Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Impending Execution of Steven Staley

Steven Kenneth Staley sits on death row awaiting execution by the people of Texas. His execution is scheduled for Wednesday, 26 May. I summarize the crime by excerpting from the adverse appellate decision of Staley v. State (1994).
During a four-state crime spree, Tracey Duke, Brenda Rayburn, and Steven Staley arrived on October 14, 1989 at a Steak and Ale restaurant in Tarrant County just prior to closing. After dinner and dessert, Duke and Staley removed two MAC 119-millimeter semiautomatic pistols from Rayburn's purse. Staley secured the kitchen and rear area of the restaurant, while Duke proceeded to secure the front. Staley gathered all the employees in the kitchen storeroom. During the confusion an assistant manager slipped out a rear door and called the police. 
After securing the restaurant, Staley demanded that the manager present himself. Robert Read stepped forward and slightly nudged two other assistant managers, indicating they should remain where they were. Staley then commanded Read to open the cash registers and the safe. He also dictated that the employees in the storeroom throw out their wallets, purses and aprons. One employee lifted his head, only to be kicked in the chest by Staley. Staley threatened the other employees that if any others looked up, he'd kill them—"he'd blow them away!" 
The police arrived. Believing that Read had pressed a silent alarm button, Staley threatened that if the police were outside Read was going to be the first to die. Read remained calm. He told Staley there were no panic buttons, but he would be their hostage and go out front with them as long as they did not hurt the other employees. Staley told Read, "if you fuck up one time, I'll kill you." 
Staley, his two accomplices, and their hostage left the restaurant. Eventually they hijacked a two-door Buick on Alta Mere Road. Duke went around to the driver's side and instructed the owner of the vehicle to get out. Duke and Rayburn got in the automobile. Staley pushed Read into the back seat of the car and followed him. Police heard several gunshots as the car accelerated. 
During the high-speed pursuit of Staley and his accomplices, a brief case containing some of the stolen money and both semiautomatic pistols were discarded at various locations. Ultimately, the car broke down and the three accomplices attempted to flee. All were quickly captured. Staley's first words to the arresting officers were, "[d]on't kill me." Upon their apprehension, the police discovered Read's body in the back seat of the Buick. 
The medical examiner testified that Read had suffered a blow by a blunt object to the forehead. The nature of the wound led the examiner to believe Read's head was stationary when the blow occurred. Read had also been shot in the head, shoulder and side. The medical examiner testified Read was shot in the right temple at a distance of one inch. Within approximately thirty seconds, Read was shot in the shoulder region. Both shots would have been fatal. The third and final bullet which would not have been immediately fatal entered Read's abdomen. The medical examiner testified that when the bullet entered Read's right shoulder his right arm was down at his side. The forensic expert testified that the gunshot to the shoulder was at a distance of approximately nine inches. There was gun powder residue on both hands of Read. The forensic expert testified the powder on Read's hands could be consistent with someone attempting to defend himself. 
The evidence presented in the guilt phase of the trial is sufficient for a jury to rationally conclude Staley "intentionally" shot and killed Read. In his brief, Staley contends a struggle ensued in the commandeered car between Staley and Read. When Read grabbed the semiautomatic pistol from Staley, the pistol went off several times. Staley alludes to several witnesses' testimony concerning movement inside the car as well as evidence that a bullet exited the front windshield of the Buick as evidence further supporting this theory. However, when viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, we disagree with Staley's contention.
There is a twist in this story. Staley is literally going crazy while sitting on death row awaiting to be executed. If he is crazy, he can't be executed. The State therefore is giving him anti-psychotic drugs to keep him sane enough to kill him. His supporters argue that constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. The arguments have landed in the courts. The courts have so far ruled in favor of the State.

As an advocate for the wrongfully convicted, I find the twist interesting but insignificant with respect to my judgement of the impending execution. I oppose those executions in which I believe the person scheduled to die might be factually innocent. With respect to all the other executions in this country, including those of the insane and infirm, I stand mute.

In the case of Steven Staley, I stand mute.


Anonymous said...

Bob Read, the victim was my first boyfriend..met him in 1972 and we were together for 10 years. He was my first love and the love of my life. I have many pictures that I go through after I read some posts..not all the time...but when I hear all about Steven Staley and not about Bob. I KNEW who he was and what a loss he was too so many people who loved that man. He was declared sane, not bi-polar, no not just one the time of the trial. All these years, all those death penalty sentences...executions...and this question comes up now? NOW, it's about insanity at time of execution? You Can't just, 'change the rules', 23 yrs. later, twist it..declare it a 'gray area', undermine the jury's verdict of guilt and THEN ignore the sentence imposed! His case was decided by our legal system.. every step, appeal, due process and his rights followed all proceedures and due process of the law. Whatever..keep draggin everyone, (including the public, more lawyer,s courts, Judge's...mtns. of bullshit) through this. It makes all the biggest newspaper's, name it..after all, it's just sooo mind-boggling...for the great scholars..needs to be studied..stuns the courts. HEADLINE>>>Texas Judicial System Shuts Down..Declared BAFFLED AND Clueless.

tsj said...

I never want to lose sight of the victims and those who loved them. I am sincerely moved by your story.

The Bob Read you knew and loved was a remarkably brave and selfless man.


darlene read said...

Bob Read was my husband the father of our three daughters, ages 6 yrs, 2 years and 10 months. this never goes away. it affected me, my daughters and my family. One never knows how it will affect, but trust me it becomes a part and a major one, of your life. the worst thing that ever happened to me OR HIM. Sometimes I wish I had never met the love of my life ,, just to avoid the pain . as Garth said in the dance, I cudda missed the pain, but i'da had to miss the dance. when i'm gone I hope this doesn't go with me.

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