death penalty news—-TEXAS

Jan. 23


Official says death row inmate attempts suicide

A Texas death row inmate at the center of a monthslong investigation of
cell phone smuggling within the prison system has been moved to a
psychiatric unit after apparently trying to kill himself a 2nd time, an
official said Friday.

Condemned murderer Richard Tabler was moved from death row earlier this
week after cutting his arms, Texas Department of Criminal Justice
spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said.

In an interview aired this week on Austin television station KEYE, Tabler
accused an officer of smuggling the cell phone that was discovered in his
prison cell in October after he made a threatening call to state Sen. John
Whitmire. It was among some 2,800 calls records show were traced to the
phone and prompted a lockdown of the nation's second-largest corrections
system for weeks while officers combed 111 prisons for contraband.

More than 100 phones, 100 phone chargers and nearly 200 weapons were
confiscated in the sweep. Other phones and phone components have been
discovered since.

In the TV interview, Tabler complained officials were not trying to find
officers he said were involved in smuggling operation.

John Moriarty, the inspector general for the 155,000-inmate prison system,
denied that accusation Friday.

"In the cases we are investigating on death row there has been no evidence
to indicate that an employee is involved," he said.

Moriarty said investigators were focusing on the families of inmates and
inmate trusties as the source of the phones and the phone deliveries.
Trusties do jobs around prisons like garbage collection, maintenance and
laundry work and have greater freedom to move within the units.

The use of cell phones, prohibited in prisons, already had been under
investigation in Texas and other corrections departments around the nation
when Tabler's calls to Whitmire prompted Gov. Rick Perry to order the

Moriarty said Friday that over the past 12 months, investigators have
asked for 1,000 subpoenas for phone records to track the use of the phones
in prison. He told the Temple Daily Telegram the investigation of Tabler's
phone indicates Tabler borrowed the phone from another inmate.

Tabler was not available for interviews this week on death row at the
Polunsky Unit outside Livingston because prison officials considered him a
security threat, then he was moved to the Jester psychiatric unit. Last
October, after his phone was confiscated, he was taken to the same
psychiatric hospital outside Houston after officers found he'd ripped a
3-foot piece of bedsheet, attached it to a light fixture in his death row
cell and had red marks around his neck in an apparent attempt to hang

Tabler, 29, from Killeen, was convicted in 2007 of fatally shooting
Mohamed-Amine Rahmouni, 25, and Haitham Zayed, 28. He also confessed to
killing Tiffany Dotson, 18, and Amber Benefield, 16. All 4 had ties to a
Killeen strip club.

He recently told his trial judge he wanted appeals waived so he could be
put to death.

District Judge Martha Trudo told the Temple newspaper she received a
letter from Tabler 2 weeks ago asking for an execution date and indicating
he would continue to seek an execution date even though the mandatory
appeal of his conviction before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has
not yet been completed.

The judge said she's forwarded the letter to the appeals court.

"Until the appellate court speaks, I don't set an execution date," she

(source: Associated Press)