Billy George Hughes, Jr.

Executed January 24, 2000 by Lethal Injection in Texas

10th murderer executed in U.S. in 2000
608th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
5th murderer executed in Texas in 2000
204th murderer executed in Texas since 1976

Since 1976
Date of Execution
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder-Execution)
Date of
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder)
Date of
Method of
to Murderer
Date of
Lethal Injection
Billy George Hughes Jr.

W / M / 24 - 47

Mark A. Frederick

W / M / 25


On April 4, 1976, when confronted about his use of a stolen credit card, Hughes fled a Days Inn Hotel near Houston. Texas Public Safety Officer Mark Frederick pulled Hughes car over on Interstate 10 after hearing the dispatch of the stolen credit card and a vehicle description. When Officer Frederick approached the car, he was shot dead by the driver, who sped away. The car was abandoned and after a massive manhunt, Hughes was found hiding in a field six miles away. Weapons, ammunition, and a Days Inn room key was found in the vehicle, which was stolen. A .9mm handgun taken from Hughes was determined to be the murder weapon. Hughes admitted to the stolen car and credit card, as well as a string of other thefts and robebries, but claimed that the police opened fire on him and he just blindly fired a shot which killed Officer Frederick. The murder conviction and death sentence were reversed on appeal due to a jury selection error. In 1988, on retrial Hughes was again convicted and sentenced to death. Hughes earned two college degrees in religion while on death row.


Internet Sources:

Texas Department of Criminal Justice

Texas Department of Criminal Justice - Executed Offenders (Billy Hughes)

Texas Attorney General Media Advisory


AUSTIN - Friday, January 21, 2000 - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn offers the following information on Billy George Hughes who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m., Monday, January 24th:


On the evening of April 4, 1976, Billy George Hughes checked into the Days Inn Motel in Brookshire (west of Houston), Texas, using a stolen credit card. When the clerk confronted Hughes in his room about the stolen card, she noticed a gun on his bed. The clerk then left Hughes's room to notify the motel security guard of the problem. After the clerk left his room, Hughes got into his car and sped away on Interstate 10 heading west.

Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)Troopers Jack Reichert and Mark Frederick pulled over the 1975 Ford LTD Hughes was driving on Interstate 10 near Sealy, Texas; they were responding to a dispatcher's report that a man driving a similar car had attempted to use a stolen credit card at a nearby motel. The troopers followed Hughes's car on Interstate 10 until it exited the highway. At this point, Trooper Frederick, who was driving, turned on the overhead lights, and Hughes pulled over to the shoulder of the exit ramp. Trooper Frederick exited the police car and walked up to the driver's side door of Hughes's car. Trooper Reichert got out of the patrol car almost immediately after Frederick did. Approaching the Ford behind Frederick, Reichert heard a muffled shot and observed Frederick grunt and lurch to the side. Hughes immediately sped away from the scene as Trooper Reichert fired six times at the fleeing vehicle. Trooper Reichert then called for assistance and tended to Trooper Frederick; however, Reichert could find no pulse. Trooper Mark Frederick was later declared dead in the ambulance en route to the Sealy Medical Center.

Upon hearing of the shooting, DPS Troopers Randall Baisch and Rodney Green were proceeding toward the scene when they discovered Hughes's abandoned car approximately three miles from the scene of the shooting. The troopers observed that the car had been struck by several bullets, and inside the car was a holster and a room key from the Days Inn Motel in Brookshire.

Soon thereafter, a massive manhunt began for Hughes, involving as many as five hundred law enforcement officers. Approximately two-and-a-half days after the shooting, Texas Ranger Ray Scholton, who was in charge of the investigation, received a report that a possible suspect had been sighted six miles south of Sealy. Ranger Scholton went to the location by helicopter, where he spotted Hughes hiding under a mesquite tree in a pasture. As the helicopter hovered a few feet above the ground, Hughes pointed a gun at the helicopter. As soon as Ranger Scholton pointed his gun out the helicopter at Hughes, Hughes dropped his weapon and was taken into custody.

A check of Hughes's car revealed that it had been reported stolen. A search of the car revealed the following items: one holster for an automatic handgun on the front seat, one holster for a revolver in the glove compartment, and the following items in the trunk of the car: a fully loaded .30 caliber carbine; a loaded, sawed-off short barrel twelve-gauge shotgun; a .300 Magnum rifle; extra .38 caliber shotgun ammunition; and a Halloween mask. Additionally, Hughes had a 9 millimeter handgun loaded with thirteen or fourteen rounds on him when he was captured.

