"Texas Seven" member Michael Anthony Rodriguez executed
They gathered Thursday by the high and foreboding red-brick facade of the
Huntsville prison, known as "The Walls." Some had come to witness, some to
protest and some to support what was about to happen.
A large white clock set in the bricks struck 5:50 p.m. State prison guards
dressed in gray watched the commotion from watchtowers above. One snapped
Within minutes, officials would give a lethal injection to Michael
Rodriguez, the first of the Texas Seven to be executed for their infamous
killing of an Irving police officer on Christmas Eve 2000.
"We are here protesting the execution of Michael Rodriguez," shouted
62-year-old Gloria Rubac, holding a yellow banner that said, "Texas Death
Penalty: Racist and Anti-poor."
"Because we don't believe the state of Texas has the right to murder
people who murder people just to show that murdering is wrong," she
Dozens of police officers from across Texas were among the crowd that
assembled outside the Huntsville Unit, where one of the killers of Irving
police Officer Aubrey Hawkins was executed. Officer Hawkins was killed by
a group of prison escapees on Christmas Eve 2000.
But at the other end of the wall, wearing blue ribbons, were police
officers in uniform and members of the Patriot Guard Riders, a motorcycle
gang dressed in leather and denim. Dozens of officers from across the
state had come at the request of the dead officer's widow.
Seymour Police Chief Tommy Duncan was one of them.
"I just thought it might be something that I need to do, maybe for
myself," he said.
Chief Duncan was shot by a burglar while on duty in 1975.
"Shot me right straight in the face," the chief said. He lost his left
Aubrey Hawkins Chief Duncan said he believes in the death penalty an eye
for an eye. "In my case, pretty much literally."
"That could be me," the chief said of Officer Aubrey Hawkins, the
29-year-old husband and father that Mr. Rodriguez helped kill 7 years ago.
"We've got to show these people if you assault one of us, you assault all
of us," Chief Duncan said.
Ms. Rubac sees it differently. As a member of Houston's Texas Death
Penalty Abolition Movement, she said she can't remember how many
executions she's come to protest.
"Maybe 200, maybe more. I've lost count," she said.
In 1993, she said, she witnessed the execution of a friend: "He and
another guy robbed one of those money trucks and for some reason the other
guy decided to start shooting. So they were both charged with capital
But that's not why she's against the death penalty, she said, explaining
it instead this way: "I grew up in the '60s and the civil rights
The condemned man himself, however, disagreed with that point of view.
Claiming a religious conversion on death row, he asked for years that his
appeals be dropped so that he could face his punishment and stand a better
chance at going to heaven.
Before Mr. Rodriguez and 6 others overpowered workers at a
maximum-security prison in South Texas in 2000, he had been serving a life
sentence for paying a hit man $2,000 to kill his wife, Theresa Rodriguez,
Ms. Rodriguez's sister, Yolanda Dalmolin, and Officer Hawkins' widow, Lori
Hawkins-Acosta, were among those who came to witness Mr. Rodriguez's last
At 6:02, Mr. Rodriguez was led to the execution chamber.
"May I speak now?" he asked.
"No, not yet," a prison official answered.
He was strapped to the gurney, and then his executioners pierced his arms
with the needles, first the left, then the right.
At 6:10, he began his final words.
"I know this in no way makes up for all the pain and suffering I gave
you," he began. "I am so, so sorry."
He looked directly at Ms. Dalmolin and Ms. Hawkins-Acosta.
"My punishment is nothing compared to the pain and sorrow I have caused.
… I am not strong enough to ask for forgiveness because I don't know if
I am worthy," he continued.
"I ask the Lord to please forgive me. I have gained nothing, but just
brought sorrow and pain to these wonderful people."
He kept apologizing, calling the families by name. He thanked a couple,
Irene and Jack, for "helping me find Christ's love." His words turned to
"My Jesus, my Savior, there is none like you," he sang softly. "All of my
days I want to praise, let every breath. Shout to the Lord, let us sing
His song trailed off and turned to a sound like snoring. It was 6:13, and
his lethal dose had begun. He was pronounced dead at 6:20.
They pulled a white sheet over his face.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
THE 'TEXAS SEVEN'
The infamous "Texas Seven" were convicts who broke out of a South Texas
prison in 2000. The gang was involved in the slaying of a police officer,
then captured in Colorado after six weeks on the run. Here's a look at the
7, who, except for one who killed himself, were all convicted of capital
murder and sentenced to death.
Michael Rodriguez, 45: Arrested with George Rivas, Randy Halprin and
Joseph Garcia on Jan. 22, 2001, a day after police received a tip from a
trailer park resident outside Colorado Springs, Colo. Born in Dallas, he
was serving a life sentence for capital murder in San Antonio after his
conviction for paying another man $2,000 to kill his wife so he could
collect life insurance proceeds. Rodriguez's wife was shot in the head in
July 1992 after she and her husband came home from a movie. She died on
the floor of the garage at their San Antonio home. He has given up all
appeals and is scheduled to die Thursday.
