking out of a second floor back window, Officer Bigger reentered the home and went upstairs. There he found Thrall’s two sons, aged six and four, who were crying and upset. Police officers removed the children from the home. The Investigation Officer Thomas Leo, a crime scene analyst with the Prince William County Police Department, collected bloodstain samples at various locations inside the townhouse. Subsequent DNA testing of these samples confirmed that the blood was that of Thrall and Finch. Leo also found a bloodstain on the inside of the gate of the privacy fence. Subsequent DNA testing of this sample showed that it was consistent with Elliott’s DNA to a degree that a match would occur "once in the entire world population." Although a murder weapon was never recovered, forensic testing of ten bullets recovered from the home and during the autopsies of Thrall and Finch confirmed that all had been fired by the same weapon. The bullets were of a type used only in a revolver-type handgun. Gary Arnsten, a firearms expert with Virginia’s Division of Forensic Science, testified at trial that because no weapon of this type could hold more than five or six bullets in its revolving chamber, he was certain that the weapon had been reloaded during the commission of the murders. Detective Charles Hoffman of the Prince William County Police Department spoke with Finch’s sister, Jennifer Finch, the day of the murders. She informed Detective Hoffman that Finch had a prior romantic relationship with Rebecca Gragg. She also told him that Finch and Gragg had been involved in a bitter custody dispute over their two children. Detective Hoffman went to Gragg’s residence in Dale City, Virginia, located about six miles from the crime scene. Gragg was not at home, but there were two vehicles parked in front of the residence. One of the vehicles was registered in Elliott’s name. Gragg returned to her home later that day and was interviewed by two detectives. At that time, Gragg maintained that Elliott was her "friend and business partner." She denied knowing anything about the murders, but stated that Finch had many enemies. The following day, January 3, 2001, Detective Hoffman and another detective traveled to Fort Meade in Hanover, Maryland, where Elliott worked as a civilian employee for the United States Army as a counterintelligence expert. The detectives had learned that Elliott owned a pick-up truck and wanted "to determine whether that truck could, in fact, have been the truck that was seen nearby the [crime] scene." The detectives located the truck in a parking lot at Fort Meade, and Detective Hoffman observed that there was a flashlight, a cellular telephone, and a box of bandages on the seat of the truck. As Detective Hoffman was taking photographs of the truck, Elliott approached him, identified himself as the owner of the truck, and agreed to talk to the detectives. During that conversation, Elliott told the detectives that Gragg was an employee at a brewing company he owned in West Virginia. He admitted that he had supplied Gragg with a credit card in the name of "Rebecca L. Elliott," but maintained that this had been for business purposes. He also told the detectives that he had been traveling over the New Year’s holiday, as had Gragg, and that during that time he had spoken with her several times on his cellular telephone in an effort to arrange a business meeting with her. Elliott told the detectives that he was aware that Gragg and Finch were involved in a dispute regarding the custody of their two children. Elliott related that Gragg had traveled to Florida over the New Year’s holiday and had taken the children with her. He further related that Gragg had told him that she was having car trouble and would not be able to return to Virginia with the children in time to return them to Finch at 2:00 p.m. on New Year’s Day as she was required to do under a visitation agreement. Elliott claimed that he had driven to Gragg’s residence in the early afternoon of New Year’s Day "in case Robert Finch showed up so that Elliott could explain to him the problems Rebecca was having with getting back." Elliott denied he had any relationship with Gragg other than as her employer. He also denied knowing Finch and claimed that he had seen him only once. Although Detective Hoffman told Elliott that his truck had been seen in Finch’s neighborhood in the early morning hours of the day of the murders, Elliott denied having been in the area. Elliott claimed that he had spent the night of January first to second sleeping in his truck at a rest area in Maryland. Elliott voluntarily accompanied the detectives to the Anne Arundel County, Maryland Police Department. During the course of an interview there, Elliott admitted the true nature of his involvement with Gragg. He told the detectives that he had initiated a relationship with Gragg in mid-1999 after viewing her photograph on an Internet website called "Adult Friend Finders." In her advertisement, Gragg had indicated that she was looking for a "sugar daddy." During their first meeting, Gragg told Elliott that she had worked as a stripper and "private escort," a euphemism for a "call-girl" prostitute. Gragg told Elliott that she wanted to turn her life around and needed financial support to start a business designing and selling costumes for strippers. She told Elliott that she was not interested in having a romantic or sexual relationship with him. Elliott agreed to this arrangement, saying that he wanted only friendship from Gragg. Elliott subsequently provided Gragg with significant financial support, including paying private school tuition for her children, paying the mortgage on one house Gragg owned in West Virginia and rental on others where she lived with her husband and children at various times, providing her with cars, and permitting her to use his credit cards. Elliott also paid for breast augmentation surgery for Gragg, who had begun operating a pay-to-view pornographic website. Elliott admitted that his support of Gragg had placed a significant financial burden on him and that he had to sell investments to pay her credit card debts. Elliott further admitted that he knew where Finch lived and that, after he had gone to Gragg’s house on the afternoon of January 1, 2001, he had driven to Finch’s house. He denied getting out of his truck, however, and claimed that he had seen "a black man with a slinky walk going to the