Dr. Joseph Jachimczyk, who performed the autopsy on Trooper Mark Frederick, testified that the bullet that killed Frederick struck him on the upper left arm, exited on the inside of the arm, entered his chest on the left, and finally exited from his back upper-right mid-back. Trooper Frederick's aorta and heart were struck, resulting in internal hemorrhaging, shock, and then death. Dr. Jachimczyk found that the wounds that Trooper Frederick received were consistent with being shot with a 9 millimeter handgun, with Frederick's left side turned down toward the driver, and that the gun fired at Frederick was at least two feet away from him. Ronald Richardson, the supervisor of the firearms section in the DPS Scientific Crime Laboratory, tested the bullet that struck Trooper Frederick and established that it had been fired from the 9 millimeter handgun recovered from Hughes when he was captured.

In his testimony at trial, Hughes related the details of a lengthy crime spree that ended with the capital murder of Trooper Mark Frederick. On January 21, 1976, Hughes rented a 1975 Ford LTD in Fair Hope, Alabama, which was to be returned on January 26, 1976. Hughes then drove to Pensacola, Florida, where he passed a worthless one hundred fifty dollar check. Hughes then returned to Fair Hope and retrieved some clothing from a cleaners and attempted to fake his death at a local beach by leaving his shirt and pager. Hughes then decided to head back to Pensacola, but he first bought gas and food with another worthless check. Hughes only stayed in Pensacola for a day or two before leaving for Orlando. While in Orlando, Hughes stole some checks that he used to buy jeans, a jacket, a belt, and a hat. He then left Orlando for Daytona Beach, where he was robbed after leaving a nightclub. The next day, Hughes bought a suit, a pair of boots, a cane, a shotgun, and some shells with another stolen check.

Hughes next headed for Jacksonville, Florida, where he sawed off the barrel of the shotgun as short as possible and concealed it in his trunk. Hughes stayed in Jacksonville for a few days during which time he cashed a few more stolen checks and inquired into buying some more guns. Hughes then went to Atlanta, Chattanooga, and Nashville. While in Nashville, Hughes purchased a .45 automatic handgun with another stolen check and stole an Alabama license plate from another car. A few days later, Hughes returned to Chattanooga where he bought ten-dollar traveler's checks, cashed two, reported all ten stolen and received a one-hundred dollar refund.

Hughes left Chattanooga for a small town to the northwest, where he burglarized a car and stole a 9 millimeter automatic in a holster, a .45 pistol in a holster, a .300 Magnum rifle with a scope, a .30 caliber carbine, .38 caliber shells, and an empty holster. This theft occurred sometime during the second or third week of February. Hughes continued his trek throughout the southeast during the early spring of 1976. Hughes stopped in Gatlinburg, Tennessee; Washington, D.C.; and Baltimore, Maryland. Hughes then headed into the Carolinas where he repeated his traveler's check scheme. Hughes returned to Nashville, Tennessee, where his car was broken into and two .45's were stolen. Hughes then left Nashville and headed for Montgomery, Alabama. While in Alabama, Hughes stole Harold Martin's credit card, a diamond ring from Sam Caldwell, and some checks from Caldwell. Hughes used one of the stolen checks to buy a CB radio from Radio Shack. On March 30, 1976, Hughes left Montgomery for Louisiana, where he used Martin's credit card for food, motels, and gasoline. Hughes left behind some papers in Kenner, Louisiana, which detailed plans to continue the traveler's check scam, to rob a small-town bank, and to set up apartments in New Orleans, Daytona Beach, and Atlanta, and rob banks in the various cities.

Hughes left Louisiana for Texas, staying in Beaumont, Texas, on the night of April 2, 1976. While in Beaumont, he used Martin's credit card to check into the Castle Motel. Hughes continued heading west until he attempted to use Martin's credit card at the Days Inn in Brookshire on April 4, 1976. Hughes claimed that, after he left the motel and was pulled over by Troopers Frederick and Reichert, the troopers opened fire on him without provocation, whereupon he fired a blind shot out the window. Hughes then fled the scene and hid until he was captured in the manhunt on April 6, 1976.


In April 1976, a grand jury in Austin County, Texas, indicted Hughes for the capital murder of Mark A. Frederick, a peace officer acting in the lawful discharge of an official duty. The case was tried on a change of venue in Matagorda County, Texas, and Hughes entered a plea of "not guilty." On September 16, 1976, a jury found Hughes guilty of capital murder. Following a punishment hearing, Hughes was sentenced to death. Hughes's conviction was automatically appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and was affirmed in a published opinion. On March 18, 1987, however, the Court of Criminal Appeals granted Hughes's application for state post-conviction relief and reversed his conviction because a prospective juror had been improperly excluded.

