Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Impending Execution of Beunka Adams

Beunka Adams sits on death row awaiting execution by the people of Texas. His execution is scheduled for 26 April. I offer a summary of the case from the adverse appellate decision Adams v. Thaler (2010):
On September 2, 2002, Candace Driver and Nikki Dement were working at BDJ's convenience store in Rusk, Texas. Kenneth Vandever, a customer described as mentally challenged who often "hung around" at BDJ's and helped take out the trash, was in the store with Candace and Nikki when two masked men entered the store. One of the men was armed with a shotgun and demanded money. The two men were later identified as Beunka Adams and his co-defendant, Richard Cobb. 
After taking the money from the cash register, Adams demanded the keys to a Cadillac parked outside. After Candace produced her car keys, Adams forced her, along with Nikki and Kenneth, into the car. As Adams drove Candace's car, Nikki said, "I know you, don't I?" Adams said "Yes," and took his mask off. When they arrived at a remote pea patch near Alto, Cobb pointed the shotgun at Candace and Kenneth and Adams ordered them to get into the trunk of the Cadillac. Adams then took Nikki to a more secluded spot, away from the car, and sexually assaulted her. Later, Adams led Nikki back to the Cadillac and let Candace and Kenneth out of the trunk, but he tied the two women's arms behind their backs and made them kneel on the ground while the two robbers made their escape. Adams and Cobb seemingly developed a plan to leave Kenneth untied so that he could free the women once Adams and Cobb were far enough away from the scene. Adams, however, believed that Kenneth was attempting to untie the women too soon, so he returned and ordered Kenneth to kneel behind the women. Candace heard Kenneth say that "it was time for him to take his medicine and that he was ready to go home." 
The women then heard a single gunshot. Adams asked, "did we get anybody?" And Candace said, "No." Shortly thereafter, a second shot was fired, and Kenneth cried out, "They shot me." Kenneth Vandever died from the gunshot wound. Seconds later, Candace heard another shot, and Nikki fell forward. Candace fell forward as well, pretending to be hit. Adams approached Candace and asked her if she was bleeding. He was carrying the shotgun. Candace did not immediately answer in the hope that Adams would believe she had been killed. Adams then said, "Are you bleeding?" You better answer me. I'll shoot you in the face if you don't answer me." When Candace said, "No, no, I'm not bleeding," Adams shot her in the face, hitting her lip. 
Adams and Cobb then turned to Nikki, asking her the same questions. Adams kicked Nikki for about a minute, joined by Cobb. Then they picked her up by her hair and held a lighter to her face to see if she was still alive. Candace feigned death for fear of being shot again. She heard Cobb say about Nikki, "She's dead. Let's go." That was the only time that Candace ever heard Cobb speak. After Adams and Cobb left, Candace got up and ran barefooted down the deserted country road and banged on the door of the first house she saw.
Adams' supporters claim he did not get a fair trial. They also note that he is remorseful for his participation in the robbery that led to the murders. It seems as if Adams claimed he did not actually commit the murders, but concedes he was involved in the robbery.

I oppose those executions in which the person to be executed has some reasonable possibility of being factually innocent of the crime for which he is scheduled to die. In all other cases, I stand mute. In the case of Beunka Adams, I have no reason to doubt that he participated in the armed robbery that led to the murders. I therefore stand mute.

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