Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Impending Execution of Yokamon Hearn

Yokamon Laneal Hearn sits on death row awaiting execution by the people of Texas, tomorrow, 18 July 2012. It seems unlikely he will survive the day.

I do not find a good summary of his case in any appellate decision available online. I therefore excerpt from a lengthy Amnesty International article about Hearn's case. 
On 26 March 1998, the body of Frank Meziere, a 23-year-old finance graduate from Texas A&M University who had been working with Merrill Lynch in Dallas for the previous eight months, was found in a field near a water treatment plant in Oak Cliff, southwest Dallas. He had last been seen alive the previous evening at a restaurant in the Upper Greenville area in the north of the city. After leaving the restaurant, he had apparently gone to a coin-operated carwash to wash his car and had been spotted by a group of youths in a nearby 7-Eleven store who were looking to steal a car. Two hours after his body was discovered, Frank Meziere’s abandoned Ford Mustang was found in the car park of a shopping centre about five miles (eight kilometres) away in East Kiest, Dallas. 
Yokamon Hearn and Delvin Diles were arrested at a motel in Dallas on 29 March 1998. 
In an interview that weekend, Yokamon Hearn’s mother described Yokamon, her only child, as “a little slow, to be honest… He’s like a 15-year-old”. Having spoken to him by phone on 29 March after his arrest, she said that he was “trying not to break down, but I could hear the scaredness in his voice”. 
Yokamon Hearn could not afford a lawyer so he was appointed one by the trial judge. 
Yokamon Hearn’s current lawyers have argued that his conduct following the crime – including what the prosecution portrayed to the jury as remorselessness and a reason for the death penalty – provide an insight into his mental deficiencies:
Mr Hearn drove the murder victim’s car back to the house of one of his co-defendants. Someone told him to leave the car somewhere else, and another person directed him to leave it in the parking lot of a shopping center. Mr Hearn left the car in a shopping center parking lot, as directed, but failed to take minimal steps to ensure that the car would be inconspicuous. The lights were left on and the trunk was left open, thereby drawing attention of an individual who notified the police. In addition, Mr Hearn left the victim’s wallet with a friend, Aaron Runnels, who was himself impaired. A relative of Mr Runnels found the wallet in Mr Runnels’ room, where it had been left in plain sight. 
After the commission of the crime, Mr Hearn boasted to others that he had killed someone. One person explained [at the trial] that Mr Hearn, ‘was trying to make himself look… like a big person… [He] was talking loud, walking around, smiling. He kept repeating what they did and he said he killed a white boy…’ Aaron Runnels testified that the day after the murder, Mr Hearn was waving a newspaper article about the case, ‘telling everybody that he killed the man.’
In 2006, Yokamon Hearn’s current lawyers obtained sworn statements from his three codefendants, Delvin Diles, Teresa Shavonn Shirley, and Dwight Paul Burley, all serving sentences at that time in various facilities in Texas for their roles in the abduction and killing of Frank Meziere. 
Delvin Diles said: “The night Mr Meziere died, it was Dwight’s idea to go jacking. Jacking meant to take someone’s car. Before we got to the 7-Eleven, there was no plan to kill Mr Meziere or anyone else. Once we were at the 7-Eleven, the fact that we didn't have masks to cover our faces came up. I said that we should kill Mr Meziere and Yogi [Yokamon] said he was cool with it. It was never Yogi’s idea to kill the man”. 