In June 1988, Hughes was retried for Mark Frederick's capital murder in the the 23rd District Court of Matagorda County, Texas. On June 9, 1988, a jury found Hughes guilty of the charged capital offense. Following a punishment hearing, Hughes was sentenced to death. Hughes' second conviction and sentence were automatically appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. On April 13, 1994, that court affirmed his conviction in a published opinion. Hughes' petition for writ of certiorari was denied by the Supreme Court of the United States on May 15, 1995.

On October 14, 1996, Hughes filed an application for state habeas corpus relief. The Court of Criminal Appeals denied Hughes's request for relief on February 26, 1997. Hughes then filed a petition for certiorari in the Supreme Court which was denied on October 14, 1997. On June 17, 1997, the trial court scheduled Hughes's execution for September 19, 1997. On September 10, 1997, Hughes filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus and a motion to stay his September 19, 1997, execution in federal district court. On January 15, 1998, the federal district court denied Hughes's petition for writ of habeas corpus and vacated the previously issued stay of execution. The court also denied permission to appeal. Hughes filed a notice of appeal on February 11, 1998, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on October 5, 1999, also denied permission to appeal. A petition for writ of certiorari is pending in the Supreme Court.


Retired Agent Gene Owens of the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated a series of extortion attempts and bomb threats of three banks in Mobile, Alabama, from October 1973 until early 1975. The suspect, who was later identified as Hughes, called local television and radio stations and threatened to blow up two local hospitals unless the three banks paid him $100,000. Hughes also claimed to have kidnapped two small children. Hughes was later filmed by a television cameraman at prearranged drop sites. Hughes was indicted for extortion and pled guilty, receiving probation. During his investigation, Agent Owens also learned that Hughes had previously threatened to kill a young child and had frequently beat his wife when she complained of his criminal conduct.

Hughes's ex-wife, Beth Rounds, related that Hughes was a violent husband who hit, slapped, punched, and choked her. Both Rounds and Hughes were members of the Jehovah's Witnesses until Hughes was expelled from the group for incessant lying and bad-check writing. Rounds also corroborated Agent Owens's version of Hughes's extortion attempts, and she described Hughes as a methodical, deliberate person. Rounds further testified that Hughes liked guns and was a good shot, and that he once choked her until her mother intervened. Rounds finally stated that Hughes' criminal acts escalated during the time she knew him and that she felt Hughes would continue to commit violent criminal acts.


Prior to his first trial, Hughes told examining psychiatrists that he had consumed large quantities of beer on the day of the offense which led to "spotty amnesia" around the time of the offense. However, at a second psychiatric interview prior to his second trial, he denied having any amnesia and stated that he recalled everything about the offense. His initial account of being intoxicated prior to the offense is also contradicted by testimony from other trial witnesses who observed him at that time.

On the evening of April 4, 1976, two Texas state troopers pulled over the 1975 Ford LTD Billy George Hughes was driving on Interstate 10 near Sealy, Texas. The troopers were responding to a dispatcher's report that a man driving a similar car had attempted to use a stolen credit card at a nearby motel. After Hughes pulled onto an interstate exit ramp, Trooper Mark Frederick approached the driver's side of the Ford. Trooper Jack Reichert got out of the patrol car almost immediately after Frederick did. Approaching the Ford behind Frederick, Reichert heard a "muffled shot" and saw Frederick "lurch" to the side. Frederick had sustained a fatal wound. As the Ford sped away, Reichert shot several times at the car. An abandoned car with matching description was found several miles away. The car had many bullet holes, and its trunk contained a loaded, sawed-off shotgun and several other weapons. Two days later, a helicopter approached a field where a suspect was reportedly seen. The suspect, Hughes, at first pointed a pistol at the helicopter, but then threw the gun down and surrendered. Ballistics experts identified the pistol as the murder weapon. The jury took only 47 minutes to sentence Hughes to death.



Billy Hughes #556 was executed January 24th in Huntsville. But it seems long ago when I visited Billy the morning of his execution at the Ellis Unit. I asked him what he wanted to do--Billy answered with one word, "Party!" Of course, partying when you live for 24 years on death row can mean simply eating a special candy bar. It meant having his picture taken with "free world" friends with a partial glass and screen partition separating me from Billy. We were never allowed to touch or embrace him. But, most of all, "partying" was a lot of laughs. There were "wisecracks" and jokes, even gallows humor. Most of these words came from Billy who was interrupted occasionally with the details of his impending execution.

