death penalty news—-TEXAS

April 30

TEXAS—-impending execution

Dallas man set to die for woman's rape-slaying

A 2-week crime spree that included the rape-slaying of a Dallas woman
abducted while making a call at a pay phone a decade ago has a 28-year-old
man set for a trip to the Texas death chamber.

Attorneys for convicted killer Derrick Lamone Johnson were in the federal
courts trying to put off his lethal injection scheduled for Thursday

Johnson would be the 14th Texas death row inmate executed this year. The
total is the highest in the nation.

A half-dozen women testified before a Dallas jury how they were forced off
the road as they drove alone at night, were robbed at gunpoint or abducted
or raped by Johnson and a companion.

Evidence showed LaTausha Curry, 25, was abducted after getting out of her
car to make a nighttime call, then was beaten with a 2-by-4 and suffocated
with her blouse when she fought back against her attackers. She was robbed
of less than $10.

The jury at his capital murder trial decided Johnson should die.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Tuesday rejected an appeal that
Johnson was mentally disabled and not eligible for execution and Johnson's
lawyers took their appeal to the federal courts. The U.S. Supreme Court
has ruled mentally disabled people may not be executed.

Johnson, who declined an interview request from The Associated Press, said
on a Web site devoted to death row inmates that he was wrongly convicted.

"Without proper funds to retain my own lawyer, I was appointed counsel to
represent me," he wrote. "I stood vulnerable, being crucified. I was young
and ignorant of the law, and thus this system victimized me."

Curry's slaying was part of a binge involving Johnson and a companion,
Marcus Maxwell, who was 15 at the time. Police suspected them of as many
as two dozen offenses from Dallas more than 100 miles south to Eddy, just
south of Waco, and included one spree of 6 robberies over 8 hours.

"Heartless, ruthless, unremorseful," former Dallas County Assistant
District Attorney Greg Davis, who prosecuted Johnson, described him. "I
think of a cold-blooded killer that killed an innocent young girl."

In a confession to police, Johnson said he and Maxwell raped and killed
Curry, who worked as a security guard and had a 4-year-old child. He told
officers where to find her body in an overgrown part of a park in Dallas'
Oak Cliff area. His fingerprints were found in her car and DNA tied him to
her rape.

The same night, after Curry was killed, records show the pair robbed a
woman at a gas station. Then, driving Curry's car, they rammed into
another woman's car in an attempt to carjack her. The victim in that
incident called police but Johnson and Maxwell ran away and managed to
elude police.

When he was arrested four days later at his mother's apartment, police
found Johnson carrying a hollowed-out pager containing cocaine.

His mother was the only defense witness at his capital murder trial. She
testified he'd been raised by family members after she was sent to prison
with a 15-year term for a drug conviction.

Records showed Johnson was arrested 2 years before Curry's slaying for
breaking into the home of a disabled woman and demanding money. The victim
in that robbery said when he told her she didn't have any money, he began
unzipping his pants and warned she would have to do other things. She
grabbed a phone to dial 911 and he hit her in the head, she said. Johnson
pleaded guilty to robbery, received 10 years probation and was sent to a
boot camp. After 65 days there, he was released on good behavior.

Davis said Johnson was a would-be rapper who had adopted the name Mr.

His partner, Maxwell, now 25, agreed to a plea deal on 2 counts of robbery
and 2 counts of sexual assault and is serving four concurrent 40-year
prison terms.

Also Thursday evening, capital punishment opponents from Amnesty
International USA and the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
planned what they said would be a 200-minute vigil outside the criminal
courthouse in Houston to mark what soon will be the 200th execution of
Gov. Rick Perry's tenure. Johnson would be the 198th Texas inmate put to
death since Perry succeeded Gov. George W. Bush when Bush became president
in the 2000 election. During Bush's 6 years as governor, 157 executions
were carried out in Texas.

Johnson was among at least 6 Texas inmates with execution dates extending
into the summer. Scheduled to die next, on May 19, was Michael Lynn Riley,
50, condemned for the slaying of Winona Harris. The victim was stabbed
more than 23 years ago during the robbery of a convenience store in
Quitman, about 80 miles east of Dallas.

On the Net: Derrick Johnson

(source: Associated Press)