Teresa Shirley said:“Yogi was an ‘impressionist’. When I say that Yogi was an ‘impressionist’, I mean that he did things to impress the guys in the group… The night Mr Meziere got shot, the plan was to go to North Dallas and ‘hit a lick’. To ‘hit a lick’ means to rob someone. I know that the plan was not to kill anyone because when we returned to Dwight’s house after Mr Meziere got shot, Dwight and Yogi got into a fight. Dwight was yelling at Yogi asking him why he shot the guy, why he did that”. 
Dwight Burley said: “Yogi rolled with the flow. Yogi followed along with what the group decided… Yogi was a follower. He didn't have the skills to be a leader. When we went to North Dallas the day Mr Meziere got killed, the plan was not to kill anyone. We only planned to get money. The whole thing wasn’t supposed to be like it happened. There was no plan, it just happened. He never said he was going to shoot the guy”. 
On 10 December 1998 – the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – the 12 jurors deliberated for about 50 minutes before rejecting Yokamon Hearn’s not guilty plea and finding him guilty of the murder of Frank Meziere. “We’re pleased with the verdict and the speed of the verdict”, the prosecutor was quoted as saying afterwards.  
The speed continued. The sentencing hearing began on that same day and ended on the next, 11 December 1998. The jury deliberated for about an hour before handing down a death sentence. 
At the conclusion of the sentencing phase, the jury had been asked to consider a question, namely: “Do you find from the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that there is a probability that the defendant, Yokamon Laneal Hearn, would commit criminal acts of violence in the future that would constitute a continuing threat to society?” A jury’s affirmative response to the so-called “future dangerousness” question is a prerequisite for a death sentence in Texas. Such a sentencing scheme asks a jury to engage in little more than crystal ball gazing – predicting human behaviour based on an individual’s past conduct. Prosecutors encourage jurors to vote for death by painting a picture of a dangerously irredeemable defendant, and perhaps by stoking fear of crime. Arguing for the death penalty at the 2011 murder trial of teenaged offender Cortne Mareese Robinson, for example, a Texas prosecutor told the jury that a razor blade had been found in Robinson’s possession while in pre-trial custody. “The World Trade Center was brought down by a razor blade,” the prosecutor said. 
The jury voted for death. 
In Yokamon Hearn’s case, the prosecution presented evidence that the defendant had boasted to friends that the killing had made the headlines. The case “proved that criminals read the paper”, the lead prosecutor said immediately after Hearn’s trial. “Hopefully, the next group of would-be criminals will read this paper about Yokamon Hearn getting the death penalty and it will be a deterrent”. 
In the absence of proof of any special deterrent effect of the death penalty, hope – rather than any guarantee – that the death penalty will deter murder is all there can be for its advocates. Hope is an unsafe platform on which to base an irrevocable punishment. 
Forty years ago, concurring in the decision to end the death penalty in the USA as then being applied, US Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall referred to this absence of proof: “Despite the fact that abolitionists have not proved non-deterrence beyond a reasonable doubt, they have succeeded in showing by clear and convincing evidence that capital punishment is not necessary as a deterrent to crime in our society. This is all that they must do. We would shirk our judicial responsibilities if we failed to accept the presently existing statistics and demanded more proof. It may be that we now possess all the proof that anyone could ever hope to assemble on the subject.”
For a complete explanation of Amnesty International's opposition to Hearn's execution, visit their summary at the link provided above.