A correctional officer wanted to know his request for his last meal. Billy asked us to help him with the menu. Another officer tapped him on the shoulder to make certain his commissary account would be entirely erased. "What if I receive a stay?" Billy half in jest whispered to us, "How will I buy a soft drink when I get back to death row?" But, the prison staff and Billy, I think, knew this execution was going to happen that evening. Billy, however, joked with everybody including his keepers. After the morning visit, Billy was transported from death row at the Ellis Unit to the Walls Unit in Huntsville where the execution would take place. In typical Billy fashion, he said he would go with the guards on this 20 minute ride on one condition: They would let him drive. The staff replied in kind, "Billy if you get a stay, we'll let you drive back!" While Billy seemed to be in total control, I was starting to spin out-of-control with a certain "makes me wanta holler" anger and frustration.

There was an orientation for witnesses at 3 PM. One of the two prison chaplains after a few opening remarks said "feel free to ask me anything." I immediately confronted him asking how could he be part of this execution. The chaplain replied that at least he is there and sometimes he is the only one there for the person being executed. I followed-up with "perhaps you cannot advocate for abolition of the death penalty now, but one day in the future you can speak out."

I then asked about the role of the physician in the execution. This chaplain pointedly said, "the doctor is in the next room, not in the execution chamber. He comes in only to pronounce death." "What if after examination the doctor detects a heartbeat?" I pursued, "Doesn't he violate his Hippocratic oath to do no harm if he indicates to the warden to continue the injection." "That has never happened," the chaplain kindly informed me.

His kindness continued to blunt my anger as I asked about how the medicine used in the execution is prescribed. "There must be a prescription somewhere that is signed by a doctor. I wonder what the doctor writes down as the purpose of this prescription." "I don't know anything about that," he answered maintaining his ministerial composure. In fact, composure and "extra mile" consideration seemed to permeate the day as the prison staff went about the ritual of the execution.

Because of past executions, they were probably used to disgruntled witnesses like me. For example, this chaplain had been present in over 100 executions. Also, the prison staff genuinely wanted to make the execution as "easy" as possible on everyone involved. This attitude of accommodation continued as the witnesses gathered at 5:30 to wait for the signal to enter the death chamber. The execution was scheduled for 6 PM.

Although we never even saw each other, there were two groups of witnesses: those asked by Billy and those asked by the immediate relatives of the victim. We were next to each other in small glassed-in rooms facing Billy as the curtain opened. Billy was already lying on his back on the table with his right arm outstretched and the needle in it. His hands were tied open with ace bandages to make certain they wouldn't become distorted when he died. Billy continued his control. While I went from sobbing to anger, Billy winked at us. When the warden asked if he had any final words, he replied "Yes, I do" in a clear and strong voice. "I want to tell you all how much I love you all, how much I appreciate everything. I love you all and my family. I treasure every moment that I have had. I want the guys to know out there not to give up, not to give in, that I hope someday the madness in the system--something will come about, something will be resolved. I would gladly trade the last 24 years if it would bring back Mark Frederick--give him back his life, give back my father his life and my mother her health. All I ask is that I have one day, and all the memories of you and my family and all the things that have happened.

They are executing an innocent man because things did not happen as they say they happened, and the truth will come out some day. I am not the same person I was 24 years ago. Who would have thought it would have taken 24 years to get to this moment? Don't give up, don't give in. If I am paying my debt to society, I am due a rebate and a refund. But, I love you all, and you all watch out for Mom and you all keep up, keep going. Thank you, Warden." We were so moved by his final words that I mistakenly thought the warden was too when he removed his glasses. Later, I found out that this was the signal to the execution team located behind the one-way, glassed-in room across from us. As the injection began to take effect, I thought he might miraculously open his eyes and say, "Don't worry, I'm still here!" That would be Billy. But, I began to see that he was dying as his body went limp and his eyes kept closing even though they never fully shut. The doctor came in and pronounced him dead. We were ushered out. It was over in 15 minutes!

Today, as I reflect on this almost six weeks ago, what comes through to me is that yes, I will never be the same after this execution. A witness to another execution had said this to me. Also, and I'm not sure I can write this thought clearly. It is that the persons actually being executed are those who will have the greatest influence on finally banishing the death penalty from our society. Undoubtedly, Billy Hughes was an exceptional human being. But, he is not that unique in character from others on death row.

