Texas man set to die for 1993 double slaying
9-year-old Terrell Bogany hit the floor and covered his head.
The 1st time he took cover 15 months earlier he managed to avoid a
likely fatal blast of gunfire from his enraged father, Gerald Cornelius
The 2nd time was in a Houston courtroom as part of a re-enactment for
jurors considering capital murder charges against his father for the
shooting spree that wounded him and left his sister and mother dead.
Jurors convicted Eldridge, then decided he should die.
On Tuesday, Eldridge, 45, was set for lethal injection for the slayings
almost 17 years ago. He'd be the 22nd prisoner executed this year in Texas
and the 1st of 3 scheduled to die on consecutive evenings this week.
Attorneys were trying to get a court to block the punishment, contending
Eldridge was mentally ill and incompetent to be executed.
"He believes on death row that he goes to work every day, that his brother
picks him up, that he has a wife and he has seven children all starting
with the letter M," lawyer Lee Wilson said. "He's completely detached from
"He believes he has 4 distinct personalities. He's a very, very disturbed
individual very, very mentally ill."
State lawyers argued Eldridge deliberately was failing competency tests.
His mental competence long has been an issue, beginning with his trial
where Eldridge was convicted of the fatal shootings of Cynthia Bogany, 28,
and her daughter, Chirissa, 9. The two were gunned down at a north Houston
apartment where Terrell Bogany, the son of Bogany and Eldridge, and
Bogany's boyfriend at the time, Wayne Dotson, also were shot but survived.
"At trial. he was feigning mental illness the whole time," Elsa Alcala,
now a state appeals court judge who in April 1994 was an assistant
district attorney prosecuting the case.
Eldridge was held in a jail psychiatric ward and kept under constant
observation, she said.
"He was acting out," Alcala said. "That's what they decided from day one.
One minute he's doing crazy things. Later on, they'd catch him acting
normally and inconsistent with the way he'd been behaving."
An IQ test given Eldridge showed his score at 72, just above threshold of
70 that designates mental impairment. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled
mentally disabled people may not be executed. Courts also have held that
an inmate must be aware of why he is being executed.
A psychologist who recently examined Eldridge for his lawyers concluded
Eldridge may have a significant psychotic disorder.
"In such a state, he would be highly unlikely to understand the concept of
execution or its rationale," Wilson said.
The psychologist, however, said it wasn't possible to reach an opinion
regarding his competence for execution.
Wilson hoped to at least delay the punishment so Eldridge could undergo
additional evaluation and treatment "to see if he ever regains his
In previous appeals, the courts have said Eldridge's more recent IQ test
results were unreliable because the defense expert failed to consider or
test for the possibility Eldridge deliberately performed poorly on the
test. Earlier tests showed his IQ to be higher and school records
supported prosecution arguments he was not mentally disabled.
Bogany and her daughter were killed Jan. 4, 1993. Terrell Bogany told
Harris County jurors how his father shot his sister between the eyes at
close range after he'd kicked in the door. The boy also described the
shooting of Dotson and his own shooting, how his father stood over him and
shot at his head. He said he turned his head and the bullet wound up in
his shoulder. He also saw his mother run from the apartment as Eldridge
pursued her. She was shot outside.
During a day of jury selection for his trial, Eldridge overturned over the
defense table. He also refused to sit through the punishment phase of his
"The whole trial was eventful," Alcala said.
Jurors deliberated about 30 minutes before deciding on the death sentence.
Records showed Eldridge was sentenced in 1985 to 8 years in prison for
attempted murder for shooting a man 8 times. He was released 3 years
later, then returned to prison in 1990 for beating his son. Paroled after
4 months, records showed he tried to kill the boy.
On Wednesday, Danielle Simpson, 30, was set for execution for the
abduction and slaying of an 84-year-old East Texas woman.
Then Thursday, Robert Lee Thompson, 34, was scheduled for lethal injection
for his part in the shooting death of a Houston convenience store clerk
during a robbery 13 years ago.
(source: Associated Press)
Texas death row man claims inmates' numbered days are form of
torture—-Murderer Danielle Simpson who faces execution on Wednesday
speaks about his 9-year term spent locked up in solitary
Danielle Simpson's scrawled note to the appeal court left the judges in no
doubt. "If I can't be free Kill Me.!!" the Texas death row prisoner
demanded in a rambling and sometimes incoherent handwritten plea earlier
this year. "I'm tired of being in a institution that's unjust, degrading,
and corrupted I'm tired of struggling to survive in a system that's
highly injustices. I'm ready to die!!" Simpson underlined "Kill Me" twice.
The court granted the convicted murderer his wish. It ruled that he was
quite reasoned in deciding that life on death row was worse than death
A judge set Simpson's execution date, and on Wednesday, barring a
last-minute stay, he will die by lethal injection in the US state that
leads the field in official killings, with 21 so far this year. 2 other
men are due to die along with Simpson this week. They are among nearly 350
condemned men and 10 women in Texas.
