Spending 3 decades on death row
Ralph Ablanedo was just 26 years old, a married father of 2 young sons,
when he was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop on May 18, 1978.
3 decades and 3 convictions later, a man who killed an Austin police
officer still sits on death row. Friends and family of slain officer Ralph
Ablanedo are begging for justice.
Ablanedo was just 26 years old, a married father of 2 young sons, when he
was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop on May 18, 1978.
David Lee Powell was just a year older than the officer, well-educated and
a known drug user. He opened fire on Ablanedo with an automatic machine
3 times he was found guilty of the murder, and 3 times he was sentenced to
As the 30th anniversary of the crime approaches, Ablanedo's family and
friends want to know why he is still on death row.
"It feels to me like it was just yesterday," said Irene Ablanedo, sister
of Ralph Ablanedo. "My brother, his badge and then on the back I have
where he's located in Washington, D.C., I wear it all the time."
On the walls of her living room or hanging around her neck, Ralph Ablanedo
is never far from his sister's heart.
"I can't let it go, I live this every day," said Irene Ablanedo. "It's
something that shouldn't have lasted this long."
After his last conviction in 1999, David Lee Powell won the right to
appeal again. He claimed his rights were violated, because prosecutors
didn't disclose evidence that his girlfriend, who was driving the car,
could have shot Ralph Ablanedo and because an emergency room doctor did
not read his Miranda rights when he was examined after his arrest.
Austin police Lt. George Vanderhule wants justice for his friend.
"This just shouldn't happen," Vanderhule said. "Every time he gets a new
trial, the jury comes back with the same decision — guilty and the
punishment is death — and yet here we are, again."
Ablanedo was shot 10 times with an AK-47. His bullet-proof vest was no
match for the automatic weapon.
"The fact that someone who ruthlessly murdered a police officer was given
the death penalty and 30 years later is still sitting on death row is an
insult to this entire community," Vanderhule said.
With her brother now gone longer than he lived, Irene Ablanedo is looking
for more than closure. She wants peace.
"If we keep going, there's never going to be an end to this, and it should
have ended a long time ago," she said.
Powell is currently the longest-serving prisoner on death row. Only 5
other inmates have spent more time there.
An appeal hearing before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans
is set for early June.
(source: KXAN News)
Death penalty waived for suspect of the KFC kidnapping, murder of 5
The state of Texas will not seek the death penalty in the capital murder
trial of Darnell Hartsfield.
Hartsfield, 47, is the 2d defendant charged with killing 5people who were
kidnapped from a Kilgore Kentucky Fried Chicken in 1983. His cousin,
50-year-old Romeo Pinkerton, pleaded guilty in 2007 to 5counts of murder
2weeks into his capital murder trial for the killings. Prosecutors would
have sought the death penalty if he had been convicted. For his plea,
Pinkerton was sentenced to five concurrent life sentences.
According to a notice prosecutors filed Friday in Rusk County,
"peculiarities in the pre-1991 Texas sentencing law" regarding the death
penalty caused the state of Texas not to seek it if Hartsfield is
convicted. Assistant Texas Attorney General Lisa Tanner and Rusk County
District Attorney Micheal Jimerson declined to comment on the decision to
waive the death penalty, citing an ongoing gag order in the case.
Donald Killingsworth and Thad Davidson, Hartsfield's attorneys, received
the notice shortly before a trial status hearing Friday afternoon at the
Rusk County Courthouse.
Killingsworth brought the notice to Hartsfield, who was sitting on a
courtroom bench in an orange prison jumpsuit.
"This is half the battle right here," Killingsworth said after Hartsfield
read the notice.
Fourth District Court Judge J. Clay Gossett mentioned the notice in court
and the defense attorneys said they had no objections.
"For the record, we want to say thank you," Davidson said.
At the trial hearing, Gossett announced that the trial will be held in
Bryan, the county seat of Brazos County. Jury selection will start on
Sept. 8. The trial itself might begin on Sept. 15.
Tanner said in court that the state's case would likely take a couple of
weeks to present.
Pinkerton's trial was held in Bowie County because of publicity
surrounding the trial.
Texas not seeking death penalty over 1983 KFC killings
Texas will not seek execution of a 2nd man charged with capital murder
over the 1983 deaths of five people abducted from a Kilgore restaurant.
Judge J. Clay Gossett on Friday said in court, in Henderson, that the
state filed paperwork indicating its intent to waive the death penalty in
the case of Darnell Hartsfield.
Hartsfield's cousin, Romeo Pinkerton of Tyler, pleaded guilty in October
to his role in the killing of 5 people taken from a Kentucky Fried Chicken
Pinkerton accepted 5 life prison terms.
The Longview News-Journal reports Gossett also ordered Hartsfield's trial
to be moved from Rusk County to Brazos County. Jury selection begins Sept.
8 in Bryan.
Prosecutors declined comment on the decision to waive the death penalty,
citing a gag order.
(source: Associated Press)