death penalty news—–TEXAS

Oct. 30


Homeless man executed for killing helpful woman

Proclaiming his innocence, condemned prisoner Gregory Wright was executed
Thursday evening for the fatal stabbing and robbery of a Dallas-area woman
who tried to help him when he was homeless.

"There's been a lot of confusion who done this," Wright said from the
death chamber gurney.

Then, as he has for years, he declared a fellow homeless man, John Adams,
was responsible for the murder of Donna Vick.

"I never sold anything to anyone. My only act or involvement was not
telling on him. John Adams was the one that killed Donna Vick. The
evidence proves that. … I was in the bathroom when he attacked. I ran
into the bedroom. By the time I came in, when I tried to help her with
first aid it was too late."

He said an innocent man was being put to death and said he loved his
family. "I'll be waiting on y'all. I am finished talking."

9 minutes after the lethal drugs began to flow, he was pronounced dead at
6:20 p.m. CDT.

Wright, 42, was 1 of 2 homeless men convicted of killing Donna Duncan
Vick, 52, at her home in DeSoto, just south of Dallas, in 1997. The woman
was known for helping the needy and had given Wright food, clothing and
money after he said she spotted him on a street corner holding a cardboard
sign offering to work for food.

Wright, an out of work truck driver, maintained he was innocent of the
killing and blamed it on a fellow homeless man, John Adams. Adams was
tried separately and also was convicted and sentenced to death.

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Wright less than an hour
before he was scheduled to be taken to the Texas death chamber. Other
federal courts had rejected similar appeals and the Texas Board of Pardons
and Paroles also refused a clemency request for Wright on a 7-0 vote

"The truth doesn't matter," Wright told The Associated Press recently from
a visiting cage outside death row, saying he was stunned at the outcome of
his 1998 trial in Dallas. "I couldn't believe what was happening. I'm very
upset at a number of different people. I don't blame the legal system. I
blame individuals running the legal system. … I am innocent."

Adams, who implicated Wright as the killer, earlier this year recanted his
statement against Wright. Then at a court hearing last month, he reversed
his recantation.

"The co-defendant has been a bit erratic," Meg Penrose, one of Wright's
lawyers, said Thursday.

She said she understood demands for an execution in the case "but I
thought justice demanded we executed the right person."

"I guess there's a difference of emphasis," Penrose said. "I'd rather wait
30 years and make sure we have the proper individual executed than wait 12
and hedge our bets. I don't like the rush to review that we're at. A
person who is innocent is rushed to the gurney and is executed."

New DNA tests requested by Wright's lawyers, which put off Wright's
execution initially scheduled for last month, "on the whole, confirmed
Wright's guilt," state attorneys told the appeals courts in their
arguments. Penrose contended the tests were ambiguous.

At Wright's trial, jurors were told that after the killing, the 2 men
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 later, 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. Wright's lawyers disputed the accuracy of the fingerprint

From death row, Wright refused to talk about specifics of the crime,
saying only that it stemmed from an argument between Vick and Adams over
Adams' smoking.

"This should have been finished long ago because there's no question about
his guilt and there should be no question about the jury's verdict
either," said Greg Davis, who prosecuted Wright. "He and Adams had been
living on the streets together. So what he does, he talks his way into the
victim's home and then he gets Adams in there, too. Both them actually
stabbed her to death."

Wright becomes the 14th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in
Texas, the 2nd this week and the 419th overall since the state resumed
capital punishment on Dec. 7, 1982. Wright becomes the 180th condemned
inmate to be put to death in Texas since Rick Perry became governor in

6 more men are set to die in November; 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 four-hour chase in a stolen 18-wheeler. Authorities said the robbery and
murder of Otis Flake at Flake's Fort Worth home was the second killing
linked to Taylor over an 11-day period. Wright becomes the 30th condemned
inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1129th overall
since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)


Texas prison officials evaluate tracking technology

Texas officials are now looking to technology to help track the locations
of prohibited cell phones in prisons.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said the
agency is evaluating specialized equipment as a possible solution.

"No decisions have been made," Lyons said in a story for Thursday's online
edition of the Austin American-Statesman.

Neither the names of the companies nor the types of technology being
examined by prison officials were made public.

John Moriarty, the prison system's independent inspector general, said
many detection systems are on the market. Some are hard-wired antennas
that intercept cell signals; others use portable equipment to locate the
origin of the signal, he said.

"It's amazing we didn't ask about this equipment earlier to curb a problem
that is now all too obvious to all of us," said state Sen. John Whitmire,
chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. "The prison officials
either knew they had a problem and covered it up, or they didn't know they
had a problem. Neither answer is good."

Texas' state prisons are in the 2nd week of a lockdown, implemented hours
after death row inmate Richard Tabler was caught making a call from his
cell. The phone had been traced to a series of calls that began earlier
this month to Whitmire. Illegal cell phone use is a continuing problem in
prisons where the phones are considered a security breach and of
particular value to gang members.

Authorities said Tabler also shared the device with at least 9 of his
fellow condemned prisoners. Investigators determined some 2,800 calls were
made from the phone from inside the Polunsky Unit near Livingston.

By early Wednesday, the lockdown had been lifted at just over 1/3 of state
prisons after the contraband search was completed. Officials released an
updated tally from a recent contraband sweep: 71 cell phones were
confiscated including 5 from death row along with 65 chargers.
Authorities believe bribed corrections officers are responsible for the
prohibited phones and other contraband.

Tabler was moved Oct. 22 to a prison medical psychiatric facility after
officers believed he was attempting to kill himself, and Tabler's mother
and sister both have been charged with introducing contraband into the
prison system, a felony, for buying minutes to keep the phone active.

When the controversy about cell phones erupted, prison officials were
ironing out final details for installing pay phones in state prisons
beginning early next year making Texas the last state in the nation to
allow convicts routine phone access.

(source: Associated Press)