death penalty news-----TEXAS
- August 24
Convict's odds today may rest on gibberish
Texas is scheduled to execute a convict today whose lawyer filed an appeal
with incoherent repetitions, rambling arguments and language clearly
lifted from one of his previous cases, so that at one point it described
the wrong crime.
While inmate Justin Chaz Fuller's last hope for a temporary reprieve now
waits on the U.S. Supreme Court and the governor, his case is being cited
as an example of the state's failure to adequately examine death penalty
The same lawyer, in another pending capital case, apparently copied his
client's letters so that, instead of citing legal cases, the filed
documents echo the inmate's unintelligible arguments, flawed grammar and
even his complaint that he was about to run out of paper.
For his work in these two appeals, the state paid the attorney Toby C.
Wilkinson of Greenville about $18,000 in each case, for a total of
$36,514. Wilkinson did not return repeated calls.
State law requires that death row inmates receive "competent counsel" for
their post-conviction challenges known as applications for writ of habeas
corpus. In May 2001, the state's highest criminal court tapped Wilkinson
to work for Fuller, a Dallas native convicted of killing a 21-year-old
man, Donald Whittington III.
At first glance, Wilkinson's 111-page motion appears unremarkable. But by
Page 3, it starts quoting long passages from trial testimony without
clearly explaining their relevance. Page 5 spends half a page repeating
the exact passages quoted a page earlier. A similar repetition follows on
The numbering of arguments doesn't maintain a logical sequence. Typos
obscure some quotes, as in, "i &tilde hus, we diseeni no ab &tilde tse of
discretion in th i &tilde coult &tilde s denial."
Perhaps most striking, the pleadings for Fuller copied wording from an
appeal Wilkinson filed for a different client, Henry Earl Dunn, in an
unrelated case. As a result, it complains about testing for blood on a gun
used by Dunn's co-defendant seven years earlier.
Wilkinson's brief "should have been submitted on a Big Chief Tablet using
an 8-count box of Crayolas," Don Bailey, the lawyer who replaced Wilkinson
when Fuller's appeal was denied, wrote in a subsequent appeal.
Since then, Bailey has argued unsuccessfully that Fuller did not shoot
Whittington in 1997 and should have received at most a life sentence like
Edward Marty, formerly an assistant district attorney in Smith County,
said he recalled being disturbed by the quality of the legal brief and
taking his concern to the trial judge.
Any confusion in Wilkinson's pleadings was remedied at a subsequent
hearing, said Marty, now general counsel for the Texas Court of Criminal
"He was then given an opportunity at a ... hearing to make up any
differences and clear up any thing he wanted to," said Marty, whose office
conducts preliminary reviews of most death penalty appeals. Since he left
the DA's office, he has not been involved in Fuller's case.
About 3 years after filing Fuller's claim, Wilkinson was chosen by a
Hopkins County district judge to file a similar habeas petition on behalf
of Daniel Clate Acker.
Wilkinson's legal brief spends 13 pages naming seemingly every document
filed in the case. It then makes 5 claims that are almost word-for-word
identical to claims in Fuller's case. The next 24 pages seem copied from
his client's letters, so that they seldom if ever cite case law and
occasionally lapse into first-person narrative.
Claim No. 36 concludes: "I'm just about out of carbon paper so before I
run out I want to try and list everything that was added to and took from
me to convict me on the next page then as soon as I get some more typing
supplies I have about thirty more errors I want to tell you about and have
brought up in my appeal."
Acker's appeal is still pending. Braced for rejection, the inmate
apparently sought a California lawyer to represent him when the case moves
to federal court.
"It's like nothing I've ever seen before," the attorney, A. Richard Ellis
of Mill Valley, Calif., said of the petition filed by Wilkinson.
The court of criminal appeals decides which lawyers can handle death
penalty appeals. Presiding Judge Sharon Keller said she couldn't comment
on individual cases, but the court's staff carefully screens attorneys.
Then it relies on trial judges to appoint tried-and-tested counsel.
"If we thought somebody should be taken off the list because he's not
doing a good job, we'd take him off the list," she said, "or we'd consider
taking him off the list."
Wilkinson isn't known to have been given any more death penalty work since
2003, but his name is still on the list. And though the count might shrink
by day's end, 6 of his clients are still on death row.
(source: San Antonio Express-News)
Ex-football star accused in killings----Former athlete at Jones High and
another man face charges in slaying of a young couple
A standout running back and wide receiver who earned All-District honors
is 1 of 2 people charged with capital murder in the slaying of a young
couple who managed the Bellfort Plaza apartment complex.