The 29-year-old African-American father of 2 arrived late for our meeting,
delayed by the bureaucracy that makes him one of the unfortunate few to
know to within a few minutes when his life will be over.
"I was filling out my execution paperwork. What I want done with my
remains, who all I want to witness my execution, my last meal. Stuff like
that," he said. "I'm still undecided whether I want to be cremated or
[have] a service. Probably won't know that until the last minute. As for
the last meal, I don't want anything. This place doesn't deserve that type
of interest from me to want to have that last meal."
Simpson is brought to the steel visiting cage in manacles. After the door
is bolted, he bends and forces his hands backwards through a slot for the
guard to unlock the cuffs. Between us is the thick glass that has kept him
from any physical contact with the world beyond death row for 9 years.
He is dressed in the thin white cotton uniform of the condemned man. He
has a closely cropped beard, a soft voice and a gentle manner that is
disconcertingly at odds with his unfathomable crime. On 26 January 2000 he
led his 17-year-old wife, younger teenage brother and a 13-year-old cousin
on a burglary in Palestine, Texas, to find money to buy crack cocaine.
Geraldine Davidson, 84, a former schoolteacher, returned home and
interrupted the robbery. She was bound and gagged with tape and forced
into the boot of her car.
The group drove around town for several hours with the elderly woman
trapped in the back, stopping for hamburgers and showing her to
acquaintances, none of whom called the police.
The trial heard that Simpson made racist remarks about white people while
Davidson was held prisoner.
There was evidence that she was badly beaten. Eventually she was dragged
from the boot, a cinder block was tied to her ankles and she was thrown
into the frigid Neches river. Davidson's family called her murder a hate
crime. Simpson was sent for execution. His wife, brother and cousin were
imprisoned for years. For a while, he fought to save his life. But death
row took its toll.
"This Texas system is sick. They treat us less than the human beings that
we are and it's like, instead of them trying to see us as being a human
being, they look at us as being an animal," he said. "It's torture here. I
am surrounded by the dying culture. I lost so many friends, I'm pretty
much used to it now. This is a bloodthirsty system. We don't have contact
with no one. There's so much violence and abuse. It's officers attacking
the inmates. That's wrong and they're getting away with it. Anything would
be better than being here."
Until 10 years ago, death row prisoners in Texas socialised, worked in the
prison garment factory and had contact visits. That changed after a
breakout from the old death row in Huntsville by seven inmates in 1998.
Six of those condemned men were swiftly captured and the seventh drowned,
but the escape embarrassed the authorities, who concluded that the
prisoners had used their time together to plot the breakout. Death row was
moved to a new prison, near Livingston, where conditions were very
Simpson lives in a 5.6 square metre (60 sq ft) steel cell, not much bigger
than those holding Guantnamo Bay prisoners. For 23 hours a day he is
locked in the metal cage, with 2 plates welded out from the wall as a
shelf and a desk, and a steel sink and toilet. Near the ceiling above the
bed is a narrow slit that serves as a window. There is another slit in the
door through which his food is pushed. His hands are cuffed for his hour
of lone exercise. The cells are brightly lit by a fluorescent bulbs.
The condemned man is allowed as many personal possessions as he can fit
into two carrier bags and gets approved books and magazines. Those with a
good behaviour record can buy a radio.
"We spend 22 or 23 out of 24 hours in a cell that's very small. We don't
have no TVs. We're the only death row that don't have TVs or work
programmes or religious stuff. They don't let us have none of that here,"
said Simpson. "The cells are broken. Whenever it rains, leaks come through
window seals or cracks up in the ceiling. It messes up legal work,
clothes, commissary. Once it gets damp, that's it. They know about it but
they don't want to come out and fix it."
Death row prisoners have regularly gone on hunger strike over bad food,
over sleep deprivation because of the unending noise created by living
inside a network of steel cages, and over the alleged brutality of guards,
including the regular use of pepper spray.
Hardest of all is the interminable solitary confinement. There is no
physical contact with other prisoners, although Simpson can communicate
with them by shouting.
The nearest Simpson comes to cracking up is when he talks about not being
able to touch his children, a son aged 10 and a daughter, nine. "I write.
My daughter writes back but it's emotional because I miss my kids. I
wouldn't mind being with 'em but " he says, as his face contorts, "now I'm
going to die I want to be able to touch them but I can't. Even on the day
of my execution. I can't have contact with my family or my kids."
Then his anger spills out. "They say it's wrong for someone on the streets
to take the life of another individual, knowingly and intentionally.
That's considered to be a capital case. Here, they're doing the same
thing. They're contradicting their own law because they're knowingly and
intentionally taking the life of another individual. They justify it as
being justice. That's not justice. Texas gets a pleasure out of it. I
refuse to let the system or the officials see me in any kind of suffering
or emotion. I refuse to let them see me like that, knowing they brought on
some of that."
