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.