Marcus Dantrelle Aguillard, 18, surrendered to Houston homicide division
investigators at police headquarters early Wednesday. Kelton Ramon St.
Cyr, 22, was already in custody in the Harris County Jail on an unrelated
murder charge, according to Houston police.
Aguillard was a standout football player at Jesse H. Jones High School. He
was named second team 21-4A All District as a wide receiver.
Aguillard enrolled at Jones in April 2005 as an 11th-grader, according to
Houston Independent School District records, but did not return the
following school year.
"The young man just said he was with the wrong people at the wrong place
at the wrong time," said activist Quanell X, who escorted Aguillard to the
According to Harris County criminal court records, Aguillard has a prior
felony record. On Feb. 20, he was charged with aggravated assault with a
deadly weapon in the 262nd state District Court.
After posting a $30,000 bond, Aguillard was released two days later from
the Harris County Jail.
Aguillard's punishment in that case, on July 20, was deferred
adjudication, pending his successful completion of 3 years' probation. His
probation was scheduled to end in July 2009.
Richard Nino Jr., 29, and Eva Pena, 26, were found dead at 12:05 a.m. on
May 15 inside their apartment at 7035 Bellfort. Their 7-month-old daughter
was found unharmed.
Pena's family is caring for the baby.
Police initially went to the apartment complex at about 11:30 p.m. on May
14 after residents reported hearing gunshots.
Officers returned about 30 minutes later, after a tenant found the couple
inside their apartment.
Investigators said the couple had been shot several times and had
apparently "put up a significant struggle." Their apartment was ransacked.
After an investigation that included tips to Crime Stoppers as well as
witness statements, the investigators said they obtained enough
information to file capital murder charges against both suspects.
St. Cyr also was charged with capital murder Wednesday in the 183rd State
District Court. Both Aguillard and St. Cyr are being held without bail in
the Harris County Jail.
They are scheduled to appear in court on Friday.
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Convicted killer in East Texas slaying to die Thursday
Convicted murderer Justin Fuller is set to die this evening for the
abduction, robbery and fatal shooting of a 21-year-old Tyler man.
Fuller's 28th birthday is next week.
He was convicted in the death of Donald Whittington III 9 years ago.
Fuller isn't one to express regret over the slaying -- saying regret would
mean he committed the crime.
He acknowledges being in the vicinity when Whittington was killed at Lake
But he says he didn't fire the fatal shots with a .22-caliber pistol or
show the body to friends later and shouldn't be executed.
4 people have been convicted in the Whittington case.
Fuller would be the 19th Texas inmate executed this year in Huntsville.
Another condemned inmate is set to die next week and at least 7 others are
on the execution calendar the rest of the year.
On the Net:
Texas Department of Criminal Justice Death Row
(source: Associated Press)
- Jan. 30
EXONEREES, FORMER DEATH ROW CHAPLAIN REFLECT ON CAPITAL PUNISHMENT IN TEXAS
3 men whose paths were scheduled to cross in Texas’ execution chamber in
Huntsville will be at SMU Feb. 2 for “The Death Penalty in Texas 2012,” a panel
discussion that will highlight the state of the death penalty in Texas and how
the lives of 2 condemned men and a prison chaplain took drastic turns.
The free event, open to the public, will be 7–9 p.m. at McCord Auditorium, 306
Dallas Hall, on the SMU campus.
2 of the panelists, Anthony Graves and Clarence Brandley, were exonerated after
serving 18 and 9 years, respectively, for heinous murders. They will join
former death row chaplain the Rev. Carroll Pickett — who once had counseled
both Graves and Brandley about being at peace with death as they waited for
execution. Carroll went from supporting the death penalty to being ardently
“Watching people put to death who I later learned may have been innocent, and
seeing more than 80 people who were almost killed but at the last minute were
found innocent, made me begin to wonder if many of the others we executed while
I was there were innocent as well,” Pickett says. “I knew I could no longer
stand there and watch them die, listen to their last breaths, when there were
too many doubts. And the sad thing is,” he adds, “even though Anthony and
Clarence are alive, they’ll never be compensated for what happened to them.”
Pickett retired in 1995 after working for the Texas prison system for 16 years
and overseeing 95 executions.
“All 3 of these people are part of this terrible system called ‘the conveyer
belt of death,’ says Rick Halperin, director of SMU’s Embrey Human Rights
Program, which is sponsoring the event. “Clarence Brandley and Anthony Graves
are alive today to talk about their experiences not because of the system but
in spite of it.”
(source: SMU News)