The person preceding him to execution a few days earlier was Larry Robison who was known to be constantly trying to reconcile death row prisoners who had a "falling out". Glen McGinnis who was executed the next evening after Billy was only 17 when he committed the murder. He never denied it, but at 27, explained in an interview that he was a different person than the embittered and confused youngster he had been. Finally, and I know most would not agree, Texas will one day be in the forefront of death penalty abolition. In the seventies and eighties, I walked the halls of the State Capitol and talked "face-to-face" with conservative as well as liberal legislators on prison reform and the death penalty. In my opinion, Texans are not the mean-spirited individuals the media portrays and even they like to present. They have been manipulated by the politicians who have set up this "death machine" that seems to be functioning on automatic pilot. Throughout Texas history, there seems to come a time when the people including their public officials have had "enough" and rise up. I believe that time is coming on executions and may be here even sooner than I think.

(Charles Sullivan is executive director of CURE (Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants), a national prison reform organization. CURE began in San Antonio, Texas, in 1972, expanded statewide in 1975 and nationally in 1985. )

Lamp of Hope

Remembering The Lamp of Hope Project was founded by Texas Death Row Prisoners. Until 1999, it was also administered by Death Row prisoners. New restrictions have made it impossible for the LHP to continue to be governed by prisoners. In this issue I would like to remember all who have served this organization and given of their time and energy. Next year will be the 10th anniversary of the LHP. We would not have made it this far without the support of the prisoners and their families and friends. I would especially like to remember Billy Hughes, Jr. in this issue. Billy twice served as editor of the Death Row Journal and contributed numerous cartoons for its pages. Billy will be missed by us all.

Houston Chronicle

"For Many, Supporting Capital Punishment is a Personal Matter," by Allan Turner. (1995) - FOR 19 years, Billy Hughes Jr. has called Texas' death row home. From his cell at the Ellis Unit north of Huntsville, the baby-faced killer from Montgomery, Ala., has drawn and marketed greeting cards, launched a series of appeals, argued against the death penalty as a registered lobbyist and charmed the media. Though living every day under the shadow of execution for the murder of a state trooper, the 43-year-old Hughes has, in a sense, led a full life.

Patsy Teer, the mother of the man he killed, wants to end it. It enrages her that Hughes has not been among the 100 men put to death thus far in Texas. Only his death, she has said , can end her sorrow. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1976 that it was all right for states to resume capital punishment. Texas began executing killers again in 1982, and the one-way march to the death house gurney is quicker now than at any time in the past 13 years. The fact that Hughes -- who is preparing yet another round of appeals -- continues to live angers many of those who feel strongly that the death penalty is just and that extraordinary delays rob the punishment of its deterrent effect. "Do you wait 10 years to send a robber to prison?" asked Andy Kahn of Houston, director of the Mayor's Crime Victims program. "No, you punish him. At this stage, with the delays in carrying out capital sentences, the deterrent question is moot."

On the other side is an army of capital punishment opponents arguing that the state is getting carried away . They believe the sentence is ineffective and immoral, that Texas, with its death row population in excess of 400 , is running a death mill. "I can't but be outraged, stressed to think that as a state, we probably have more executions than any country in the world, with the obvious exception of the United States and China," lamented Jay Jacobson, director of the Texas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, a steadfast opponent of the death penalty. The rhetoric between the two sides heated up again this week, as it does whenever the state passes a death penalty milestone or carries out a particularly controversial execution. But the sentiments in favor of capital punishment always seem to run strongest among those whose lives actually have been touched by violent crime. "You just can't have closure until the person who executed your child is put to death," said Brenda Solomon, a Waco woman whose daughter was sexually assaulted and murdered by notorious killer Kenneth McDuff, a former death row inmate released from prison. "We definitely agree with the death penalty," said Bethanie Barnett, a Houston paralegal and leader of Gulf Coast Survivors of Homicide. Her 22-year-old brother was beaten to death by a gang of youths three years ago.

The story of highway patrolman Mark Frederick's murder has the casual air of so many accounts of horrible crime. Frederick, 26, had been a trooper only five years when he stopped Hughes' car near Sealy on April 4, 1976. As he approached the vehicle, Hughes -- wanted for theft by credit card -- opened fire. Frederick was struck in the chest. As his mother described it, "He was blown all over the road."

Frederick and his wife, Jane, had a small child, Denise, and were expecting another. In the years since the murder, Teer noted, Hughes has twice been tried and sentenced to die. In prison, he has operated his own business, Happy Horse Enterprises. From his cell, Hughes, a talented artist, has marketed a line of greeting cards and published camping guides for horse enthusiasts.

