death penalty news—–TEXAS

Sept. 17


Killer of woman in $10 burglary executed

An apologetic William Murray was executed Wednesday for raping and
strangling a 93-year-old woman during a burglary of her Dallas-area home
more than a decade ago.

"I'm sorry for what I did," he told two nephews of his victim who watched
him through a window in the death chamber. "I hope you can find it in your
heart to forgive me. The Lord has forgiven me."

Murray then looked through an adjacent window where his mother and 2
brothers were among the witnesses and said: "I'll be there waiting for
y'all, all right? God Bless."

8 minutes later at 6:20 p.m., he was pronounced dead.

Power outages in the Huntsville area because of Hurricane Ike had no
impact on the lethal injection of the former auto mechanic and laborer
from Kaufman. Officials said the procedures were not dependent on
electricity although the Huntsville Unit of the Texas Department of
Criminal Justice, where executions are carried out, had normal electric

Murray was the 9th Texas prisoner put to death this year. The total is the
highest in the nation.

Murray's lawyer said appeals were exhausted. The U.S. Supreme Court
refused to review the case earlier this year. In addition, a clemency bid
to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles was turned down this week.

"Yes, I did do this," Murray told The Associated Press in a recent
interview. "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."

Murray blamed drug problems for committing at least a dozen burglaries,
including the one in February 1998 where Rena Ratcliff was awakened while
he rummaged through her bedroom. The widow hit him with her cane or
walker, surprising him, and he said after that he "went crazy."

"I didn't know she was in there," he said. "I messed up. Somebody hit me
from behind and I went off.

"I did what I did."

He took about $10 in change from a jar and a knife he later traded for

Murray had been sentenced to 10 years in prison for burglaries, but was
released on probation after 3 months. The Ratcliff slaying occurred three
months after his release.

The night of the killing, he said he drank 18 beers and took some PCP and
crack cocaine. He'd hoped to steal a television but it was too heavy for
the 5-foot-3 Murray, known on death row as "Scooter."

Early in his appeals process, Murray said he wanted no appeals, then later
changed his mind.

Besides the burglaries, his record showed he escaped from jail while
awaiting trial, sexually assaulted 2 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.

Another inmate, Joseph Ries, had been scheduled to die on Thursday but the
judge who set the execution date moved it a few weeks ago to October. Ries
is among 4 convicted killers set to die next month and among at least 15
with execution dates into early next year.

Scheduled to die next is Kevin Watts, set for execution Oct. 16 for a
triple slaying during the robbery of a San Antonio restaurant in 2002.

Murray becomes the 9th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in
Texas and the 414th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on
December 7, 1982. Murray becomes the 175th condemned inmate to be put to
death since Rick Perry became Governor of Texas in 2001.

Murray becomes the 22nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in
the USA and the 1121st overall since the nation resumed executions on
January 17, 1977.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)