death penalty news—TEXAS

April 1


Supreme Court rejects appeal by death row inmate from Fort Worth

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up the case of a Fort
Worth killer whose lawyers said should be spared the death penalty because
he was mentally retarded when he and an accomplice strangled a 65-year-old
war veteran during a 1993 robbery.

The action, 2 days before the 15th anniversary of the crime, means that
the last hope for Elkie Lee Taylor to avoid lethal injection in Huntsville
might be that the Supreme Court strikes down the method of execution
employed by Texas and 36 other states and the federal government. Justices
are expected to issue their much-anticipated ruling later this year.

Taylor, a 6th-grade dropout, had been on parole about three months for
burglarizing the Fort Worth home of Korean War veteran Otis Flake when he
and Darryl Birdow returned to exact revenge and steal items that could be
sold to buy drugs, according to news accounts and court testimony.

The pair found Flake at home, so they bound him, gagged him and later
strangled him with 2 wire coat hangers. Taylor and Birdow were also
suspected in the slaying of 87-year-old Ramon Carrillo 11 days earlier.
Carrillo's home had also been burglarized multiple times.

Taylor's arrest came after he was seen leaving Flake's house days after
the killing. The arrest culminated a 120-mile chase with Taylor driving a
stolen semi that was stopped only after an officer shot out the tires in

Taylor, now 47, was 2 days from his execution date in 2003 when newly
unearthed prison records showed him to have an IQ of 63. Most experts
consider 70 to be the level for mental retardation. A year earlier, the
Supreme Court had ruled that inmates with mental retardation could not be
subjected to the death penalty.

But the high court left it to the states to determine what constitutes
retardation, and Texas has not done so.

Prosecutors have pointed to Taylor's fleeing from police and attempt to
blame Flake's killing on others as evidence that he understood the
severity and consequences of his actions.

The condemned man's lawyers and family members argued that Taylor had been
mentally impaired since childhood, falling behind in schoolwork and being
led astray by friends and finally dropping out at age 15 when he was
unable to master 6th grade.

Michelle Lyons, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal
Justice, said Taylor remains on death row while Birdow is serving a life
sentence at the Robertson Unit in Abilene. Birdow is eligible for parole
in June for the 1st time, but it has not been approved by the Texas Board
of Pardons and Paroles.

Although Texas leads the nation with 405 executions since 1982, all
executions have been placed on hold while the high court considers whether
the lethal injection method violates the constitutional ban on cruel and
unusual punishment. Although the method appears to put the inmate to sleep
before causing death, critics argue that one of the drugs simply paralyzes
the body while masking excruciating pain.

(source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram)


Jurors Sentence Rodriguez to Death —- Emotions Run High in Rosendo
Rodriguez Trial

Randal County jurors have sentenced Rosendo Rodriguez to the death penalty
for murdering Summer Baldwin and her unborn child.

Jurors began deliberating punishment at 10 a.m. today in the Capital
Murder trial of Rosendo Rodriguez.

In closing statements, District Attorney Matt Powell told the jury that
testimony and evidence presented indicates a strong likelihood that
Rodriguez would offend again. He urged jurors to hand down the death

Defense attorney Rick Wardroup urged jurors to consider mitigating
evidence about Rodriguez' family life and that Rodriguez has "found Jesus"
while he's been incarcerated.