BILLY HUGHES JR. - Executed on January 24, 2000

"Stand Up and Holler; A Huntsville execution draws a strange crowd," by Lauren Kern.

Jay Martel wandered through the pro-death-penalty crowd outside the Huntsville prison on the night of January 24 without arousing suspicion. Wearing blue jeans, a baseball cap and a windbreaker that looked a lot like the state flag, he fit right in. He offered cans of ginger ale, passed out foam fingers and praised George W. Bush. If there had been a baby, you can bet he would have kissed it. If there had been cheerleaders, which there were, you can bet he wasn't surprised.

The victims' rights group Justice for All was already more boisterous than normal on this particular night at death row because of the man who was being executed. Billy Hughes Jr. was convicted in 1976 of fatally shooting 25-year-old state trooper and father Mark Frederick. But Hughes, who was wanted for credit card theft when Frederick pulled him over, claimed he had merely returned fire when the officers shot at him as he reached for his wallet, and he managed to avoid his death sentence for 24 years by launching numerous appeals. While the cop killer "abused the system," he also became a college graduate (with two degrees in religion), a paralegal, an anti-death-penalty lobbyist, a well-known cartoonist and, at least according to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a humanitarian. Needless to say, the anti-death-penalty camp was a little sadder than normal to see a "reformed" man die.

Beyond that, it was business as usual at the Walls Unit. Justice for All stood at the left end of the police line, holding signs that said, "No Murder Equals No Execution." The Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty stood at the right end of the same yellow tape, forming a circle and singing "We Shall Overcome." Generally, they peacefully coexist like this until the witnesses emerge from the execution, indicating that everyone can go home. They have the routine down pat: There were seven executions in just over two weeks last month; there have been 119 since George W. took office.

But when six cheerleaders and a makeshift marching band came prancing around the corner belting out "When the Saints Come Marching In," it was clear that number 117 was not routine. In pigtails, letter sweaters and red-pleated skirts, the fresh-faced drill team chanted, "We are Texas" and "Go, George, Go." As the antis struggled to maintain their circle vigil, the pros turned into fans at a football game.

Fire up, fire up; Fire up, and up; And up and up and up! They grinned, cheered and waved their foam fingers. Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar, All for the death penalty stand up and holler! They were already standing, but they sure hollered. P, P-O, P-O-W-E-R . We've got power. Woo! Killing power! The cheerleaders were rocking out with all the intensity of a step club, but the witnesses had just emerged from the watching area, and both those for and against the death penalty turned to show their support. Execute, execute, sis, boom, bah . Lethal injection, rah, rah, rah!

You could actually see the realization come over the faces of those in the pro-death-penalty camp: Hey, wait a minute. These death row cheerleaders aren't on our side after all. Florida oranges, Texas cactus We kill convicts just for practice! That did it. Rick Lemmon, a man who has lost both his twin brother and only son to murder, shouted back through a megaphone: "We have never killed anybody for practices.Y'all don't forget the victim here." Kill 'em to the left. Kill 'em to the right. Here in Texas. We kill 'em every night!

David Atwood, president of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, and Dudley Sharp, vice president of Justice for All, both visibly pissed off, yelled at each other at almost exactly the same time, "Did you do this?" then, "No!" We're number one, can't be number two. If you don't agree with us, we'll kill you too. Texas is good, Texas is great. We kill more than any other state!

"Is this what George Bush wants?" asked Atwood. "The cheerleaders?" Sharp put his hand on Atwood's shoulder and said, "Anti-death-penalty and pro-death-penalty strongly believe in what they're doing, and that doesn't include disrespecting the other side." Meanwhile, a bare-chested, body-painted, football-helmeted man ran through the crowd with a "Death" pennant. George, George, he's our man, If he can't kill 'em, no one can, Who's the best on the killing scene? George Bush, he's a killing machine! He's a killing machine! He's a killing machine!

The confusion moved to a nearby parking lot where a scoreboard read: George 117, Jeb 2. (In all fairness, Jeb has only one execution to his credit. Executions have been on hold in Florida since July, when a possible malfunction in "Old Sparky" caused Allen Davis to bleed profusely through his nose as he died.) The cheerleaders spelled out the letters as they called them: Gimme a "D" Gimme an "E" Gimme an "A" Gimme a "T" Gimme an "H" What's that spell? Death! Pardons are for wimps! Pardons are for wimps! "It shouldn't have been this way," Atwood said, shaking his head. "I bet you have Monica Lewinsky sex!" shouted a particularly rabid member of Justice for All. "Desperate times call for desperate measures," muttered Martel. Nah, nah, nah, nah Nah, nah, nah, nah Hey, hey, hey, Good-bye.

