Results tagged “Texas” from The Court Reporter

Texas Man Executed for Store Abduction Murder

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HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) - A Texas inmate was executed Thursday evening for fatally shooting one of three people he and a partner abducted during a convenience store robbery nearly 11 years ago.

Richard Cobb, 29, didn't deny using a 20-gauge shotgun to kill Kenneth Vandever in an East Texas field where two women also were shot and one was raped. He was convicted of capital murder.

"Life is death, death is life. I hope that someday this absurdity that humanity has come to will come to an end," Cobb said when asked if he had any last words. "Life is too short. I hope anyone that has negative energy towards me will resolve that.

"Life is too short to harbor feelings of hatred and anger. That's it, warden."

But that wasn't it.

Just before the lethal drug took effect and at the conclusion of his statement, Cobb twisted his head back, raised it off a pillow placed on the gurney and then toward the warden standing behind him.

"Wow!" the inmate exclaimed in a loud voice. "That is great. That is awesome! Thank you, warden! Thank you (expletive) warden!"

His head fell back on the pillow, and his neck twisted at an odd angle, with his mouth and eyes open.

He remained that way for some 15 minutes before a physician entered the death chamber to examine him and pronounce him dead at 6:27 p.m. CDT. Sixteen minutes had passed since the drug had been injected.

The father, stepmother and stepbrother of the man shot and killed by Cobb were among the witnesses. Also in the viewing area was one of the women who was shot and attacked but survived to testify against Cobb.

About two hours before Cobb's lethal injection, the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for him to be executed, rejecting his appeal. It was Texas' fourth execution this year.

Cobb's lawyers from the University of Houston-based Texas Innocence Network contended a prison expert at his trial in 2004 falsely described how much freedom the convicted Cobb could expect if Cherokee County jurors gave him life in prison rather than a death sentence.

His attorneys argued that in at least four other death row cases with similar testimony, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ordered reviews of those punishments.

In a brief order last week, the state court refused Cobb's appeal as being filed improperly and dismissed it without considering the merits of the claim. The Supreme Court justices needed to address whether Cobb's equal protection or due process rights were violated, Cobb's attorneys said.

The high court, in a brief order, refused.

State lawyers had argued the state court's ruling was legally correct and that the expert testimony was factually and procedurally different from the other cases cited, as well as accurate in Cobb's trial.

With Cobb's execution imminent, the appeal was "nothing more than a meritless attempt to postpone his execution," Tomee Heining, an assistant state attorney general told the high court late Wednesday.

On Sept. 2, 2002, Vandever and the two women were abducted from a store in Rusk, about 120 miles southeast of Dallas, and taken to a field about 10 miles away. All three were shot and left for dead. Vandever, 37, died, but the women managed to get help and later testified against Cobb and his partner, Beunka Adams.

Cobb was 18 at the time of the attack, on probation for auto theft and a high school dropout. Cobb and Adams were arrested in Jacksonville, about 25 miles away, the day after the crime. It was the latest in a series of robberies tied to them.

Cobb testified at his trial he began using drugs at age 12 and turned to robbery to pay off a drug debt.

Adams was executed a year ago this week for his participation in the slaying.

Vandever had frequented the store in Rusk and would do things like take out the trash. An auto accident had left him with the mental capacity of a child.

Cobb's trial attorneys unsuccessfully tried to show Adams forced Cobb to shoot Vandever by threatening Cobb. The survivors of the attack said they never heard such threats, but heard Vandever plead that he needed his medication and scream when he was shot.

"Basically, it was an act of compulsion," Cobb said of the abductions and shootings. He described himself to The Associated Press shortly after arriving on death row in 2004 as "young, dumb and made a mistake."

"I'm guilty of the crime," he said.

He told the Jacksonville Daily Progress last month from prison he didn't want to die "but I'm ready for it."

At least 11 other Texas inmates have executions scheduled for the coming months, including three in May.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

Texas Executes Convict for Killing a Man and Raping His Wife

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HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) - A Texas convict with a lengthy criminal history was executed Tuesday evening for fatally shooting a man and raping the slain man's fiancee during a home break-in more than 22 years ago.

Rickey Lynn Lewis already had been in and out of prison five times in less than seven years when he was arrested three days after the killing of 45-year-old George Newman and attack on Newman's fiancee in 1990 at their home in a rural area of Smith County, about 90 miles east of Dallas.

Lewis, 50, acknowledged the rape, but not the killing.

