2nd execution in 2 days set for Texas
Paroled burglar Kenneth Wayne Morris and 2 companions wanted the guns they
were convinced were inside a northwest Houston home so they kicked in the
door and stormed inside the place in the middle of the night.
"They broke into the wrong house," recalled Mark Vinson, a former Harris
County assistant district attorney.
James Adams, 63, heard the noises in his house, jumped out of bed and told
his wife to hide in a closet. When he confronted the intruders, Adams told
them he had no weapons but surrendered more than $1,000. Marcene Adams
then heard the click of the hammer of the gun being pulled back. She heard
her husband cry out "Oh, no!" and then heard 2 shots. He fell into the
closet where she hid and was shot 2 more times.
Morris, on his 38th birthday Wednesday, was set to die for Adams' May 1991
The lethal injection would be the 2nd in as many nights in Texas and the
10th this year in the nation's most active death penalty state.
On Tuesday night, convicted murderer Willie Pondexter was executed for the
1993 murder of an 85-year-old woman gunned down during a burglary of her
house in far northeast Texas.
Attorneys for Morris were in the courts trying to block the punishment,
arguing his death sentence was unconstitutional because the Harris County
district attorney's office pursued the sentence because Morris is black.
Prosecutors denied the allegation, calling it erroneous and unsupported by
Morris, whose 2 companions received long prison terms, received a reprieve
from a federal appeals court about 2 hours before he was scheduled to be
taken to the Texas death chamber in 2003. Attorneys then raised questions
he may be mentally retarded and ineligible for the death penalty. The 5th
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year rejected the arguments and the
U.S. Supreme Court in October refused to review the ruling, clearing the
way for his new death date.
Morris declined to speak with reporters in the weeks preceding his
scheduled punishment but told The Associated Press as his 2003 date neared
that he and his friends got disoriented in the Houston neighborhood as
they looked for a house they believed contained a collection of expensive
"It was just supposed to be a burglary," Morris said. "Nobody was supposed
to be there."
Morris said Adams was shot as one of his friends, running down a hallway,
collided with him as he was holding a gun on Adams.
"When he bumped me, the gun went off," Morris said. "As he fell, I turned
to run and fired two more times in the closet. I didn't aim at him or
anything. It all happened so quick. I had no intentions of killing
The three burglars left behind garbage bags they intended to use to carry
off loot. Police found a fingerprint on one of the bags and arrested
Christopher Montez, then 18. He led them to Morris.
Morris was arrested in Brenham, about 100 miles northwest of Houston, 12
days after the shooting. Montez's cousin, Orlena Ayers, then 20, turned
himself in. Ayers got life in prison. Montez got 85 years. Morris received
"I'm not a bad person," Morris said. "I accept responsibility. But I was
on drugs, suffering from depression. After a while, things came to a head.
It's unfortunate it had to happen this way."
Vic Driscoll, one of Morris' trial lawyers, said he viewed Morris as a
follower and not a leader and never was certain if Morris was directly
responsible for Adams' slaying.
"There was always some question whether he had the gun or that if he had
the gun, was it he or one of the other intruders who fired the fatal
wound," Driscoll. said. "To me, there always some doubt about that."
Vinson, the trial prosecutor, said there was no reason to kill Adams.
"He probably wouldn't even have recognized Morris," Vinson said.
Adams founded a successful Houston paint company, eventually sold it and
used some of his wealth to help establish a Christian school. His wife
died two years ago at age 80.
"You know nothing will bring your loved one back," Adams son, Jimmy, told
the Houston Chronicle. "But you feel obligated as an American and as a
Texan not to let anyone else's mother or father be killed. All 3 of these
guys were predators."
Morris' execution would come 24 hours after Pondexter was put to death for
fatally shooting Martha Lennox at her home in Clarksville. He and some
friends got less than $20 and stole her car.
Pondexter went to his death Tuesday night acknowledging he was involved in
the burglary but insisting he was innocent of the killing.
"I'm not mad," he said from the death chamber gurney about a half hour
after the U.S. Supreme Court turned down his final appeals. "I'm a little
upset and disappointed in the courts. I feel I've been let down. I just
played the hand that life dealt me."
2 more executions are set for next week in Texas.
(source: Associated Press)
*************************** new execution date
Terry Hankins has been given an execution date of June 2; it should be
(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)