front door of the home." Elliott maintained that he had then driven to a large national retail store and a restaurant before driving to the rest stop in Maryland where he had spent the night. He then claimed that he had driven back to Gragg’s residence about 3:00 a.m. on the morning of January 2, 2001, to retrieve a case of motor oil that he had seen there the day before. He then went to a convenience store where he called Gragg’s cellular telephone on a pay telephone. Elliott claimed that he used the pay telephone because his own cellular telephone’s battery had run down. Telephone company records showed that a call had been placed from the pay telephone to Gragg’s cellular telephone at 3:28 a.m. on January 2, 2001. Elliott admitted that after calling Gragg, he drove to Finch’s neighborhood. He admitted leaving his truck, claiming that he did so only because he needed to urinate. Elliott stated that after urinating by a guardrail on the side of the road, he walked by Thrall’s and Finch’s townhouse. He denied going onto the property and stated that he had not heard gunshots, a scream, or anything unusual. At the conclusion of this interview, Detective Hoffman took a photograph of an abrasion he had noticed on one of Elliott’s hands. On January 4, 2001, Gragg, accompanied by her lawyer, was again interviewed by detectives investigating the murders of Thrall and Finch. During that interview, she admitted receiving a telephone call early on the morning of the murders, but claimed that the call had come from Finch. Gragg claimed that Finch had threatened to call the police if she did not return their children to him that afternoon. Gragg also told the detectives that she did not believe that Elliott had committed the murders. On January 7, 2001, Detective Hoffman conducted another interview with Elliott during which Elliott admitted that he had been in Finch’s neighborhood "hundreds of times." He further admitted walking through the neighborhood, but again denied that he had ever been on the property of the townhouse where Thrall and Finch lived. On January 8, 2001, Officer Leo, the crime scene analyst, took possession of Elliott’s pick-up truck pursuant to a search warrant. He determined that the interior of the truck had recently been cleaned, noting that the carpet was wet and that the seats and interior had been covered with a "silicone type base cleaner." Nonetheless, testing of samples collected from the underside of the truck’s floor mats showed a trace residue of blood, though the samples were too small for accurate DNA testing. A further blood sample found in the seat cushion was consistent with Elliott’s DNA. Detectives investigating the murders interviewed Gragg on January 12, 2001 and again on January 19, 2001. She continued to deny any knowledge of the murders. Based on the results of a polygraph examination that Gragg had agreed to take, police suspected that Gragg was not being fully forthcoming, but they were not certain to what extent she had knowledge of the murders or whether she may have been directly involved. Over the next several months, Gragg had continuing contact with the police concerning the investigation of the murders, but she did not provide any additional information concerning Elliott. On May 9, 2001, Elliott was arrested in Maryland and charged with capital murder. At that time, according to Maryland State Police, Elliott was "leaving [in his vehicle] at a high rate of speed," and there was some concern that he was attempting to flee. Elliott claimed, however, that he had intended to turn himself in. On May 10, 2001, Prince William County detectives again interviewed Gragg. During that interview, Gragg agreed to submit to a second polygraph examination. After the polygraph examiner and Detective Hoffman told Gragg that her responses to questions concerning her knowledge of the murders indicated that she was being untruthful, Gragg asked to speak with her attorney. After consulting with her attorney, Gragg told the police that the telephone call she had received early on the morning of the murders was not from Finch, although initially she had assumed it was because the connection was not good and she could not hear the caller clearly. Gragg then related that when the caller realized that she thought she was talking to Finch, the caller said he was "tired of this s*** and was going to take care of it" and hung up. Gragg then realized that the call had come from Elliott. She attempted to call his cellular telephone, but the call was answered by a voice mail system. Gragg told the detectives that she received several more calls on her cellular telephone from Elliott later on January 2, 2001. During one call, Elliott told her that "all of our problems had been taken care of." In another call, Elliott claimed that "Jerry," a cryptic figure Elliott supposedly knew through his work with military counterintelligence, "had come out of nowhere to help him, that he had to go clean up this mess." Later, Elliott told Gragg that he was looking for a place "to dump… these bloodied black trash bags from the mess that Jerry had made." Gragg told the police that she had not been truthful in her prior interviews because she was afraid of Elliott and "Jerry," because Elliott had once told her that "Jerry" was watching her and that he would kill her or her family if she went to the police. Once Elliott was in custody and the police had assured her that there was no "Jerry," she stated that she had decided to be truthful. Gragg’s attorney confirmed that she had told him on several occasions that she feared Elliott would harm her if she told the police what she knew. Indictment and Pre-trial Proceedings On August 6, 2001, the Prince William County grand jury returned indictments charging Elliott with the capital murder of Thrall, the first degree murder of Finch, and two counts of the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. Elliott was tried on these indictments initially in a jury trial in July 2002. After the jury had found Elliott guilty and sentenced him to death, the trial court declared a mistrial after it had been determined that a juror had improperly discussed the case with a third party during the trial. After four hours of deliberation, the second jury returned its verdicts, convicting Elliott of the capital murder of Thrall, the first degree murder of Finch, and the two related firearm offenses. UPDATE: Stayed until November 17.
