Friday, July 27, 2012

The Stayed Execution of Marcus Druery

Marcus Druery sits on death row awaiting execution by the people of Texas. He was scheduled for execution on 1 August 2012. His execution was stayed by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to allow consideration of his claim the he is not mentally competent to be executed.

I summarize his case by extracting from the adverse opinion in Druery v. State (2007):
On October 30, 2002, Druery went to Skyyler Browne's apartment on the Texas State Technical College campus in Waco where both were students. Browne was commonly known by his nickname "Rome." Druery asked Rome to travel with him to Bryan; Rome hesitated but eventually agreed to go. Rome, who was known to have sold marijuana, took his cell phone, $400 to $500, his gun, and some marijuana. No one at the school ever saw him again. Druery later told a Texas Ranger that, after he and Rome had traveled from Waco to Bryan, they partied into the night, but Rome wanted to go home. Druery recounted to the Ranger that Rome called a girlfriend, and the girlfriend picked him up from the Contiki Club in an orange Cadillac. Law enforcement, however, was never able to locate an orange Cadillac. 
Joquisha Pitts and Marcus Harris told a different story. Pitts was Druery's former girlfriend, and Harris was Druery's younger friend who was still in high school. Pitts recounted at trial that she had known Rome for only a couple of days when she witnessed his murder. She accompanied Druery and Rome to the Contiki Club, and on the way, the group picked up Harris, as well as some ecstasy tablets and some embalming fluid, which is put on cigarettes and smoked to produce a high. Harris recounted at trial that this was his first meeting with Rome. Around 1:00 to 1:30 a.m., at Druery's suggestion, Druery, Rome, Pitts, and Harris left the Contiki Club to go to rural property owned by the Druery family. Pitts drove Druery's car as Druery navigated because she had never been there before. Neither Pitts nor Harris was aware of Druery's plans.
During the drive to the country, Druery claimed that someone was following them, and he repeatedly asked Rome for his gun so he could shoot whomever it was. Rome refused. Once at the property, Druery unlocked the gate and drove the group the rest of the way to a stock pond. Using the vehicle's headlights for illumination, each member of the group took turns shooting Rome's gun at bottles they had thrown into the water. At this time, Druery called Pitts to the car and told her he was going to kill Rome, saying he wanted Rome's "stuff." Pitts reminded Druery that Druery had a two-year-old son, and she ultimately believed that Druery was "just playing." 
After he shot the gun, Druery claimed that the ammunition had run out, and he returned to the driver's seat of the car. Pitts saw that Druery was taking bullets from the car's console, wiping them clean with a rag, and placing them in the pistol's magazine. Druery then called Harris to the vehicle, telling him that he planned to shoot Rome, but Harris believed that Druery was "tripping" on embalming fluid that he had smoked. Druery then ordered both Pitts and Harris to sit in the car. 
Standing near the pond, Rome pulled his jacket or a hood over his head to block the wind as he attempted to light a pipe or cigar filled with marijuana. Druery skulked toward Rome under the cover of darkness, held the gun within six inches of Rome's head, and fired. As Rome's body fell, Druery fired a second shot into Rome's neck, and then he fired a third shot into Rome's body as it lay on the ground. Pitts and Harris began to cry and scream, and both saw Druery kneel over Rome's body. Druery returned to the vehicle with Rome's cellular phone, money, marijuana, and gun. He attempted to calm his hysterical companions by giving each forty dollars. 
Soon thereafter, Druery obtained some gasoline (perhaps with Harris's assistance) and poured it on Rome's body. He set it ablaze, and the three left as the body 497*497 burned. During the drive, Druery instructed Pitts and Harris on how to respond to questions about Rome. He told them to say that Rome's girlfriend picked him up in an orange Cadillac to take him to get his sister in Washington D.C. and that they didn't see him again. The next day, Druery returned to the pond with Pitts and two others, burned the body a second time, and threw the body into the pond. Later, Harris assisted Druery in disposing of the murder weapon. 
Pitts eventually went to the police and told them that she was scared and wanted to get it off her chest. Harris told authorities that he thought he would die because he believed Druery would not want to leave any witnesses to the killing. ... 
Here, neither Pitts nor Harris was an accomplice as a matter of law or as a matter of fact. Neither witness was indicted for the capital murder or a lesser-included offense of the capital murder, and the evidence does not show that the witnesses could have been so charged. ... 
[T]heir testimony was corroborated. Appellant does not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence to show the murder, and indeed, such a challenge would be laughable. He confessed to the murder to four friends and acquaintances: Chasiti Hall, Angela Minor, LaKeisha Green, and Charles Kennard. The victim's body was recovered on Druery property from a stock tank.
I oppose any execution in which the person to be executed may be innocent of the crime for which they are to die. In all other cases, I stand mute. I neither support nor oppose the execution. In the case of Marcus Druery, I stand mute.

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