death penalty news—–TEXAS

Sept. 17

TEXAS—-impending execution

Killer of 93-year-old woman in $10 burglary to die

Widespread power shortages in the Huntsville area were not affecting the
scheduled execution of a Texas prisoner condemned for killing an elderly
woman 10 years ago.

Former auto mechanic and laborer William Murray, 39, was set to die
Wednesday evening. The execution would be the 9th this year in the
nation's most active capital punishment state.

The Huntsville Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, where
lethal injections are carried out, had power, agency spokeswoman Michelle
Lyons said.

Murray's appeals were exhausted and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
uanimously rejected a clemency request filed by his attorney, J. Stephen
Bush, who acknowledged the attempt was "a very long shot."

Murray was condemned for the 1998 strangling and rape of 93-year-old Rena
Ratcliff during a burglary at her home in Kaufman County, just outside

Evidence at his trial showed he'd been responsible for at least a dozen
burglaries in his home area of Kaufman County, earning him a 10-year
prison term. But he was released on probation just three months after
going to prison.

Three months later, Ratcliff was killed in a burglary that got Murray less
than $10 from a jar of change and a brown-handled knife he later swapped
for drugs.

Murray said he was high on PCP, crack cocaine and 18 beers when he broke
into the house where he planned to steal a TV that turned out to be too
heavy to carry. He was rummaging through things in the woman's bedroom
when she woke up.

"I didn't know she was in there," he told The Associated Press in a recent
interview on death row. "I messed up. Somebody hit me from behind and I
went off. She hit me in the head with her cane. The next thing, I did what
I did. I tripped out. It was crazy."

Murray's mother, a home nursing aide, once had cared for Ratcliff although
Murray didn't know his victim. Ratcliff had lived in the house 30 years,
outliving her husband and 2 stepdaughters.

The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year refused to review his case. That
rejection came after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year
upheld lower courts that denied appeals claims.

One of the appeals focused on arguments that his trial court didn't
require psychological examinations when he testified in 1999 he wanted
appeals dropped and his punishment expedited. He later changed his mind,
but a motion to reinstate that appeal was denied after a psychological
expert said there was no reason to doubt Murray's competence when he said
he wanted appeals waived.

The 5-foot-3 Murray, known on death row as "Scooter," said he was
depressed and suicidal when he originally made the decision to hasten the

"I ain't ready to go," he said from death row. "I used to be."

Murray said he started doing crack cocaine in the late 1980s, calling it
"the worst mistake I ever did."

Records show besides the burglaries, he escaped from jail while awaiting
trial, sexually assaulted two other inmates while he was locked up and
also was seen smoking marijuana in jail. At one point, he was employed as
a city worker in Kaufman but got fired for marijuana possession.

"I was doing so much dope, I couldn't stop," he said.

"Yes, I did do this," Murray said of the murder. "I'm not trying to blame
this on somebody else. I want people to know I'm sorry for the crime. I
pray to the Lord to forgive me and I'm asking them to forgive me. That's
all I can do."

(source: Associated Press)