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
October 8, 2009 Alabama Braxton Brown Max Payne executed
Max Landon Payne was sentenced to death for the murder of Braxton Brown, the owner of West Point Grocery in Cullman County. Braxton was killed by two shotgun blasts to his face. On March 23, 1992, the evening Payne murdered Braxtpm, Payne was at his sister Wilma’s house with his girlfriend, Sandra Walker, and Wilma. Payne left the house with a double-barreled shotgun. Payne said he was taking the shotgun in case “somebody f*cks with me.” Around 8:25 or 8:30 p.m., two customers saw Payne at West Point Grocery, which Braxton owned. Around 8:30 p.m., an alarm company operator received a “hold-up alarm” from West Point Grocery and called the sheriff’s department. The responding deputy discovered the store door open and saw Marlboro packs scattered on the floor, but found no one there. Payne had robbed the store, kidnapped Braxton, and taken Braxton at gunpoint to his sister’s house. Wilma was still there with Sandra. Sandra testified Braxton appeared very nervous and scared, and Payne had a gun, stood right next to Braxton, and had an arm sling. Payne ordered Braxton to give Wilma money. Braxton laid $20 on a table. Sandra overheard Wilma begging Payne “don’t do this” several times. Wilma asked Payne to leave Braxton with her or take him back to his store and said “maybe he would forget about this.” Braxton nodded nervously. Payne rejected his sister’s suggestion, stating, “No, I am going to do this.” Payne forced Braxton to leave the house with him. Around 9:15 p.m., Payne went to a friend’s house and asked to use the telephone. Payne called someone and asked for bullets for a.22 rifle. Payne also asked the friend if he had any bullets. During this time, Payne’s other sister Alma went to West Point Grocery and informed police her brother had been seen with Braxton and described the car Payne was driving. Around 10:00 p.m., a police investigator taking pictures at West Point Grocery received a call that gunshots had been heard. He attempted to locate the origin of the shots but failed. When the investigator returned to West Point Grocery, he received a call that Braxton had been seen with Payne. Following the report of gunshots, an investigator arrived at Wilma’s house and found the car Payne had used that evening. Inside the car were two spent and several unspent shotgun shells. Around midnight, Payne purchased a bus ticket to Florida. The ticket agent noticed Payne wore torn blue jeans with blood stains and had cuts on his face. On the morning of March 24, 1992, a volunteer fireman found a partial dental plate on a bridge over Crooked Creek and noticed dark red stains on the bridge and railing. The search team discovered Braxton’s body in the creek. Most of Braxton’s face was gone due to two shotgun blasts to the face. He had two large holes in his face: one in his forehead and one in his mouth. An autopsy later retrieved 466 shotgun pellets from Braxton’s skull. A forensic examiner testified Braxton was shot with a shotgun from a distance of one to one-and-a-half feet away. On March 25, 1992, following a call from Alabama authorities, a Miami police detective met Payne’s bus when it arrived in Miami. Items found on Payne included Braxton’s handgun; a jeweler’s invoice made out to West Point Grocery; a vehicle registration in Braxton’s name; three cartons of Marlboro cigarettes; three bank deposit bags containing numerous checks written to West Point Grocery, credit card receipts, rings, and food stamps; bank receipts in Braxton’s name; and a total of $1,085.84. Braxton’s son identified many items as coming from West Point Grocery. Forensic testing matched human tissue recovered from Payne’s arm sling to Braxton’s blood type. The counts are: (1) intentional murder committed during an abduction with the intent to accomplish or aid the commission of robbery or flight therefrom; (2) intentional murder during an abduction with the intent to inflict serious physical injury; and (3) intentional murder during a robbery in the first degree. A person commits robbery in the first degree when he, in the course of committing a theft, (1) uses force with intent to overcome physical resistance or threatens the imminent use of force with intent to compel acquiescence to the taking of or escaping with the property; and (2) is armed with a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument or causes serious physical injury to another. Payne was indicted for three counts of capital murder arising from Braxton’s death. An Alabama jury unanimously convicted Payne on all counts and recommended a death sentence by an 11-1 vote. The state trial judge sentenced Payne to death.
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
October 9, 2009 Ohio Loretta Foster, 67 Lawrence Reynolds, Jr. stayed
Lawrence Reynolds, Jr. was convicted of the aggravated murder of Loretta Loretta. In early January 1994, Loretta complained to her son that a neighbor, Reynolds, had been knocking on her door after dark. Reynolds had recently painted Loretta’s basement and claimed that he needed to put a paint can in the basement. Loretta told her son that she was scared of Reynolds. On January 11, 1994, Loretta’s sister-in-law, Norma Haubert, took her to a doctor’s appointment. Loretta told Haubert that a neighbor had been acting "weird"; that is, he would knock on the door, hide, and then jump out at her. Loretta told her doctor and her doctor’s office manager about Reynolds in an effort to explain why her blood pressure was elevated. After the visit to the doctor, Loretta stopped at her credit union and withdrew fifty dollars. Norma dropped Loretta off at home around 3:00 p.m. Around 7:30 p.m. that evening, Reynolds and his brother Jason went to Northgate Lanes to shoot pool with Jason’s friend Joseph Hindel. Upon arriving, Reynolds told Brian Baker and Jim Ferrando that that would be his last night to party with them because he had killed someone and was leaving town the next day. Reynolds told them that he had knocked on Loretta Foster’s door and told her that he had something to give her from his sister. He had rope and a tent pole with him. Loretta opened the door and a struggle began. Reynolds hit Loretta and she fell to the floor. He began to rummage through her purse. When he realized she was attempting to reach for the phone, he cut the phone line, "tied her up," and hit her once or twice with the tent pole. He tried to strangle her with his hands, but was unsuccessful. At some point during the struggle, Reynolds received a rope burn on his hand, which he showed his listeners. Reynolds told them that he had left Loretta lying naked in the living room, and that he had taken forty dollars in cash and a blank check from her checkbook before leaving through the back door. The group proceeded to the Rainbow Bar where Reynolds continued to discuss how he had killed Loretta. Baker and Ferrando did not know whether to believe Reynolds, so they left the bar and went to Loretta’s house. They looked into the living room window and saw Loretta’s nude body lying on the floor. Reynolds and Jason also went to Loretta Foster’s house after leaving the Rainbow Bar. Jason was stunned to see Foster’s body. Reynolds picked up a glove and a tent stake that he had left and attempted to brush off the purse. Then they returned to their home. Baker and Ferrando went to a friend’s house because they knew his father was a police officer. They told Officer Joe Orsine what Reynolds had told them and described what they had seen at Foster’s house. They later went to the police station and made a statement. Police officers were dispatched to investigate. After finding the victim’s body, the police initiated a homicide investigation and obtained an arrest warrant for Lawrence Reynolds, Jr. Officers went to the Reynolds home and arrested Reynolds. While the officers were there, Lawrence Reynolds, Sr. consented, verbally and in writing, to a search of the house. He specifically consented to a search of Reynolds’s bedroom and the basement. Police seized a camouflage