Monday, April 30, 2012

The Impending Execution of Anthony Bartee

Anthony Bartee sits on death row awaiting execution by the people of Texas. He is scheduled to die on 2 May. I offer a summary of the crime from the adverse opinion of Bartee v. Quarterman (2008). As I am apt to do, I have replaced each occurrence of the term "petitioner" with Bartee's name.
On August 15, 1996, Anthony Bartee telephoned his acquaintance Heidi Munoz and informed her he planned to "ace some white dude out." Munoz interpreted this remark as indicating Bartee planned to rob and "get rid of the person in question, whom Bartee indicated was named "David." When Ms. Munoz refused Bartee's request to assist in this endeavor, Bartee asked for the phone number of Ms. Munoz's ex-boyfriend, Joey Banks, and indicated he planned to seek Mr. Banks' help. During the same telephone conversation, Bartee also unsuccessfully solicited the assistance of Ms. Munoz's friends Nadine Berlanga and Stella Suarez. 
At some point during the summer of 1996, Bartee telephoned Joey Banks and requested Mr. Banks' help in robbing and killing someone who lived in the same neighborhood where Bartee stayed and who, Bartee informed Mr. Banks, had "some gold cards and a motorcycle" Bartee wanted. When Mr. Banks indicated he would not help, Bartee told Joey Banks he would do it himself. 
Later on that same date, Bartee arrived at Ms. Munoz's apartment riding a motorcycle which Bartee said he had acquired through a lawsuit. Bartee gave Ms. Suarez a ride on his motorcycle but Ms. Munoz declined Bartee's invitation for a ride. Although Bartee said he was carrying a gun, Ms. Munoz never saw one. 
The following morning, on August 16, 1996, Bartee approached two employees of a bowling alley located near Bartee's parents' residence and informed them he owned the Harley Davidson motorcycle they had found parked behind the bowling alley. 
Later that same date, Bartee drove the Harley motorcycle to Corpus Christi, Texas, where he met up with his acquaintance Macedonio Gonzalez. Bartee informed Mr. Gonzalez that he had traded in two motorcycles to acquire the new Harley. Bartee also informed Mr. Gonzalez Bartee had seen a friend of his shot in the head by two members of the "Ace of Spades" gang. Bartee never informed Mr. Gonzalez that the motorcycle belonged to Bartee's murdered friend. A few days later, Bartee returned to San Antonio but left the new Harley in Macedonio Gonzalez's custody, telling Mr. Gonzalez he would return to pick it up. When Bartee did not return after several weeks, Mr. Gonzalez contacted local law enforcement authorities in Corpus Christi, who took custody of the Harley. A Corpus Christi homicide detective testified at Bartee's trial that, on August 26, 1996, he took possession of a motorcycle from Macedonio Gonzalez which he identified as the same motorcycle reported stolen in connection with the murder of David Cook in San Antonio. 
On the morning of August 17, 1996, police and David Cook's family members discovered the body of David Cook inside Mr. Cook's locked residence in San Antonio, Texas. An autopsy revealed Mr. Cook had been fatally shot twice in the head and stabbed once in the shoulder. At the crime scene, police discovered: (1) a slug which fell from the face of David Cook as his body was rolled over by personnel from the medical examiner's office, (2) a second slug which had passed through a wall, penetrated the rear of Mr. Cook's refrigerator, and come to rest therein, and (3) a pair of spent shell casings and several live 9 mm rounds. A firearms expert testified at Bartee's trial that the spent round, shell casings, and bullet fragment recovered from the crime scene were all consistent with 9 mm bullets that had been fired from the type of handgun Mr. Cook owned but which was missing from the crime scene following Mr. Cook's murder. Both David Cook's 9 mm pistol and Harley Davidson motorcycle were missing from his residence. 
Several members of David Cook's family described and identified a photograph of a red Harley Davidson motorcycle owned by David Cook which was missing from Mr. Cook's residence following the discovery of David Cook's body. Heidi Munoz identified a photograph of David Cook's Harley Davidson motorcycle as similar to the one driven by Bartee when he visited Ms. Munoz's apartment late on the night of August 15, 1996. Each of the two bowling alley employees who encountered Bartee the following morning identified the same photograph of Mr. Cook's motorcycle as the one Bartee claimed as his own. A friend of Bartee's who resided in Corpus Christi identified the same photograph of David Cook's motorcycle as the one Bartee drove to Corpus Christi in August, 1996 and claimed as his own. 
On August 20, 1996, shortly after his return to San Antonio, Bartee gave San Antonio police a written statement in which he claimed to have no knowledge whatsoever of David Cook's murder. 
On August 30, 1996, while in custody on an unrelated charge, and after having been informed that police had recovered David Cook's missing motorcycle, Bartee gave San Antonio Police a second written statement in which he claimed: (1) he had been present at David Cook's home at the time of Mr. Cook's fatal shooting, (2) he had witnessed two local gang members he knew only as "Snake" and "Throw down" enter Mr. Cook's residence and escort Mr. Cook to the back bedroom, (3) he then went to the garage and sat down on Mr. Cook's motorcycle, (4) suspecting foul play was about to occur, he started Mr. Cook's motorcycle, and (5) when he then heard gunshots, he fled the scene on Mr. Cook's motorcycle out of fear for his own safety. 
In following weeks, Bartee telephoned Heidi Munoz and one of Ms. Munoz's friends, claimed to have had no involvement in David Cook's murder, and urged them both to claim they had no knowledge of anything relating to David Cook's murder or of the motorcycle Bartee was riding the night he visited Ms. Munoz's apartment. 
The guilt-innocence phase of Bartee's capital murder trial commenced on May 11, 1998. 
After presenting the evidence outlined above, the prosecution rested on May 14, 1998. 
The defense then called a neighbor of David Cook who testified: (1) he heard what he believed was a loud motorcycle take off around ten p.m. on August 15, 1996, and (2) very shortly thereafter, he heard automotive tires squealing. The defense also presented a second neighbor of David Cook who testified she witnessed a white vehicle with two black stripes squealing its tires as it left David Cook's driveway around 10:45 p.m. the evening of the murder. The defense then rested. 
The prosecution then called in rebuttal a third neighbor of David Cook who testified, on the evening of David Cook's murder: (1) sometime after 11 p.m., he was visited by a drunken friend who parked his car directly across the street from David Cook's home, (2) he argued with his inebriated friend, who was driving a big white car with dark blue stripes, and (3) his friend later left the area, first by backing his vehicle into David Cook's driveway and then squealing his tires as he left the area at a high rate of speed. ...
On May 15, 1998, after deliberating less than five hours, the jury returned its verdict, finding Bartee guilty of capital murder, as charged in the indictment.
Bartee recently received a stay of execution so that hairs found in the victim's hand could be tested for DNA. The defense argued that if those hairs belonged to someone other than Bartee of the victim, then that indicated someone other than Bartee had committed the murder, just as Bartee claimed. After long and (in my opinion unconscionable) delays, the DNA testing was completed. All hairs found in the victim's hand belonged to the victim himself.

I oppose the execution of anyone who might be factually innocent of the crime for which he is scheduled to die. In all other cases, I stand mute.

In the case of Anthony Bartee, I stand mute.

May 2, 2012: Bartee's execution was stayed by a federal judge. The defense wants DNA testing of  cigarette butts and drinking glasses. Though the State appealed the stay immediately, and though the Supremes quickly refused to hear Bartee's "other" appeals, it seems as if the stay is good at least until midnight. I think the means that Bartee cannot be executed for at least a month. I believe the execution warrant is good only until midnight, and that a new warrant cannot set an execution without 30 days notice.

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