death penalty news—-TEXAS

Oct. 29

TEXAS—-impending execution

Homeless man set to die for killing helpful woman

Donna Duncan Vick's kindness to the homeless took her life.

Now 1 of 2 homeless men condemned for her murder more than 10 years ago is
set to pay with his.

Gregory Wright faced lethal injection Thursday, 2 days before his 43rd
birthday, for fatally stabbing the widow at her home in DeSoto, about 15
miles south of Dallas. Like the generosity she had shared with others, the
52-year-old woman provided Wright and a companion food, shelter and money.

Wright, who grew up in northern Kentucky, would be the 14th prisoner
executed this year in the nation's busiest capital punishment state, the
2nd this week and 5th this month. 6 more are set to die in November.

Appeals claiming evidence of Wright's innocence were turned down Tuesday
by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and Wright's lawyers went to the
federal courts to try to keep him alive.

Wright insisted he wasn't involved in Vick's slaying and that an
acquaintance, John Adams, also on death row, was solely responsible.

"He blamed everything on me," Wright said recently from a tiny visiting
cage outside Texas death row. "I'm very upset. It's a nightmare."

At Wright's trial, prosecutors told jurors the pair participated in the
fatal stabbing, then packed up items from inside the house, drove off in
Vick's car and traded the loot for crack cocaine.

A day and a half after the murder, Adams turned himself in to police,
implicated Wright, directed officers to Vick's home and helped in the
recovery of her car. DNA tests of blood on the steering wheel of the car
was shown to belong to Wright. His bloody fingerprint also was found on a
pillowcase on her bed, according to court records.

"What I remember that stands out is just how he took advantage of the
victim's charity," recalled Greg Davis, the Dallas County district
attorney who prosecuted Wright. "She was very Christian, very charitable.
He was on the streets. She helped him. She took him into her home, gave
him money, bought clothes for him. She was as good to him as she could

From prison, Wright said he'd lost his commercial truck driving license,
and trucker livelihood, because of a drinking offense. He was on the
streets in Dallas, getting money by holding up a cardboard sign at stop

A particularly effective sign he used said: "I need a beer."

"Why lie? It worked," said Wright, whose trucker CB handle was "Maverick."

He said he eventually moved to Lancaster, where his "Work for food" sign
attracted the attention of Vick, who lived in nearby DeSoto

. "She wanted to know if I mowed lawns, did odd jobs," he said.

After working for her for about a week, he said Vick asked him if he knew
of anyone else she could help.

"I thought of Mr. Adams," he said, referring to another homeless man he
had befriended. "What a mistake that wound up being. … We had the right
intentions. We thought we were doing the right thing."

He said Adams and Vick got into an argument about Adams smoking at her

"Everything went downhill from there," Wright said. "She ended up dead the
next morning."

From prison, he wouldn't discuss the particulars of the crime, except to
maintain his innocence.

According to Adams' statement to police, he said he watched Wright stab
the woman as she lay in her bed. Evidence showed both men traded items
taken from her home for drugs within hours of her slaying.

"They took her property directly to a crack house in Dallas and sold it
for crack cocaine," Davis said. "We had DNA evidence, her blood on
(Wright's) bluejeans. In addition, we had him identified as the person who
sold the items at the crack house."

Wright, whose lawyers disputed the accuracy of the prosecution evidence,
said he was trying to keep a positive attitude as his execution date

"But this is a very serious situation, being killed," he said.

Adams was tried separately after Wright. He does not have an execution

Scheduled to die next is Elkie Taylor, 47, on Nov. 6. Taylor was condemned
for strangling a 65-year-old Fort Worth man in 1993 with 2 wire coat
hangers and then leading police on a 4-hour chase in a stolen 18-wheeler.
Authorities said the robbery and murder of Otis Flake at Flake's Fort
Worth home was the 2nd killing linked to Taylor over an 11-day period.

