Houston killer's fate in Perry's hands as execution looms
UponThe U.S. Supreme Court today rejected an appeal seeking to delay this
evening's execution of a Harris County killer, leaving Gov. Rick Perry to
decide whether to follow the Texas Board of Pardons Parole's advice that
he spare the man.
Robert Lee Thompson is scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. unless Perry
intervenes. His office has not indicated what the governor plans to do.
Thompson, 34, didn't fire the shot that killed convenience store clerk
Mansoor Rahim during a 1996 robbery, but was still sentenced to die under
Texas' so-called "law of parties," which says a defendant can be sentenced
to death for participating in a capital crime.
Court documents indicate the robbery of the Seven Evenings convenience
store was to have been a final stickup in a series committed by Thompson
and his accomplice, Sammy Butler. The store was staffed by Rahim and a
cousin, Mubarakali Meredia and, in a death row interview, Thompson said he
had harbored resentment against merchants he considered exploitative of
Thompson approached Meredia at the checkout counter, pulled a pistol and
demanded money. As the clerk opened the register, Thompson shot him four
times. He then spotted Rahim at the store's rear and fired two shots in
Then, trial records indicate, Thompson aimed his weapoon at Meredia's neck
and pulled the trigger a fifth time. Out of ammunition, the pistol failed
to fire. He then pistol-whipped the clerk and beat him over the head with
the cash tray.
Meredia survived the attack.
As the robbers fled Thompson at the getwaway car's wheel, Butler in
passenger seat Rahim charged into the parking lot. Butler fired two
shots, killing him.
Even though Thompson did not fire the fatal bullet, under Texas' law of
parties, he was a killer as culpable as Butler and eligible for the death
Thompson was tried first and sentenced to death. In Butler's case,
prosecutors failed to prove he intended to kill Rahim. He was sentenced to
life in prison.
The case bore similarities to the only case in which Perry voluntarily
commuted a death sentence to life in prison. In August 2007 he spared the
life of Kenneth Foster, who had been convicted of capital murder in a law
of parties case stemming from a deadly San Antonio traffic altercation.
As with Thompson, Foster, who had been the getwaway driver in a series of
robberies, did not fire the lethal bullet.
Texas' law of parties stipulates that a person may be held culpable if he
"solicits, encourages, directs, aids or attempts to aid the other persons
to commit the offense." Additionally, it holds that if one felony offense
grows out of the commission of another felony a murder stemming from a
robbery, for example all parties in the first crime may be held
responsible for the 2nd.
Thompson was the 2nd Harris County killer scheduled for execution this
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal granted Gerald Eldridge a
90-day stay so that he could receive further psychological evaluation.
His attorney, Lee Wilson, argued that Eldridge, 45, might be seriously
mentally ill and incompetent to be exeucted.
Eldridge was convicted in the 1993 murder of his former girlfriend,
Cynthia Bogany, 28, and her 9-year-old daughter, Chirrisa.
(source: Houston Chronicle)
The governor's office just issued this statement:
Gov. Rick Perry today issued the following statement regarding the
execution of Robert Lee Thompson:
After reviewing all of the facts in the case of Robert Lee Thompson, who
had a murderous history and participated in the killing of Mansoor Bhai
Rahim Mohammed, I have decided to uphold the jury's capital murder
conviction and capital punishment for this heinous crime. There is no
reason to set aside the capital murder conviction handed down by a Texas
jury and upheld by numerous state and federal courts.