The prisoners claim the conditions amount to torture. Michelle Lyons, the
Texas death row spokeswoman, says that is not intentional. "It's not
designed to be tortuous. There was a time when death row inmates had much
more freedom of movement, job programmes, cellmates, they could watch
television. Then we had the large-scale escape attempt in 1998. It was
determined that their contact with each other would be limited and they
would not have that freedom of movement.
"It's done for security reasons. Like with the human contact, you can't
change the rules to allow them at the end to hug their family goodbye
because this is someone who is facing death and may become desperate and
attempt to take a family member hostage or an officer hostage."
Intentional or not, some lawyers for the condemned say they have watched
the mental state of their clients deteriorate sharply on death row. Some
inmates withdraw completely, refusing to shower or leave their cells for
recreation. Others fight back with court appeals and by writing to
supporters with angry and bitter accounts of imprisonment and what they
often characterise as the injustice of their situation. They are trying to
save their lives, not only through a mostly futile effort to overturn a
death sentence but by staying sane through the years of isolation.
Simpson has convinced himself he has legions of sympathisers on the
outside. "I have a lot of supporters and pen friends, overseas and here in
the United States. They're going to do a big protest outside on the day of
my execution. They're a lot of people coming from Australia, Italy, the
Netherlands, England, Germany, France. It's going to be real big."
His lawyer, David Dow, a member of the anti-death penalty group Texas
Defenders Service, says the support is imagined, and evidence of his
mental instability. "He is a severely mentally ill person. He has no grasp
of reality. He thinks he has hundreds of supporters it's wrong. He says
it with complete sincerity. He believes it is true but he's delusional,
he's been receiving anti-psychotic medication inside the prison for years.
You would certainly think that the fact that he's on anti-psychotic
medicines would alert a judge to do something more than have a 5-minute
conversation with him to determine whether he's competent to waive his
But the appeal court, in what amounts to an acknowledgement of inhuman
conditions on death row, accepted that Simpson's assertion to the court
that the "pitiful" conditions meant he was looking "forward to life after
death" was evidence of his mental stability, describing this stance as a
With the execution just days away, Simpson is having second thoughts. Dow
has filed appeals with state courts and the US supreme court arguing that
Simpson was incompetent to waive his appeals because he is suffering from
a "debilitating mental illness" and has "diminished intellectual
The district attorney, Doug Lowe, accused Simpson of trying to stall the
execution by "re-litigating an issue which has been repeatedly decided
against him". The Texas board of pardons could recommend to the governor,
Rick Perry, that Simpson's case be reviewed, but neither the board nor the
governor have shown an inclination to stall executions in the past.
It is a reminder that there are other victims in all of this. The family
of Geraldine Davidson lost their relative. Simpson says that he apologised
to her children, but he has consistently failed to acknowledge his leading
role in the murder, instead attempting to blame his 13-year-old cousin.
Now, in the face of 2 daunting alternatives, Simpson is torn. Amid the
torture of prison and solitary confinement, death seemed like a release.
But now the execution is just days away he is reassessing this; he would
like to live but he knows the alternative to death is not freedom but
decades of being locked up. "I know this is not no type of game. This is
something I really have to prepare myself for. I'm pretty much going day
to day now until the time comes," he said.
(source: The Guardian)
Texas slowly realises that the death penalty is always wrong
The State of Texas offers us a perfect lesson in why capital punishment is
irrational. The development of DNA forensic evidence, which has already
led to the abolition of death rows in other states, has begun to undermine
the previously unshakeable confidence in the death penalty in the state
that accounts for around a half of all American executions.
A fortnight ago, 2 men sentenced to death and life in prison for the
murder of 4 teenagers in 1991 were cleared after sophisticated forensic
tests from the crime scene did not match either man.
The well-worn argument is that, if you cant be sure that a capital
sentence is safe, then such sentences can never be executed because they
cannot be reversed on appeal. That is true, but I would go further:
Capital punishment should never be introduced in the first place if there
is a possibility of its abolition at some stage. Because abolition means
that the jurisdiction under which it operated is admitting that it was
wrong. But those executed cannot be unkilled, so the abolishing state is
acknowledging its own grave error and complicity in judicial murder, a
stain on its conscience that cannot be removed.
This is a rationale that is unlikely to trouble the truly ghastly Texas
appeals-court judge, Sharon Keller, who declined to keep her office open
after 5pm to process an appeal, meaning that Michael Richard was executed
hours later. Doubtless she slept well that night. But it sounds like there
are other Texans who are finally taking the illogic of capital punishment
seriously. And the state will eventually be able to take its place in the
(source: Commentary–George Pitcher—-George Pitcher is Religion Editor
of Telegraph Media. He is an Anglican priest and serves his ministry at St
Bride's, Fleet Street, in London the "journalists' church"; The