On the Net: Greg Wright


State appeals court upholds 3 death sentences

The conviction and death sentence of a man arrested nearly 19 years after
an 11-year-old Fort Worth girl was raped and strangled in her home was
upheld Wednesday by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

The wife of Juan Segundo, 45, was a family friend of Vanessa Villa, who
was found dead in 1986 in her home. A DNA match in a national database
tied Segundo to her slaying. He was tried and convicted of capital murder
in December 2006.

In a second case Wednesday, the state's highest criminal appeals court
also upheld the conviction and death sentence of a San Antonio man, Joe
Michael Luna, 29. Luna was condemned for death of Michael Andrade, a St.
Mary's University student killed during a burglary of his apartment in

The court also rejected another appeal from an Argentine whose first death
sentence was overturned because of improper racial testimony. A federal
judge threw out Victor Saldano's original 1996 conviction in Collin County
because a psychologist testified his Hispanic background made him likely
to be a future danger to society.

A new punishment trial in 2004 returned him to death row.

In his latest appeal, he raised eight claims challenging the validity of
his death sentence for the robbery and fatal shooting of a man abducted
from a Dallas grocery store. Saldano's case has been widely publicized in
Argentina, which does not allow capital punishment.

In another case involving a foreign national, the court Wednesday returned
to the trial court in Houston a challenge to the age of condemned murderer
Bernardo Tercero, a Nicaraguan man convicted of fatally shooting a man in
Harris County in March 1997 during robbery at a dry cleaner store.

Lawyers for Tercero say they have a document showing he was under 18 at
the time of the shooting and would now be ineligible for execution under
U.S. Supreme Court standards. Texas prison records show he was born Aug.
20, 1976. The indictment lists his birth as Aug. 20, 1977. The latest
appeal document lists his birth as Aug. 20, 1979.

The appeals court asked the trial court to sort out the discrepancies.

In the Fort Worth case, Segundo previously had served time in prison for
burglary for breaking into homes of two women and trying to rape them and
for driving while intoxicated. He was arrested in 2005 at his home in
Johnson County, south of Fort Worth, for the girl's death.

The break in the so-called "cold case" murder came when a database called
the Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, linked semen taken from Vanessa's
body to Segundo.

DNA evidence also tied Segundo to the rapes and strangling of two other
women in the Fort Worth area in 1994 and 1995. Tarrant County prosecutors
described him as a sexual sadist and serial killer.

Evidence showed he had attended the Villa girl's wake and signed the guest
book. Segundo's wife had worked with the victim's mother and aunt at a
nursing home and authorities determined he sometimes would drive his wife
to their house.

In his appeal, Segundo raised 19 points of error from his trial, including
challenges to evidence of the 1995 rape, questions about the charges
delivered by the judge to his jury, jury instructions and questions about
jury selection. His appeal also challenged the taking of blood samples
while he was in prison, the introduction of parole revocation documents at
his trial and the constitutionality of the Texas death penalty statute and
lethal injection procedures.

Segundo was paroled from prison in July 1989 but returned again in 1991
following a burglary conviction. He was paroled again in January 1993 but
was sentenced to 5 years in prison in September 1995 for felony driving
while intoxicated. He was released on mandatory supervision in June 2000
and discharged from parole a month later.

In the San Antonio case, Luna pleaded guilty at the start of his capital
murder trial to killing Andrade, 21, who lived in an apartment next door
to Luna's girlfriend.

The plea left his jury only with a decision on punishment. During
punishment phase testimony, Luna took the stand and asked jurors to
sentence him to death.

Evidence showed he crawled through a common attic space to get into his
victim's apartment. Andrade was strangled and a picture of him and a
computer were taken, then the place was set on fire.

Luna already was in jail, arrested on warrants related to other home
burglaries, when he was charged with the slaying.

In his appeal, he raised 25 points of error from his trial, including
questions about whether he should have had a competency hearing related to
his guilty plea, challenges to his jury charge, to evidence seized from an
apartment where he spent a night, to testimony from a victims in previous
crimes, and constitutional challenges to the Texas death penalty statute.

All were turned down.

(source for both: Associated Press)