After failed attempts to ignore the demonstration, shout down the cheerleaders, circle the band and blame Canada for the fiasco, attentions finally turned to Martel, who seemed to be enjoying all the mischief a little too much. "You did this!" they shouted at him from both sides. "They're not here all the time?" he asked, pushing the limits of playing dumb. They wanted answers: "Are you pro or against the death penalty?" "I'm pro Texas!" he whooped.

In a place where affiliations are always clearly delineated, this was as infuriating as the cheerleaders themselves. Even the news media -- well, those outlets that didn't miss the demonstration for days by relying on the AP feed -- didn't know where to put the blame or the credit. Channel 2's Suzanne Boase called it an "anti-death-penalty commercial."

No one recognized Martel or his gonzo journalism as trademarks of Michael Moore's popular, populist and political television show, The Awful Truth. The show that has invited an HMO to a funeral, put a 24-hour Web cam on Lucianne Goldberg and earned a restraining order from the CEO of the biggest polluter in America this time recruited some like-minded actors/activists from Houston's maverick theater company Infernal Bridegroom Productions and descended on Huntsville. The piece, which will include a segment shot in Florida, is "a celebration," says Awful Truth producer Dave Hamilton, "of two states who have long embraced the death penalty and turned their ability to kill Americans into a state pastime." The episode is expected to air on Bravo sometime next season.

One man at the prison that night did know the score: Billy Hughes. Citizen provocateur and KPFT Prison Show host Ray Hill was a gold mine of information for Moore's segment producers. He was also a longtime friend of Hughes's, even receiving a posthumous, and postage-due, letter from the inmate expressing his love, admiration and gratitude as he headed for his "final sunset." Hill was sworn to secrecy when he was contacted by the show, but during his last visit with Hughes before the execution, he says, "I had to confide in Billy what was going on. My conscience required me to." How did Hughes take the news that his death would be surrounded by satirical fanfare? According to Hill, he said, "Thank you."

"WHILE THE BAND PLAYS ON," by Philip Brasfield.

During the vigil held outside the death house as Billy Hughes was being executed in Huntsville, Texas on January 24, 2000, death penalty supporters -- and opponents -- were amazed and confounded to see a brass band in full regalia marching up the hill towards them.

The pro/con groups are accustomed to their respective public roles in Texas' ongoing bacchanalia of barbarity. The groups gather on opposite sides of the street facing one another. Protest signs are waved. Chants are shouted and exchanged. Tears are often shed in the emotional catharsis of ritualized confrontation.

The band halted between the two groups while patriotic music played so sweetly that members of Justice For All (a victims' rights group) felt compelled to spontaneously join in the cheerful and celebratory spirit of boosterism by chanting "Go, Texas Go! Go, Texas Go!" Their cheers soon petered out, however, silenced by a kind of dazed consternation close on the heels of the realization that somebody was being duped, as a scantily clad troupe of hired cheerleaders accompanying the band began to chant: "Bush, Bush, he's our man, If he can't kill 'em, no one can!" and then "Texas, Texas, you're so great, You kill more than any state!"

While unexpected and downright surreal, I think that marching bands and cheerleaders are just what are needed at Texas executions, which by their nature are dismal, depressing and decidedly anti-photo-op for aspiring politicians large and small.

William F. Buckley would not agree. In one of his tedious and contentious syndicated columns published a few days after Billy's execution, Mr. Buckley took to task all those who would unfairly "badmouth the death penalty..." in general, and anyone in particular, who has the un-American gall and audacity to criticize Gov. George W. Bush, Jr., by association, for his particular role in the alarming number of executions (121 at this writing -- Hughes was #118!) that have been meted out since he came into office.

But George W. Bush, Jr. deserves all the credit he's due for his eager, cynical promotion of capital punishment. True enough, as Mr. Buckley huffed, Gov. Bush's hand isn't "on the needle every time an execution occurs." It doesn't have to be. But that doesn't mean that the Governor's hands are clean. His nsensitivity towards Karla Faye Tucker's petition for clemency -- supported by Pope John Paul II, the Rev. Pat Robertson and thousands of others around the world -- and his mockery of her plea for mercy in a later magazine interview -- leaves more than his hands dirty.

Mr. Buckley says he believes that Governor Bush's curt response to questions concerning capital punishment (''That is the law!") is enough, and since it's the law, then it shouldn't be questioned . The implications are obvious. The law, being the law, and being so rigorously applied in Texas somehow qualifies Governor Bush as being competent, desirable, admirable and, damn it man, tough enough to become King of the Hill in Washington come November, even if he was never a POW -- even in Midland, Texas where everyone does hard time.

