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2 Texas Inmates, One Said to Be Retarded, Executed

August 10, 2000|From Associated Press

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — Two convicted killers, including a prisoner described by death penalty opponents as mentally retarded, were executed Wednesday in the nation's busiest death chamber.

Before he was given the lethal injection, Brian Keith Roberson, 36, condemned for the 1986 stabbing deaths of an elderly couple who lived across the street from him in Dallas, lashed out at family members and police officers who testified against him at his trial.

"You ain't got what you want," he said.

The second inmate, Oliver David Cruz, 33, was executed about an hour later for the 1988 abduction, rape and fatal stabbing of a 24-year-old woman stationed at Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio.

Cruz's IQ has tested as low as 63, leading death penalty opponents to argue that he should not be executed. The Supreme Court, which has allowed other mentally ill or retarded inmates to be executed, voted 6-3 Wednesday to allow the execution to go on.

The court also rejected an appeal by Roberson.

The injections were the first multiple executions in Texas since 1997. The execution dates were set by separate local judges, so the timing was a coincidence, said Heather Browne, a spokeswoman for the Texas attorney general's office.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Parole, in identical 18-0 votes this week, refused to recommend to Gov. George W. Bush that he halt Wednesday's executions, the 27th and 28th in Texas this year. That left the Republican presidential nominee the option of granting the inmates onetime, 30-day reprieves to pursue further appeals.

Cruz and an accomplice abducted a Kelly Air Force Base linguist, Kelly Donovan. Cruz raped her and stabbed her to death.

Cruz blamed the attack on his drug use, which, he said, began at age 13. He said he and his accomplice, who testified against him in exchange for a 65-year prison term, had taken LSD and drank "a couple of bottles of liquor."

Cruz's attorney, Jeff Pokorak, argued that the jury was not given enough information about his client's lifelong mental impairment. An IQ under 70 is considered at least mildly retarded, but prosecutors noted that Cruz scored 83 when he entered prison in 1989.

Among the 25 states that allow the execution of retarded killers, some are considering laws prohibiting the practice. The Texas Legislature, which killed a bill last session outlawing the execution of someone whose IQ is below 65, will revisit the issue in 2001.

In the other case, Roberson stabbed James Boots, 79, and his wife, Lillian, 75, while robbing their home. Roberson said he was "juiced up" on PCP and liquor.

The double execution is a far cry from Feb. 8, 1924, when Texas prison officials, taking over execution duties from the counties for the first time, inaugurated the electric chair in Huntsville by putting five inmates to death.

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