death penalty news—–TEXAS

Sept. 23


Jurors hear testimony from Rangers in KFC slaying

Jurors on Monday heard testimony from 2 Texas Rangers 1 retired and the
other dead in the capital murder trial of a second man charged in the
notorious murders of 5 people abducted from an East Texas Kentucky Fried
Chicken restaurant a quarter-century ago.

Rusk County District Attorney Michael Jimerson, acting as former Texas
Ranger Stuart Dowell, read Dowell's testimony from a 2005 trial. Dowell
had testified he took a white box with blood on it to a Tyler Department
of Public Safety lab shortly after the execution-style murders of five
people abducted from the Kilgore restaurant on Sept. 23, 1983.

Dowell died in 2005 after a lengthy illness.

Darnell Hartsfield is charged in the murders of David Maxwell, 20; Mary
Tyler, 37; Opie Ann Hughes, 39; Joey Johnson, 20; and Monte Landers, 19.
All but Landers worked at the restaurant about 25 miles east of Tyler and
115 miles east of Dallas. Landers was a friend of Maxwell and Johnson and
was visiting them as the restaurant was closing for the night.

The trial of Hartsfield, 47, of Tyler, comes almost a year after his
cousin, Romeo Pinkerton, took a plea bargain midway through his own trial.

If convicted, Hartsfield faces an automatic life prison term because
prosecutors have said they won't seek the death penalty. The convicted
burglar and drug dealer already was serving life for perjury when DNA
testing tied him to the KFC killings.

State District Judge Clay Gossett allowed Dowell's 3-year-old testimony
because it was part of a trial record, the Tyler Morning Telegraph
reported Monday in its online edition. The testimony came over the
objections of defense attorneys Don Killingsworth and Thad Davidson.

Jimerson took the stand to read Dowell's testimony as Texas Attorney
General prosecutor Lisa Tanner asked the same questions she asked Dowell
in the 2005 perjury trial, the Tyler newspaper reported. Both read the
lines as if they were two actors in a play.

Dowell, a major investigator in the KFC case, testified in 2005 that
former Kilgore Police Capt. Marvin Avance gave him a white box that came
from the KFC to take to the DPS lab in Tyler. Dowell said that Avance was
the custodian of evidence at the time.

The box's chain of custody has long been debated because an evidence log
at the Kilgore Police Department came up missing several years ago.

(source: Associated Press)