death penalty news—-TEXAS

Oct. 16


Killer in triple slaying executed Thursday

A San Antonio street gangster who gunned down 3 people in the holdup of a
Korean restaurant more than 6 years ago was executed Thursday evening.

Kevin Watts told friends he was thankful for their love and support. "For
everybody incarcerated, y'all keep your heads up," he said. He told them
to "stay strong and keep fighting."

"I'm out of here, man. I'm gone. Keep me in your hearts," he said.

As the lethal drugs began flowing, Watts said, "Can I say something? I'm
dying but." At that point, he began snoring and stopped breathing a moment
later. At 6:17 p.m. CDT, he was pronounced dead.

No friends or relatives of any of the victims attended the execution.

Watts, 27, confessed to the execution-style shootings where the newlywed
wife of one of the victims also was abducted and raped. Earlier this year,
returning to the Bexar County court where a jury convicted him of capital
murder and decided he should die, Watts angrily confronted the judge
scheduling his execution with an obscenity-laced tirade complaining about
a racist justice system. The judge twice had to order him removed from the

Watts' appeals had exhausted his appeals. Without the help of his lawyer,
John Economidy, he filed a clemency request with the Texas Board of
Pardons and Paroles that was rejected. Also without his lawyer's
knowledge, he filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court contending
mental retardation should make him ineligible for execution, but Economidy
said there was no evidence to support the claim and the court was
returning the motion without even considering it.

Watts walked into the Sam Won Gardens restaurant the morning of March 1,
2002, after a night of drinking and drugs and demanded money. He ordered
manager Hak Po Kim, 30, and cooks Yan Tzu Banks, 52, and Chae Sun Shook,
59, to kneel on the kitchen floor and face a wall. Then he shot each of
them in the head.

He forced Kim's wife of 2 months to retrieve the wallet and keys from her
dying husband, grabbed about $100 from a cash register, then drove off
with her in Kim's SUV.

The truck was spotted at a nearby apartment complex parking lot and police
arrested Watts about 3 hours after the shootings. He had tried to flee
from officers with Kim's wife by ramming the truck into 2 patrol cars.

"He was caught with a victim by the police as he's trying to escape and he
had the murder weapon literally tied around his neck," Bill Pennington,
the Bexar County assistant district attorney who prosecuted Watts, said.

The abducted woman identified him during the guilt-innocence portion of
his trial as the gunman at the family's restaurant. Then at the punishment
phase of the trial, she testified how she was forced at gunpoint to
perform sex acts.

"My intent was to put food on the table, get some money, go home and live
happily ever after," Watts, in a death row interview last week, said of
the robbery. "The situation gets out of control and one thing leads to
another. When I woke up in the county jail, I said to myself: 'I ain't
getting out.' "

Watts was from San Jose, Calif. He said when he was about 14 his mother
tried to get him away from gangs there and moved him to San Antonio to
live with an aunt.

"I came to Texas and I guess you could say I picked up where I left off
with the gangs," he said.

Watts' record included misdemeanor convictions for evading arrest,
criminal mischief, trespassing, marijuana possession and driving while
intoxicated. He also had a weapons case against him as a 16-year-old.

He dropped out of San Antonio's Theodore Roosevelt High School in the 9th

"School was boring," he said. "The teacher wasn't into it. I'm not into
it. I got money on my mind. I want to get high, smoke some weed, make some
money, be with the homies."

"So I became a full-time participant in the street life."

At the time of the shootings, he had an infant daughter. The night before
the slayings, witnesses said he'd been drinking "thug passion," a
champagne and cognac drink made famous by slain gangster rap singer Tupac
Shakur, snorting cocaine and taking numerous pills.

Watts becomes the 11th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in
Texas and the 416th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on
December 7, 1982. Watts becomes the 177th inmate in the state to be
executed since Rick Perry became governor in 2001.

4 more executions are scheduled in Texas before the end of the month, and
6 more are set for November. On Tuesday, Joseph Ries, 29, is the 1st of 2
prisoners set to die next week. He was convicted of breaking into a rural
home in Hopkins County in northeast Texas and fatally shooting and taking
the car of Robert Ratliff, 64, who was asleep.

Watts becomes the 27th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in
the USA and the 1126th overall since the nation resumed executions on
January 17, 1977.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)