outfit, gloves, a tent pole, white rope, a knife, and a blank check. Forensic tests revealed that the rope found in Reynolds’s bedroom matched the rope used to tie up Loretta Foster. Human hair on the rope matched a hair sample taken from the victim. Blood found on the camouflage overalls was of the same type as hers. On January 20, 1994, the Summit County Grand Jury indicted Lawrence Reynolds, Jr. for one count of aggravated murder committed during the course of a robbery and/or burglary and/or kidnapping and/or attempted rape. Four separate aggravating circumstances were alleged, i.e., murder during an aggravated robbery, murder during an aggravated burglary, murder during a kidnapping, and murder during an attempted rape. Reynolds was also charged with four separate felonies–aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, kidnapping, and attempted rape. While awaiting trial in the Summit County Jail, Reynolds told an inmate, Neil Webster, the same story he had told his friends. Reynolds also stated that he had taken off Loretta Foster’s blouse to enable him to see her hands at all times. Webster questioned him concerning a newspaper article that asserted that the victim was found with her pants off. Initially, Reynolds claimed that Loretta’s pants had come off in the struggle, but he later told Webster that "he tried to stick his meat in her." When Webster specifically questioned him, Reynolds denied trying to rape Foster. The autopsy showed that Foster had been strangled. She had also been subjected to blunt force trauma. No evidence of spermatozoa was found in her vagina or rectum, and there was no physical evidence of sexual conduct. At trial, the defense did not deny that Reynolds was responsible for Loretta Foster’s death. Instead, the defense attacked various elements of the offenses charged and attempted to show that Reynolds had been drunk and had not gone to Foster’s house intending to kill her. Reynolds was twenty-seven years old when the crime was committed and had been drinking alcohol since he was approximately fourteen years old. During his high school years, he drank as many as twelve cans of beer a day. Despite this drinking, Reynolds apparently had a normal childhood in a middle class family. After high school, he enlisted in the Army for four years and then re-enlisted for two more years. He served in Korea for eighteen months and was often drunk when he telephoned home. When he got out of the Army, he became depressed because his girlfriend and the son he had fathered with her did not come to Ohio with him. His aunt and uncle helped him get a job with a replacement window company. He worked there for about two years before being fired because of alcohol-related chronic tardiness and absenteeism. Approximately two years before the murder, Reynolds had been arrested for driving under the influence and failing to comply with a police officer’s order. He moved in with his parents and completed an alcohol treatment program. Even so, he continued to drink. He paid rent to his parents when he first moved home, but had not given them any rent for about four months prior to Loretta Foster’s death. He had been unable to find a job and sold personal items to support his drinking habit. When he had nothing left to sell, he apparently decided to steal money from Loretta Foster. The jury found Reynolds guilty of all charges and recommended the death penalty. The trial court adopted the jury’s recommendation and sentenced Reynolds to death. The court of appeals affirmed the convictions and sentences.
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
October 20, 2009 Georgia Kevin Scott Brown, 28 Mark McClain executed
Mark Howard McClain was sentenced to death for the November 20, 1994 murder of Kevin Brown, the 28-year-old manager of a Domino’s Pizza store that McClain was robbing. At approximately 1:00 a.m. on Sunday, November 20, 1994, McClain left the house of his girlfriend, Tina Butler, drove to a nearby Domino’s Pizza store on 2 Washington Road, and parked his blue Buick automobile beside the store. When Philip Martin Weeks Jr., a delivery man, returned to the store before 2:00 a.m., McClain approached Weeks and asked to purchase a pizza. Weeks explained that the store had stopped selling carry-out pizza at 10:00 p.m. the previous evening. McClain protested and refused to leave. To appease McClain, Weeks said that he would ask the manager, Kevin Scott Brown, to make an exception for McClain. McClain began yelling outside the store that he wanted a pizza. Brown released the lock of the door to the store, and Weeks opened the door. McClain attempted to force his way into the store. Weeks initially struggled with McClain, but when McClain produced a small caliber revolver, Weeks fled through the store and out the back door. Brown, who weighed approximately 450 pounds, remained behind the counter of the store, unable to move quickly. As Weeks left the store, he heard McClain demand that Brown give him money. Weeks ran to a pay telephone to call the police. After he realized the phone was broken, Weeks ran toward another pay telephone at a gas station across Washington Road. As he began to cross the street, Weeks saw a car leave the Domino’s parking lot at a high rate of speed and turn onto Washington Road. The driver, McClain, made eye contact with Weeks and an obscene gesture toward him. Weeks memorized the license tag number of McClain’s car. Weeks then flagged down a passing motorist, who drove Weeks back to the store. Weeks entered the store and found Brown lying on the floor behind the counter and bleeding from a bullet wound to his chest. The keys to the money till of the store, which Brown ordinarily kept in his pocket, were in the till and approximately $100 was missing. Weeks called 911, but Brown bled to death before paramedics arrived. Within an hour of leaving Butler’s house, McClain returned and gave Butler approximately $100, without explaining where he had obtained the money. McClain spent much of the following day at Butler’s house. In the meantime, police traced to McClain’s father the license tag number of the car Weeks saw. McClain’s father stated that McClain was the primary driver of the car and gave police a description of McClain that matched Weeks’s description. The assistant manager of the Domino’s store identified McClain as having bought a pizza in the store under the name of Johnson two days before the shooting. The box with the receipt for that pizza was found in the trash during a search of McClain’s residence. McClain was arrested when he arrived at work in his blue Buick the following Monday morning, November 21, 1994. McClain called Butler from the jail that evening and told her to dispose of the clothes, boots, and gun that he had left at her house. McClain also demanded that Butler provide him with an alibi for the night of the shooting and threatened to implicate Butler and her family if she refused to help him. In response to McClain’s request, Butler hid McClain’s jacket in a neighbor’s shed and gave McClain’s gun to her nephew. The police questioned Butler, who eventually told the police about McClain’s telephone call to her and gave police McClain’s jacket and boots. McClain’s gun was recovered a month later when Butler’s nephew was involved in a shooting. Butler testified against McClain at trial. McClain denied any involvement in the crime until trial, when he testified that he had intended only to rob the store. McClain testified that he shot Brown when he heard a noise as he was leaving the store and believed Brown was pursuing him. McClain was convicted of murder, armed robbery, burglary, and possession of a firearm during the commission of certain crimes. He later pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The jury sentenced McClain to death for the murder and found three statutory aggravating circumstances: the murder was committed during the commission of a burglary; the murder was committed during the commission of an armed robbery; “and the murder was committed for the purpose of receiving money or things of monetary value.”
