death penalty news—-TEXAS

Dec. 2


Robert Sparks may face capital punishment for deaths of wife, stepsons

Nicoletta Agnew plans to walk into a Dallas courtroom this morning and
face the man she believes killed her daughter and 2 grandsons: her

Although it will be the 1st time the 48-year-old woman will have seen
Robert Sparks since before his arrest days after the September 2007
slayings, she said she will harbor no malice toward him.

"I know he did a bad thing. But right now it's not like I want to hurt him
or anything," Ms. Agnew said. "I don't know what happened with him.
Robert's the one who has to live with it."

As he was being arrested after a three-day police hunt, Mr. Sparks told
reporters that his 30-year-old wife had been trying to poison him with the
help of her sons.

Mr. Sparks' attorney, Paul Johnson, could not be reached for comment.

If Mr. Sparks, 34, is convicted of fatally stabbing his wife, Chare Agnew,
and his stepsons, Harold Sublet, 9, and Raeqwon Agnew, 10, he faces the
harshest possible punishment death. Prosecutors say he also sexually
assaulted his 2 teenage stepdaughters.

Nicoletta Agnew wants to see him punished, but she doesn't think taking
his life is the proper penalty.

"I would just want him to stay in prison and suffer day by day. I wouldn't
want him to die for that," Ms. Agnew said.

But Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins said other family
members have told his office they fully support seeking a death sentence.

"Collectively there are several victims of this crime. According to the
other victims that we have contacted, they want to go full speed ahead,"
said Mr. Watkins, who added that he plans to talk with Nicoletta Agnew
before the trial starts.

A couple of months ago, the district attorney's office honored the wishes
of Karen Lafon's family in another capital murder case. The family asked
the district attorney to give her killer a plea deal for life in prison
because Ms. Lafon did not believe in the death penalty.

But the way Chare Agnew and her sons died was so "heinous," said Mr.
Watkins who has publicly acknowledged his own reservations about the
death penalty that "this was a case that really shocked my conscience."

"Even though my personal views may not be in line with the law, I have to
enforce it," Mr. Watkins said. "This is one of those cases that I feel
needs to be enforced in this manner."

In a rare occurrence, Mr. Watkins said he will also help prosecute Mr.
Sparks by questioning at least one witness during the trial. Mr. Watkins
said he plans to actively prosecute more cases.

The case began Sept. 15, 2007, when 911 operators received a chilling

"My name is Robert Sparks and I just killed my wife and the two boys," he
told the dispatcher, according to Mr. Sparks' arrest warrant affidavit.
"You need to get over there fast. … I left two girls in the closet."

When Dallas police arrived at the couple's southeast Dallas home, they
found Chare Agnew and her sons dead. Inside a closet, they discovered Ms.
Agnew's two teenage daughters bound and gagged. Mr. Sparks also faces
aggravated sexual assault charges in the attacks on the girls.

Dallas police began a massive search for Mr. Sparks and announced that
they believed he had taken a bus to Austin. The next day authorities say
he returned to North Texas and hid in South Dallas hotels.

On Sept. 18, authorities say Mr. Sparks stole a van and led police on a
chase through Oak Cliff, shooting at officers along the way. Police
blocked him into a dead-end street, surrounded him and took him into

"I know my daughter and my grandchildren are gone," Nicoletta Agnew said.
"But I don't hate … [Mr. Sparks]. I did at first. Now I don't know what
I'm going to feel when I see him in person."

(source: Dallas Morning News)


2 Texas death row inmates lose at Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court refused appeals Monday from 2 Texas death row
inmates, including a Mexican national convicted of gunning down 3 El Paso
teenagers a dozen years ago.

Ignacio Gomez had asked the court to review his capital murder conviction
for the 1996 shooting deaths of 16-year-old twin brothers Michael and
Matthew Meredith and 19-year-old Toby Hatheway Jr. The 3 were shot in an
apparent retaliation for some broken windows at the home of Gomez's
mother. Their bodies were buried in a shallow grave in the desert.

In a 2nd case, Edward Lee Busby Jr. also was turned down by the high
court, which refused to review his conviction for the 2004 suffocation of
77-year-old retired TCU professor Laura Lee Crane, who was abducted from a
Fort Worth grocery store parking lot.

In the El Paso case, Gomez, whose 39th birthday is Tuesday, was turned
down earlier this year by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He had
argued that he was unconstitutionally deprived of his rights under an
international treaty. At the time of the slayings, court documents show he
was in the United States legally and living in El Paso with relatives.

His attorneys argued unsuccessfully even before his capital murder trial
that police who arrested him should have told him of his right to legal
assistance from the Mexican consulate, and that police who took his
confession knew he was a resident alien but didn't advise him of his
Vienna Convention rights.

Gomez also had argued potential jurors were excluded improperly from his
trial jury and that jurors should have been told a life sentence would
have meant 40 years in prison before he could be eligible for parole.

Testimony at his trial showed the three victims were walking along a dirt
road when they were approached by Gomez and several companions riding in
an SUV.

After a fight broke out, Gomez pulled a handgun and opened fire, hitting
one of the victims in the head. He continued to fire, striking the second
victim. After reloading, a fleeing 3rd victim was tracked down and shot in
the head, then all three were driven away and buried.

Gomez's companions turned themselves in and confessed. Their information
led authorities to Gomez, who also confessed and told detectives where
they could find the murder weapon.

In the Fort Worth case, Busby, 36, was arrested in Oklahoma City driving
Crane's car, 2 days after the woman's husband reported her missing.

2 days later, after telling police and the FBI several versions of how he
got the car, Busby led authorities to the woman's body along a service
road of Interstate 35 in Oklahoma's Murray County, just north of the Texas

Court documents show Crane suffocated after her face was wrapped tight
with more than 23 feet of duct tape, then was thrown in the trunk of her
car. She also was robbed of a check and credit cards.

Crane was retired after working as an assistant education professor at
Texas Christian University. She also was a former principal at a TCU
school for children with learning disabilities.

The Supreme Court ruling came after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in
May turned down Busby's initial direct appeal. He still as other appeals
opportunities in the courts.

Neither Gomez nor Busy has an execution date.

(source: Associated Press)