Fewer People Being Sent To Death Row
A lack of cash is a chief reason fewer people are being sent to the death
chamber in Texas, and in the Panhandle region.
District Attorneys we spoke with say they must be very careful about the
cases in which someone could be sentenced to death.
One prosecutor says the anti capital punishment lobby has made seeking
death extremely expensive.
Randall County District Attorney James Farren says, "even we in Randall
County have to be careful and be sure we have the resources to pursue a
death sentence that's absolutely the only appropriate sentence."
Farren cites the Dustin Pool case: He says he did not seek the death
penalty for the nine defendants because 1) the evidence suggested pool
would have done the same thing to his attackers, and 2) it would have
bankrupted the county.
And then, Farren says, "say, after we're finished, someone guns down 5
kids in a daycare and I have to say to the people of Randall County we
can't seek death because we're broke!"
Potter County District Attorney Randall Sims says, "I don't think the 2005
law is the only reason…. Prosecutors are having to be more selective."
He is talking about a law in which Texas made it possible for juries to
sentence defendants to life in prison without parole, giving them an
alternative to the death penalty.
One example is the recent trial of Levi King, who because of one juror,
received life in prison without parole.
Farren says there is a problem with the 2005 law because "no one knows
what those words mean until some court tells us what they mean."
Meaning, life in prison without parole could turn into 30 years in prison
with the possibility of parole.
In Randall County, Brent Ray Brewer was sentenced to death a 2nd time this
Right now Farren is getting ready for another death penalty case against
Wilbert Ramon Banks.
He is accused in the double shooting deaths of Stephanie Beard and Daniel
Brittain this past April.
EC killer gets execution date
An El Campo man should be put to death April 20 in punishment for a 1998
Rosenberg murder committed less than a month before a thrill killing here.
In 2001, Samuel Bustamante, now 40, was convicted of the Jan. 18, 1998
fatal stabbing of 27-year-old Rafael Alvarado of Richmond and sentenced to
die by lethal injection.
The Fort Bend Herald reported Monday that all Bustamante's state and
federal appeals have been exhausted. He is now scheduled to die anytime
after 6 p.m. on April 20, 2010 at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
Bustamante and three other men drove from El Campo to Rosenberg Jan. 18,
1998 with malice in mind, according to court documents.
The Herald reports the group picked up Alvarado near a bar shortly after
it closed at 2 a.m.
In the back of a pickup, Bustamante stabbed Alvarado 10 times before he
fell from the vehicle. His body was found the next morning in a ditch.
"Alvarado tried to escape, but Bustamante and an accomplice, Walter
Escamilla, tried to pull him back in, but Alvarado managed to break free
and fall to the ground. Escamilla yelled at the driver of the truck to
stop, 'but by the time he did, appellant and the others were unable to see
Alvarado because of the darkness,'" the Herald reported. "Bustamante said
he wanted the victim's boots, but after the men walked around the area for
several minutes without finding the victim, Bustamante decided that they
should leave. Another accomplice, Dedrick Depriest, said that, had they
found the victim, they probably would have robbed him."
When Alvarado's body was found, his jewelry, money and wallet were
On April 20, 2001, authorities transported Bustamante from death row to
the Wharton County courthouse where he pleaded guilty to the Feb. 13, 1998
murder of a 60-year-old homeless man just outside of El Campo. Then-329th
District Court Judge Daniel Sklar sentenced him to 40 years in prison, a
punishment to be served in conjunction with the death sentence.
Bustamante and his brother, Bill of El Campo, both confessed they killed
Lloyd Harold Turner because they wanted to "work out some aggravation."
Having already killed a pregnant dog that night, the 2 stopped for
hamburgers and fries before driving to the U.S. 59 overpass south of El
Campo where the homeless man was living.
Bill Bustamante had taken the man food and other items in the months
before the attack.
That night Samuel Bustamante stabbed him 10 to 20 times with a knife, then
his brother hit the victim with a baseball bat.
They left the loose change in the homeless mans pockets after the killing.
Bill Bustamante pleaded guilty to the Wharton County killing in October of
1998 and is currently serving a 40-year prison sentence.
No information was available on the outcome of Escamillas case. He, too,
was facing capital murder charges.
Dedrick Depriest, 23, and Arthur Escamilla, 32, both pleaded guilty to
aggravated robbery and received 8-year sentences in 2001.