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
October 22, 2009 Pennsylvania Michael Richardson Christopher Kennedy stayed
On January 19, 2003, Christopher Kennedy, James Richardson, his brother Jamaar Richardson, Lavar Brown , and Ronald Vann planned to rob a drug store at which Jamaar Richardson worked. According to plan, Kennedy entered the store armed with a.44 caliber revolver, approached Michael Richardson, who was the manager, and shot him in the leg. The Richardson brothers (James and Jamaar) were unrelated to the victim, Michael Richardson. The store security guard and cashiers fled the building, and Kennedy’s accomplices also fled, with most having never entered the premises. Kennedy proceeded to drag the victim to the front office, where there were two safes, one of which the group believed to contain $40,000 to $50,000. Officers responding to the scene heard a gunshot from within the store; observed Kennedy inside the store; saw Kennedy outside while in possession of the.44 caliber pistol and a bag containing approximately $2,200 taken from one of the store safes; and apprehended Kennedy in the vicinity. Michael Richardson was found in the office where Kennedy left him, having suffered a fatal gunshot wound to the left side of his head. Kennedy was tried jointly with Brown and the Richardson brothers, who were charged with felony murder. Among other witnesses, Vann testified for the prosecution, describing the planning and execution of the robbery from his vantage. Notably, Vann indicated that, during the planning, Kennedy said that if Michael Richardson resisted he would kill him. Store personnel testified that, of the two safes in the manager’s office, Michael Richardson would have had access to only one — the other was accessible only by armored-car personnel. Although there were no witnesses to the actual killing, store personnel related that they remained in the vicinity and did not witness anyone enter or exit the storefront; the responding officers indicated that they did not see anyone other than Kennedy exit the rear of the store; and one of the first officers to enter the store stated that the only person found there besides the victim was a patron who had hidden in a bathroom. Apparently, the robbery plan called for several measures to be taken to secure control over the premises, but these did not occur as the accomplices fled. The prosecution also presented a ballistics expert who testified, over Kennedy’s objections, that the.44 caliber handgun carried by Kennedy was primarily used in hunting “deer-size animals” to accomplish deep penetration. The expert also explained that a dried liquid substance was found on the muzzle of the revolver, which a DNA expert confirmed was bodily fluid matching Michael Richardson’s profile. A medical examiner opined, based on the character of gunpowder stippling around the wound to the victim’s head, that the pistol that fired the shot would have been approximately twelve inches away at the time of discharge. Kennedy testified in his defense. He admitted that he perpetrated the robbery, shot Michael Richardson in the leg, and brought him to the office to open the safe. Kennedy, however, denied shooting the victim a second time and disputed the prosecution’s contention that his codefendants were involved in the planning and execution of the robbery. Instead, Kennedy claimed that he acted at the suggestion of a friend of his brother’s, whom he could not identify. In his closing argument, the prosecutor summarized the evidence, positing that Kennedy shot the victim when he was unable to open the second safe believed to contain $40,000 to $50,000. The jury returned a verdict of guilt on the charges of first-degree murder, robbery, conspiracy, and weapons violations. The prosecution offered as an aggravating circumstance that the killings occurred during the perpetration of a felony, namely, robbery. Kennedy offered as mitigating circumstances claims that he lacked a significant history of prior convictions; he was under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance; his capacity to conform his conduct to the requirements of law was substantially impaired; and his age at the time of the offenses should be regarded as mitigating, as well as pursuing the catch-all mitigator. Kennedy presented testimony of family members, friends, and a mental health expert to support the asserted mitigators. Ultimately, the jurors found that the one aggravating circumstance unanimously found – that the killing was committed in the perpetration of a felony – outweighed the sole mitigating circumstance found by any juror – the catch-all mitigator. Accordingly, the jury set the penalty at death. The Rite Aid manager, Michael Richardson, was survived by his wife, Kristi and four children. Lavar Brown was sentenced to death for a different murder, of Robert Crawford, committed about one month after Michael Richardson was killed.
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
October 27, 2009 Texas Carlos Garza, 20 Reginald Blanton executed
Reginald W. Blanton was sentenced to death for the murder of Carlos Garza. Blanton broke into Garza’s San Antonio apartment, shot him twice in the head, and stole several pieces of jewelry and one hundred dollars. The evidence at trial showed that Garza was murdered at his residence in the Stepping Stone Apartments in San Antonio, Texas, on April 9, 2000. Patricia Romano, who lived across the hall from Garza, testified that she heard a loud banging noise about three or four weeks prior to the murder. She went outside on her balcony and saw Blanton banging on Garza’s door. When she told Blanton that Garza was obviously not coming to the door, Blanton angrily replied, "Shut up, bitch, get back in your house." On the day that Garza was killed, Romano returned to the apartment complex after running an errand with her daughter and saw Garza sitting with a young Hispanic girl at a picnic table near the pool. She went inside her apartment and when she came back outside about an hour later, Garza and the girl were gone. Romano was picking up trash near the laundry room when a Hispanic man named Ralph Vidal and an African-American man named Joseph Anderson approached her. Vidal asked her if she had seen Garza and she replied that she had seen him earlier. Vidal told her that, when they returned from the store, they noticed that Garza’s door was open and that frame was splintered. He thought someone might have broken into Garza’s apartment, and he asked Romano to call the police. Romano went upstairs to take a closer look at the door. She saw that the lock was engaged and the door frame was splintered as though it had been kicked open. The stereo blared, and all of the cushions had been pulled off the couch in the living room as if someone had ransacked the apartment. She went to her apartment and called the apartment manager, who told her to call the police. The apartment manager arrived about fifteen minutes later and went into the entryway of Garza’s apartment with Romano’s husband. From there, they saw a body lying on the floor. Romano’s husband believed that it was Garza, and