Killer executed after Perry rejects panel’s advice
Texas Gov. Rick Perry rejected a pardons board plea to spare the life of a
Houston murderer, instead sending him to the state death chamber Thursday
night for his part in the 1996 killing of a convenience store clerk.
Robert Lee Thompson, 34, didnt fire the shot that killed clerk Mansoor
Rahim, also identified as Mansoor Rahim Mohammed, during a robbery of the
Seven Evenings convenience store on Braeswood. But a Harris County jury
sentenced him to death under the states so-called law of parties, which
holds accomplices as responsible for a murder as the person who does the
actual killing. The triggerman, Sammy Butler, was sentenced to life in
prison after prosecutors failed to prove he intended to kill Rahim.
In the punishment phase of Thompsons trial, prosecutors contended the men
had been involved in at least eight other robberies, some of which
resulted in the death of store workers.
Thompsons case marked the 3rd time the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
recommended that a death sentence be commuted to life in prison. Perry has
voluntarily commuted only 1 death sentence in his tenure as governor.
“After reviewing all the facts in the case of Robert Lee Thompson, who had
a murderous history and participated in the killing of (Rahim), I have
decided to uphold the jurys capital murder conviction and capital
punishment for this heinous crime,” Perry said in a written statement.
Thompson, who converted to Islam while in prison, opened his final
remarks: “I bear witness that there is no God, but Allah. From Allah we
come and to Allah we return.”
He thanked his mother and friends for their support.
“We all have to walk this path,” he said. “Smile, be happy, dont cry.”
Thompson then apologized for his crime. “I never meant any of your family
to get hurt,” he said to an empty chamber normally occupied by the victims
Thompson’s mother, Audrey Champs, 1 of 2 people the killer wanted to
witness his death, wept inconsolably, stamping her feet and pressing her
head to the glass separating the witness room from the execution chamber.
“Oh God, oh God, oh God,” she sobbed. “Oh Jesus. Jesus.”
At one point the woman asked to be escorted from the witness room.
Thompson was declared dead at 6:19 p.m.
Court documents indicate the robbery was to have been a final stickup in a
series committed by Thompson and 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 blacks.
Thompson approached Meredia at the checkout counter, pulled a pistol and
demanded money. As the clerk opened the register, Thompson shot him 4
times. He then spotted Rahim at the stores rear and fired two shots in his
Then, trial records indicate, Thompson aimed his weapon at Meredias neck
and pulled the trigger a fifth time. Out of ammunition, the pistol failed
to fire. Thompson 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 getaway cars wheel, Butler in the
passenger seat Rahim charged into the parking lot. Butler fired 2 shots,
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
The case bore similarities to the only case in which Perry voluntarily
commuted a death sentence. 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 robbery.
As with Thompson, Foster, who had been the getaway 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 1st crime may be held responsible
for the 2nd.
Thompson becomes the 23rd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in
Texas and the 446th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on
December 7, 1982. He becomes the 207th condemned inmate to be put to death
in Texas since Rick Perry became governor in 2001.
Thompson becomes the 48th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in
the USA and the 1184th overall since the nation resumed executions on
January 17, 1977.
(sources: Houston Chronicle & Rick Halperin)