"If I hadn't raped you, you wouldn't have lived," he told Newman's fiancee, Connie Hilton, in the moments before the single lethal dose of pentobarbital was administered. "I didn't kill Mr. Newman and I didn't rob your house.

"I was just there. ... I'm sorry for what you've gone through. It wasn't me that harmed and stole all of your stuff," he said to Hilton, who stood behind a glass window a few feet away. The Associated Press normally does not name rape victims, but Hilton, 63, agreed to be identified.

Lewis said the two people responsible for Newman's killing are still alive. He didn't identify them.

He told Hilton he watched her flee the house to get help. "When I saw you in the truck driving away, I could have killed you, but I didn't," he said. "I'm not a killer."

Lewis thanked his friends who watched through a nearby window "for the love you gave me."

"I thank the Lord for the man I am today. I have done all I can to better myself, to learn to read and write," he said, appearing to choke back tears. "Take me to my king."

As the drug began taking effect, he said he could feel it "burning my arm."

"I feel it in my throat. I'm getting dizzy," Lewis said before he started to snore and, seconds later, lost consciousness.

He was pronounced dead 14 minutes after the lethal dose began.

The U.S. Supreme Court last week refused to review Lewis' case and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles unanimously voted against a clemency request.

No last-day appeals were filed by his attorneys to try to halt the execution, the second this year in Texas.

Earlier appeals focused on whether Lewis, a ninth-grade dropout who worked as a laborer, was mentally impaired and ineligible for the death penalty under Supreme Court rulings. The claims included a suggestion from Lewis' attorneys that the court reconsider a denial it made in his case in 2005. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals refused that recommendation on Monday.

Hilton declined to speak with reporters after the execution. In a first-person account she wrote of the attack, she said she got out of bed the night of Sept. 17, 1990, after her barking dog woke her and saw a man in the hallway with a shotgun.

She screamed, and Newman responded and was shot in the face. A dog in the home was also killed.

Hilton tried hiding in a bathroom, was struck at least twice in the head and then assaulted for over an hour by Lewis while the other two people Lewis claims were there stole items from the house.

She testified she was ordered to "quit whimpering," felt a gun barrel on her and was told someone would find her in the morning.

According to court documents, she was left in the kitchen with her hands and feet bound. As Lewis and his partners fled in her truck, she managed to free herself, crawled to Newman to find him dead and then climbed out a window to seek help.

Lewis was arrested three days later after he was seen with some of the items stolen from the house. DNA evidence linked him to the attack.

"There's still a lot of fear in the back of my mind because the other two men never were caught," Hilton told the AP last week. "You never know if there's going to be retaliation.

"He's never told anyone and as far as I'm aware of, nobody knows. On the other hand, if he were to tell who was with him, that would confirm his guilt, and he's not going to do that."

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in 1996 upheld Lewis' conviction but reversed his death sentence, finding jurors had faulty instructions when considering his sentence. At a new punishment trial the following year, Lewis again was sentenced to die.

Lewis' mother, who has since died, testified a 10-year-old Lewis shot his father to protect her. Testimony indicated Lewis' father had abused him as a child.

Records showed Lewis first went to prison in 1983 for burglary, was paroled and returned to prison as a parole violator. He continued to be a repeat offender and parole violator. His arrest on capital murder charges for Newman's slaying came six months after his most recent release.

Evidence showed two months before the Newman shooting he stole a truck and led police on a chase. Then four days before the attack, Lewis used a sawed-off shotgun during a store robbery in Tyler.

At least 11 other Texas inmates have executions scheduled through July, including three more this month.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

Texas Politico Arrested by FBI Today For Rigging Construction Bids

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An Eagle Pass, Texas politician was arrested today by the FBI after he was indicted for an alleged bribery, kickback and bid-rigging scheme, according to federal authorities.

Cesar Flores, 46, allegedly manipulated the bidding process to guarantee that contractors he chose would be awarded Maverick County construction contracts, state federal authorities.

The incidents took place in 2010 and 2011.

The contractors deposited checks issued to them by Maverick County and then made cash payments to Flores who is a county commissioner.

The bids were inflated so there would be enough money to perform the work and have enough left over to bribe Flores, federal officials stated.

If convicted, Flores is facing up to 10 years in prison for each bribery charge, federal officials state.
The Court Reporter
Raul Hernandez has spent years writing stories about the drama that unfolds in the courtroom. Here he answers common questions, share some insights on the judicial system and passes along some of the little things that make the Ventura County courts an interesting place to be. You can contact him at rhernandez@vcstar.com.