he saw that part of his leg was still moving. Ernest Borroel, Jr., lived in the apartment beneath Garza’s apartment. At around 5:00 or 5:30 p.m. on the day of the murder Borroel heard a noise as if something had fallen or had been tipped over upstairs in Garza’s apartment. When San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) Officer Richard Odoms arrived at Garza’s apartment, he saw that the door jamb was destroyed, the door frame was lying on the floor, the dead bolt was sticking out, and there was a footprint on the door as if someone had kicked it in. Odoms saw Garza lying unconscious in the hallway with what looked like a bullet wound to his forehead. Odoms heard Garza make a "gurgling type sound," like "somebody snoring." He saw two spent bullet casings on the floor: one by Garza’s feet and another by his head. Garza’s stereo was blaring and a pager kept going off. Paramedic Michael Rodriguez arrived at Garza’s apartment at about 6:30 p.m. He saw that Garza was bleeding from two gunshot wounds to his face. He noticed that Garza was still breathing and had a pulse. Garza’s breathing was irregular, and he made a "gurgling" sound. His pulse stopped on the way to the hospital. Bexar County Chief Medical Examiner Robert Bux testified that Garza suffered two gunshot wounds to his head, one to the left front scalp area and one to his cheek. The gunshot wound to his scalp was fatal. Two days later, SAPD Officer Ricky Lopez and his partner were dispatched to Blanton’s father’s home on a disturbance call. Blanton’s twin brother, Robert Blanton, and Blanton’s girlfriend, LaToya Mayberry, were arguing outside. Mayberry initially gave Lopez a false name, but her brother told the officer her real name. Lopez discovered that Mayberry had active municipal court warrants. Lopez’s partner placed Mayberry under arrest. Lopez’s partner then placed Mayberry in handcuffs and put her into the patrol car. While Mayberry sat in the patrol car, she told Lopez that she had information about a murder that had occurred a few days before at the Stepping Stone Apartments. She also told Detective Rocky Dyer that Reginald Blanton and his brother Robert were involved in the homicide, that she heard Blanton brag about it, and that they went back to the scene shortly after the shooting. Mayberry was transported to the police station for formal questioning. Detective Raymond Roberts interviewed Mayberry and took her statement. Roberts testified that he told Mayberry that she did not have to talk about the murder. She said she wanted to tell him what happened because it was upsetting her. He explained Mayberry’s rights to her before the interview began, and she indicated that she understood her rights. He never threatened her or told her that she would be arrested for capital murder if she did not give a statement. In her statement, Mayberry said that Robert drove Blanton in her grandmother’s car to the Stepping Stone Apartments, where Garza lived. She went along with the brothers. They went to the third floor and knocked on the door of Garza’s apartment. No one answered the door, and Robert told Mayberry to go back downstairs and wait in the car. She heard Robert tell Blanton, "Let’s go," and when she heard Blanton say, "No cuz, don’t go," she knew that "something was going to go down." She believed that Robert stayed with Blanton because he was scared of him. While Mayberry was sitting in the car, she heard "two loud booms," and she "knew that it had to be them kicking in the door to Garza’s apartment." She heard "two more booms." She said that she knew right away that they were gunshots because she had heard gunshots before. She then saw Robert running toward the car, and his eyes "were real big like he was scared." He was "breathing real fast and hard" and got into the car and started the engine. He did not answer her when she asked him what happened. Blanton jumped in the car as Robert was driving away. In his hands, Blanton had a small blue box and some jewelry, including a gold herringbone necklace and a broken gold rope necklace. Blanton was also wearing a gold lion’s-head ring with two ruby eyes and a diamond in its mouth that Mayberry had not seen before. As they were leaving, Blanton took a silver gun out of his pocket and told Mayberry that it was a ".380." He also said, "F*ck, I left a bullet in the house," and told Robert he wanted to go back to the apartment so he could get his "dope." Robert refused to drive back. Instead, Robert drove them to a friend’s apartment where they stayed for about twenty minutes. Robert then drove them back to the Stepping Stone Apartments. Robert and Mayberry waited in the car while Blanton went inside. When Blanton came back he was laughing and said, "That mother f*cker’s in there snoring, I thought I was going to have to do that mother f*cker again." Blanton also said he "turned everything over in the apartment" and took one hundred dollars. Blanton then made Robert drive to a pawn shop. On the way there, Blanton asked Mayberry if she thought the rubies in the lion’s-head ring were real. They arrived at the pawn shop at about 5:50 p.m. Blanton pawned the two necklaces and a "Jesus charm." After they left the pawn shop, Robert drove them to Adkins, Texas. While they were riding in the car, Blanton was laughing and bragging about shooting Garza. He said, "I peeled that mother f*cker’s head back, you see how he just dropped in the corner." He said that he kicked in the door and that it looked like Garza had just gotten out of the shower. When Garza asked Blanton what was going on, he told Garza to "brake himself," which means "It’s a robbery, give me all your shi+." When Garza said, "No," Blanton shot him. When Garza fell down, Blanton shot him again in the head. Robert drove Blanton back to his girlfriend’s apartment at about 8:00 or 8:30 p.m. Mayberry and Robert went to get something to eat and then returned home about 9:30 p.m. They heard about a burglary and murder that night on the news. Mayberry asked Rpbert what had happened. Robert told her that the door was kicked in, Garza came around the corner and asked what they were doing, and Blanton shot him. He said that Blanton looked around the apartment for drugs, but could not find any. Then he shot Garza again. Robert said that "[Garza] was just laying there snoring." After Roberts typed Mayberry’s statement, he gave her an opportunity to read it and make corrections. She indicated that she was satisfied with her statement and signed it in front of two witnesses. After Mayberry signed her statement, she and Roberts called Robert Blanton. Roberts asked him to come down to the station to talk to them and that he was not under arrest. Robert was reluctant to speak with Roberts at first. After viewing Garza’s autopsy photographs and talking to Mayberry alone for a few minutes, however, Robert Blanton gave a statement. In his statement, Robert said that he drove Blanton and Mayberry to Garza’s apartment complex. They knocked on the door, and when no one answered, he and Mayberry started to leave. Blanton told him to stay. Mayberry went back to the car. He sat down on the steps