George Rivas, 37: The leader of the fugitives, at the time of the December
2000 prison break the El Paso native was serving 99 years for aggravated
kidnapping and burglary. He and 2 other men robbed a sporting goods store
in El Paso in April 1993. The robbers forced the employees to handcuff
themselves and then escaped with money. More than a month later, they
robbed a Toys 'R' Us but were caught while trying to escape. His appeal is
at the federal district court in Dallas.
Joseph Garcia, 36: He was serving 50 years for murder in San Antonio. He
stabbed Miguel Luna to death after the 2 men had a frustrating drive
together and Luna gave bad directions. When Garcia stopped the car, Luna
attacked him and grabbed his keys. Garcia chased Luna, jumped on him and
stabbed him 19 times. Garcia, from Bexar County, said he acted in
self-defense. His appeal is at the federal district court in Dallas.
Randy Halprin, 31: The Collin County native was serving 30 years for
injury to a child, specifically, beating up a baby. He had met the mother
in an Arlington homeless shelter in 1996 and moved in with the family. A
month later, while the mother and 2 other children were playing in a
different room, Halprin repeatedly beat the infant because, he later said,
the baby would not stop crying. When the child was taken to the hospital
the next day, doctors discovered broken arms, legs and a fractured skull.
His appeal is at the trial court in Dallas.
Larry Harper, 37: Killed himself in January 2001 inside an RV at a mobile
home park 50 miles southwest of Denver as police closed in. He was serving
50 years for aggravated sexual assault in El Paso, raped 3 women over 6
months in 1993 and 1994. Each time, he surprised the women at their home,
tied them up and repeatedly assaulted them. Harper's victims lived near
the University of Texas at El Paso, where he attended marketing classes
between 1986 and 1994.
Patrick Murphy Jr., 46: He and Donald Newbury surrendered at a Holiday Inn
about 20 miles east of where their colleagues were captured 2 days
earlier. He was serving 50 years for aggravated sexual assault with a
deadly weapon in Dallas. The Dallas native entered the home of a
23-year-old woman he had known since high school and put a knife to her
throat. Murphy then covered the victim's head with a pillowcase, cut off
her nightgown and raped her, court records show. 3 days before the crime,
Murphy pleaded guilty to a burglary charge. His appeal is at the trial
court in Dallas.
Donald Newbury, 46: Born in Bernalillo County, N.M., he was serving 99
years for aggravated robbery, robbing a woman at an Austin hotel in 1997
while armed with a sawed-off shotgun. Newbury was a 3-time felon whose
first armed robbery conviction came in 1981. He was convicted of armed
robbery again in 1987, and was suspected in about a dozen other armed
robberies in the Austin area in 1986 and 1987. His appeal is at the
federal district court in Dallas.
(source: Dallas Morning News)
Texas House of Representatives
August 12, 2008
Ms. Rissie Owens
Chair, Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
Members of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
Executive Clemency Section
8610 Shoal Creek Boulevard
Austin, Texas 78757
Dear Chairwoman Owens and Board Members:
We are writing to urge the Board to recommend commuting Jeffrey Wood's
death sentence to a life sentence. Further, we hope that Governor Peny
would act favorably on such a recommendation. As we are certain you are
aware, Mr. Wood is set to be executed on August 21,2008.
Mr. Wood was convicted of capital murder under the Texas Law of Parties.
It appears evident that he neither killed, nor anticipated that Daniel
Earl Reneau would kill, Kris Keeran. He did not anticipate that a murder
would occur and was not in the store when the murder took place. The
shooter, Danny Reneau, has already been executed for this crime. When
asked on death row to identify the shooter, Reneau had a oneword reply,
This case is similar to the case of Kenneth Foster, whose death sentence
under the Law of Parties was commuted by Govemor Perry in 2007.
While Jeffrey Wood deserves to be imprisoned for his participation in the
robbery, he should not be executed. We find the facts of his case, as well
as the application of the Law of Parties, to be particularly bothersome.
The death penalty is supposed to be reserved for the worst of the worst.
It seems clear to us that Jeffrey Wood is not a man for whom the death
penalty should be applied. We respectfully request that clemency be
Thank you very much for your consideration.
Rep. Elliott Naishtat
Rep. Donna Howard
Rep. Lon Burnam
Ruth Jones McClendon
Rep. Alma Allen
Rep. Eddie Rodriguez
Rep. Sylvester Tumer
Rep. Harold Dutton
Rep. Jessica Farrar
Rep. Mark Strama
cc: The Honorable Rick Perry
Governor of Texas
State Capitol 2S.1