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Texas Executes Man Who Killed at 17

Punishment: Gerald Mitchell's lawyers argued that death should not apply to crimes committed as a juvenile.

October 23, 2001|Associated Press

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — A man who spent nearly half of his life on death row was executed by injection Monday night for a murder he committed at the age of 17.

Before he was put to death, Gerald Mitchell apologized to the mother of his victim.

"I am sorry for the pain. I am sorry for the life I took from you. I ask God for forgiveness and I ask you for the same," the 33-year-old convicted killer said, looking at Diane Marino, whose son, Charles, he killed.

He then turned to his family and friends, advising them to be strong. His sister, Marsha, sobbed and slid to her knees on the floor of the witness area.

By the time he was arrested for shooting three people in 1985, killing two of them, Mitchell had a history of robbery and theft and had been expelled from an alternative school.

Mitchell's attorneys, some mental health groups and death penalty opponents had contended that his age at the time of the crime should have kept him from the Texas death chamber.

"Execution should not be the consequence of juvenile crime, no matter how horrendous," said Michael Faenza, president and chief executive of the Virginia-based National Mental Health Assn.

Mitchell's lawyers had asked the Supreme Court to block his execution, arguing that the penalty would violate international law. The high court on Monday turned down the request.

Congress has never ratified provisions in treaties that would bar capital punishment for those convicted of crimes when they were younger than 18.

But in asking for a high court review of the case, Mitchell's lawyers contended that customary international law is law in the United States and that a "clear international consensus" has developed against executing people who were under 18 at the time of their offense.

The Supreme Court has ruled that a defendant's rights were not violated when the death sentence was imposed on a murder convict who was at least 16 at the time of the offense. And Texas law allows the death sentence to be imposed on those convicted of capital murder at age 17.

Mitchell was condemned for killing Marino, 20, in June 1985 after Marino and his brother-in-law, Kenneth Fleming, tried to buy $1 worth of marijuana from Mitchell, court records show. That same day, Mitchell shot and killed Hector Munguia, 18, while trying to rob him.

Mitchell had received two 60-year sentences for the Munguia and Fleming shootings.

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