while Blanton continued to knock on the door. Then he heard a loud noise "like somebody hit something pretty hard." He followed Blanton into the apartment and heard Blanton and Garza arguing in the back room. He heard a gunshot and ran out of the apartment. As he was running down the stairs, he heard another gunshot. He got into the car with Mayberry, then Blanton came walking out of the complex and got into the car. Robert asked Blanton what happened, and he replied, "Don’t worry about it." From there, Robert drove to Blanton’s apartment, and they stayed there for about five minutes. Robert then drove them to the apartment complex next door to the Stepping Stone Apartments and parked the car. Blanton walked back to the Stepping Stone Apartments and returned to the car about five minutes later. Robert drove them to a pawn shop, where Robert and Mayberry stayed in the car while Blanton went inside. When he got back into the car, Blanton said that he had pawned his jewelry. Robert drove Blanton back to his apartment, and then Robert and Mayberry returned home. Robert found out from the Sunday night news that Garza was dead. He never saw Blanton with a gun, and he did not know what he did with the gun. After he completed his statement, Roberts gave Robert an opportunity to review it. Robert reviewed the statement and signed it. By the time Reginald Blanton’s trial began, Mayberry had married Robert Blanton. During the trial, Mayberry testified that the statement that she made to the police was not true. She denied that she approached police with information about a capital murder. She testified that she gave her statement because the police accused her of being in the apartment, stated that they had witnesses implicating her and Robert, and told her that she would be charged with capital murder if she did not give a statement. When asked about the first two "loud booms" she said she heard while waiting in the car, she denied knowing that it was Robert and Blanton kicking in the door to Garza’s apartment. She testified that children were outside playing with rocks and sticks, and she said that all the noises sounded the same. When asked about the second set of "booms" that she heard, she testified that she did not know if they were gunshots because she had heard gunshots before only on television. She denied telling police that Robert stayed upstairs with Blanton because he was scared of him. She denied saying that Robert’s eyes were big and that he appeared to be afraid when he returned to the car. On the first day of her trial testimony, Mayberry stated that when they left the apartment complex she saw that Blanton had something "shiny" that looked like a gun, and that she asked him what it was and he told her it was either a ".380" or a ".38." On the second day of her trial testimony, she stated that she never saw Blanton with a gun and that she lied the day before when she testified that she had. Mayberry also denied telling police that Blanton said that he "left a bullet in the house." She denied that Blanton wanted to go back to Garza’s apartment to get some "dope," that Blanton said he "turned everything over in the apartment" and took one hundred dollars, and that Blanton stated, "I thought I was going to have to do that mother f*cker again." She denied that Blanton was laughing and bragging about shooting Garza and that he said, "I peeled that mother f*cker’s head back." Mayberry clarified at trial that Blanton had been wearing a gold religious pendant in addition to the lion’s-head ring, a gold herringbone necklace, and a gold "broke rope" necklace. She said that Blanton often carried a blue box in which he kept his pencils. She also testified at trial that when they left the Stepping Stone Apartments the first time, she noticed a black male and a Hispanic male walking down the street towards the grocery store. When they later returned to the Stepping Stone, she noticed the same two men walking back from the store. Robert denied certain portions of his statement when he testified during Blanton’s trial. He confirmed that they went to Garza’s apartment and to the pawn shop, but he said, "The part that’s not correct is when they interject things about [Garza’s] death." He testified that he told Mayberry to go back to the car because it was hot outside and she "had a little attitude," and said that he and Blanton came down to the car at the same time about a minute later. He denied seeing Blanton enter the apartment and hearing gunshots. He confirmed that Blanton later returned to Garza’s apartment and came back to the car about five minutes later, but testified that Blanton told them when he returned to the car that Garza was still not home. He denied telling police that he found out that Garza was dead when he watched the Sunday night news. He testified that the only reason he signed the statement was so that the police would let him and Mayberry go home. Robert also testified that he never saw a blue box in Blanton’s hands. He had seen Blanton wearing a gold lion’s-head ring prior to the day of the murder. He did not see the jewelry that Blanton intended to pawn until they arrived at the pawn shop. He thought that Blanton must have had the jewelry in his pocket. Garza’s girlfriend Debra Estrada testified that she was with him at the apartment complex on the day of the murder. Estrada saw Garza wearing a gold chain with a religious pendant, a couple of rings including a lion ring with ruby eyes, and a gold nugget bracelet. She identified these items as the same items that the police had obtained from the pawn shop where Blanton pawned jewelry after the killing. Estrada testified that, on the afternoon of the murder, she and Garza had been sitting outside at a picnic table waiting for her friends to pick her up when an African-American man later identified as Anderson and a Hispanic man later identified as Vidal came by to talk to Garza. Garza told them about an incident the day before when he pulled a knife on someone at the Poteet Strawberry Festival. Anderson asked Garza what he would do if someone ever pulled a gun on him. The men were teasing each other at first, but then Anderson started getting aggravated with Garza and looked like he was going to take a swing at him. The men talked about getting together later to smoke marijuana. Then she and Garza got up from the table and left. Garza went to the laundry room, and Estrada left the apartment complex when her friend arrived to pick her up. Vidal and Anderson testified that they had talked with Garza and his girlfriend at the picnic table that afternoon. They had agreed to meet up with Garza later to smoke marijuana. Garza said he was going up to his apartment to change clothes, and Vidal and Anderson walked to the store to buy cigars and beer. When they returned, they saw from their position downstairs that Garza’s door was slightly open. They whistled for Garza to come downstairs, but he did not respond. Vidal walked back a bit so he could get a better view of the door, and he saw the dead bolts sticking out and broken wood. They went to Vidal’s apartment where Vidal paged Garza. Garza did not