It is my public and unwavering strategy to oppose only those executions in which I feel the person to be executed may be innocent of the crime for which he is to die. In all other case, I stand mute regarding the propriety of the execution. I neither support it nor oppose it.

In the case of Yokamon Hearn, I stand mute.

ADDENDUM (18 July 2012):
Yokamon Hearn was executed by the people of Texas on 18 July 2012. He was pronounced dead after an injection of pentobarbital. Cause of death will be recorded as "Homicide", the killing of one human by another.

16 comments:

Andy said...

It sounds like they have a pretty good case that he's mentally impaired and there are laws to protect people like that. Texas just loves to kill people I think. What century are we living in?

Anonymous said...

He should be executed for being named Yokemon.

tsj said...

Anon,
This is a serious site about a serious subject. I allow unmoderated discussion and debate in the comments. I do, however, offer this rule of thumb.

Reasoned argument is preferred. Thoughtful opinion is accepted. Wise-ass comments are discouraged.

Anonymous said...

There is no proof that he is mentally impaired by any accounts. His IQ was tested, he did well in school--now that his life is on the line, all of a sudden he becomes "slow"? Just because this moron murdered someone in cold blood and got caught, in my mind, makes him "slow."

I have absolutely no sympathy (like my fellow Texans) for pieces of scum who commit crimes of opportunity in cold blood. This Mr. Meziere did not have to be murdered; his car could have been stolen by these low lives, and we wouldn't be debating the death penalty. However, this piece of garbage decided to put not one, but 12 bullets into Mr. Meziere. For that, the state of Texas has the right to set the punishment at death. If you don't like the punishments carried out in this state, don't live here. Don't pay taxes here. Most of all, don't shoot someone 12 times here.

Bill Eggers said...

I apologize for coming across this case just today. From what I have read, I would agree that it is unlikely that Mr. Hearn will be alive tomorrow.
While I have read much about several mitigating factors, the aggravating factors are overwhelming. As to the single point of his appeal today, as a layperson I am unswayed by his argument.
My statement above applies to this case only based on current statutes/case law that I have read, it does not reflect my opinion on the death penalty as a deterrent.

Andy said...

Anyway, i don't know whether the guy is intellectually disabled. And of course people shouldn't go around killing people. But he wasn't the only shooter. Out of four people he was the only one to get the death penalty. Isn't there some barbaric law in America, felony murder. Didn't they all commit felony murder. I'm sure his three accomplices weren't white. Na we'll just kill the dumb guy. You Texans wanna kill people, go for it. Just try not to kill too many innocent ones eh!( I'm not saying Yokemon is innocent by the way)

Bill Eggers said...

I don't know enough about the shooting part as to who the shooter was. Id be more interested to see if everyone had private counsel or a PD

Anonymous said...

It seems like many (most) people who are approaching an execution date are now using the "mentaly impaired" defense as a last resort. Georgia has one about to face execution (next week) and is using that excuse to attempt to delay the execution. These "people" are actors who are playing the system (I have dealt with several who are now on death row)who thought they would never make it that far so are now using it as an excuse to get by the death penalty. Hopefully our justice system will see through these scumbags bull$*#t and give them the needle as prescribed by law.

Anonymous said...

I think we can all agree that Hearn committed murder. Who cares about what kind of counsel he had. Who cares about what kind of jury he had. He shot an innocent victim in the head 12 times. He's guilty. If you take someones life, then your life should be forfeit as well! I'm glad the good people of Texas feel the same way

Anonymous said...

Yes, who cares what the Supreme Court rules, especially when it doesn't fit your own personal agenda. Let's just disregard their rulings instead. Based on this idiotic logic, why not execute an 8 year old if he/she is convicted of murder? Why not execute a vigilante parent who took matters into their own hands against a child rapist or murderer? After all, they would be guilty of murder too according to your second-grade logic.

Anonymous said...

may god look after him his victims and may all here who act a judges be judged as they will after death.

Anonymous said...

As a person who knew Frank, I glad the asshole is gone. RIP Frank. Justice has been served.

Anonymous said...

As a person who knew Yokamon, he's innocent some people should stop saboteging his name and the crime if you don't actually know what happened the actually night .. R.I.P to my cousin Yokamon Laneal Hearn &' ... Frank

Anonymous said...

Man how was Yokamon "Yogi" innocent? We knew him personally, during that time in his life and he was guilty of the crime and he was NOT mentally impaired -- not any more mentally impaired than any other young black man who didn't have access to a proper lifestyle.
"Circumstances made me what I am." They DID but as adults we are responsible for our actions and what he did was be unproductive and murder another individual who was young and was being productive with his life.
...and you wanna talk about innocence... smh

Anonymous said...

Seems like your ass was there that night, but if you dont know anything please shut the fuck up and sit down

Anonymous said...

& please by all means explain what do you mean by saying "we knew him personally" one who is this "We"? Because it sounds like you were there that night when it happened since he wasn't "innocent" as I claim, please explain since you know "Yogi" PERSONALLY

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