call, however. They went back outside, saw Romano picking up trash, and asked her to take a look inside Garza’s apartment. Vidal further testified that he had seen Garza wearing a necklace with a religious pendant many times. He also testified that Blanton used to hang out at the apartment complex with Garza and other friends. Two or three weeks prior to the murder, Garza had flaunted his money in front of Blanton and his brother. Blanton had said, "You keep pulling out money, somebody’s going to jack you." Garza’s wife, Yvonne, from whom he had been separated, testified that the last time she saw Garza was on April 6, 2000, when he came to her apartment to visit their son. He had called her on April 9 at 2:00 a.m. and said he was coming to visit their son that day. She paged him around 4:45 or 5:00 p.m., and he did not return her page. He never showed up, and a friend who came to her home on Sunday evening told her that he had been killed. Yvonne testified that she bought and gave Garza a ten-karat gold nugget bracelet from Treasures jewelry store on February 3, 2000. She also bought Garza a herringbone chain from Piercing Pagoda on February 3. On February 16, she bought and gave Garza a ten-karat gold lion ring. She testified that Garza often wore a Jesus and Mary pendant on a gold rope chain that was broken and held together with wire. Yvonne also testified that Garza had a lockbox in his apartment where he kept items of value. About a week after Garza’s death, she cleaned out his apartment and noticed that the lock was missing from the lockbox. The gold rope necklace with the religious pendant, the herringbone necklace, the lion’s-head ring, and the nugget bracelet were also missing from the apartment. Garza was wearing all of this jewelry, except for the herringbone chain, when she last saw him on April 6. She testified that she had never known Garza to lend his jewelry to friends. However, upon viewing photographs of Blanton, Garza, and other friends taken prior to Garza’s death, she acknowledged that Blanton was wearing jewelry similar to Garza’s religious pendant and gold nugget bracelet. Henry Esparza, Jr., an employee at Hollywood Video, testified that movies were rented on Robert’s account at 4:43 p.m. on April 9, 2000. Brian Collins, the assistant manager at EZ Pawn, testified that Blanton pawned a gold herringbone chain, a gold rope necklace with a broken chain, and a religious pendant for eighty-five dollars at 6:00 p.m. on April 9. Collins noticed that Blanton was wearing a lion’s-head ring with rubies in its eyes and a diamond in its mouth, but he did not pawn it. While Blanton was inside the store, Collins observed a black man and a black woman outside the shop. The woman seemed upset and was pacing back and forth and the man was talking to her and trying to calm her down. At trial, Mayberry denied that she was upset while waiting outside the pawn shop. Alkeshia Hoyle testified that she and Blanton were living together at the time of the offense. Blanton’s brother and his brother’s girlfriend were coming to visit him when she left the apartment on April 9. Blanton paged her from their apartment sometime between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. He was at the apartment when she arrived home at about 10:00 p.m. She observed him wearing a gold nugget bracelet and an "animal ring" with red rubies that she had not seen him wearing before. When Blanton was arrested at their apartment on April 13, he was wearing a gold nugget bracelet and a lion’s-head ring with ruby eyes and a diamond in its mouth. The State introduced several jewelry receipts at trial, including a receipt from Piercing Pagoda for a twenty-two-inch gold rope chain; a layaway pick-up receipt from Piercing Pagoda for a gold herringbone necklace dated February 3, 2000; a receipt from Treasures for a ten-karat gold nugget bracelet dated February 3, 2000, under the customer name "Yvonne;" and another receipt from Treasures for a ten-karat gold lion ring dated February 16, 2000, also under the customer name "Yvonne." Physical evidence included three footprints on Garza’s door which appeared to have been made by a tennis shoe. SAPD Detective Myron Oberheu measured one of the footprints at approximately twelve inches. He measured Blanton’s foot in court at twelve and one-fourth inches. Two spent shell casings and one bullet were recovered from Garza’s apartment. The shell casings were ".380 auto caliber." They were two different brands but appeared to have been fired from the same firearm. The bullet was consistent with ".380 auto caliber." State’s witness Frank Trujillo testified that he used to work at the front desk of the West Point Inn in San Antonio and he was familiar with Blanton because he had come to the motel on a couple of occasions asking for a room. Trujillo was not sure of the exact date, but, a few days before April 13, 2000, Blanton asked for a room at the motel. He also asked Trujillo if he wanted to buy a gun. When Trujillo asked him why, he said, "I had to smoke a [email protected]#er." Trujillo noticed that Blanton was wearing a ring with "a tiger or lion with red eyes." Trujillo was arrested on a parole warrant on April 13 and was in jail at the same time as Blanton. While in jail, Blanton told him that he, his brother, and his brother’s girlfriend went over to some guy’s house to "jack him" for drugs and he kicked the door in and shot the guy. He talked about taking some jewelry and said he was on camera at the pawn shop trying to pawn the jewelry. Defense witness Ronald Marshall testified that he was friends with both Garza and Blanton. Marshall testified that he was wearing Garza’s gold chain and religious pendant in a photograph that was recovered from Garza’s apartment. Garza and Blanton were also in the photograph that Marshall believed was taken in February or March of 2000. Marshall testified that Garza originally owned the pendant, but he had given it to Blanton. Blanton let Marshall wear the pendant in the picture and he gave it back to Blanton afterwards. While wearing the pendant, he observed that the links in the chain of the necklace were broken and held together by wire. Marshall had never seen Blanton wearing the lion’s-head ring. Marshall was present when Garza got into an altercation at the strawberry festival the day before his murder. At that time, Garza was wearing the gold nugget bracelet, but he was not wearing the lion’s-head ring or religious pendant. The jury convicted Reginald Blanton of capital murder for killing Carlos Garza while committing robbery or burglary. At the punishment phase of Blanton’s trial, the jury returned a verdict finding that (1) there was a probability that Blanton would commit criminal acts of violence constituting a continuing threat to society, and (2) taking into consideration all of the evidence, including the circumstances of the offense and Blanton’s character, background, and personal moral culpability, there were insufficient mitigating circumstances to warrant a life sentence for petitioner. The trial judge sentenced Blanton to death.

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