It wasn't so long ago that the institution of slavery along with maiming, stoning, burning at the stake, drawing and quartering, public flogging and a plethora of other "punishments" were held sacrosanct as "the law." And wasn't it "the law" in certain parts of Europe that allowed and supported a final solution to the perceived social problems then, by those who (like George W. and William F.) were the least likely to be personally affected by them?

I knew Billy Hughes and counted him as a friend. Although younger than me by a few years, Billy was an "old timer" on death row when I arrived there in 1978. He was a role model that anyone could aspire to emulate. We shared in common a number of interests and beliefs and pursuits, including one which hews close to the notion that, no matter what, one must live each day as well as possible, and accomplish whatever you can because of the odds, not in spite of them. I left death row in 1981. Billy stayed for another 19 years until death set him free.

William F. Buckley never met Billy Hughes. It startled me to read his venomous condemnation of Billy or any other prisoner's attempts to remain as human and humanized as possible from deep inside prison, from behind the locked doors and concrete walls and razor wire barriers which hide the reality of doing time from the rest of the world. Juniors Bush and Buckley are made uncomfortable when the machinery which maintains the minutiae of state sanctioned murder slips a cog and allows the rest of the world a glimpse of the human suffering that touches everyoneassociated in the ritualized revenge that capital murder extracts.

The amorality of the death penalty has long been recognized for what it is throughout Europe and much of the rest of the world. Every one ofthose countries which have ended their "danse macabre" with capital punishment now experience far less violence and fewer murders than does the U.S.

The death penalty is arbitrary in how and to whom it is applied. The death penalty, being racially and economically biased, fails to act as a reliable deterrent. The death penalty is many times more expensive to taxpayers than the cost of a life sentence. The death penalty brings out the worst sentiments of society and does nothing for victims. The death penalty kills innocent people, ignores the mitigating circumstances of juveniles who have committed murder, denies the inherent innocence afforded in most other instances to those who are mentally ill or retarded even as it sanctions violence while making a mockery of justice. All of this is as obvious as the fallacy of "an eye for an eye" justification for capital punishment, which leaves the whole world blind.

The Bushes and the Buckleys and folks like them ignore the obvious. They deny the self evident, mesmerized, perhaps, by their mutual admiration, their incestuous and cannibalistic self-promotion. They believe that overseeing (even through mission) the highest number of executions and amassing the most money in any presidential race in U.S. is so impressive to the rest of us that life as these self-styled compassionate conservatives know it will go on, relatively undisturbed and forever unchallenged -- not because it's right -- but because it's their destiny.

Maybe so but I hope they're wrong. Dead wrong.

[Philip Brasfield was condemned to death in Texas in 1977. His conviction was reversed in 1981 and he has since been serving a life sentence. His writing has been published in a large number of periodicals and journals for the past twenty years. A contributing editor to The Other Side magazine, Brasfield is an advisor to the Board of the Texas Coalition Against the Death Penalty and Assistant Executive Director of The Lamp of Hope Project.]

ABOLISH Archives (The Huntsville Item)

There was little in common between the 2 distinct groups gathered outside the Huntsville "Walls" Unit for the Monday night execution of Billy George Hughes Jr. - one was a group of more than 20 uniformed Texas Department of Public Safety officers, while the other was an almost equally large group of uniformed anti-death penalty cheerleaders chanting phrases such as, "We Kill Convicts, Yes We Do."

Hughes, who maintained his innocence until the end, was executed for the 1976 shooting death of Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Mark Frederick on Interstate 10 in Sealy as Frederick walked toward Hughes' car to question him about a stolen credit card.

While many DPS officers were on hand for the execution, so were several anti-death penalty personalities, including representatives of the Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants, or CURE organization, who actually witnessed the execution on Hughes' behalf.

There also were several people dressed as cheerleaders leading chants outside the unit. Officials on the scene said it appeared the group was filming an 'anti-Bush' commercial aimed at impeding Gov. George W. Bush's bid for president by attacking his stance on capital punishment. It was unknown who might have been financing the filming.

Inside the unit, when asked if he had any last words, 47-year-old Hughes, who had one of the longest tenures on death row at 24 years, replied simply, "Yes I do," and then began his statement. "I want to tell you all how much I love you all, how much I appreciate everything," he said. "I love you all and my family. I treasure every moment that I have had. I want the guys to know out there not to give up, not to give in, that I hope someday the madness in the system - something will come about, something will be resolved. "I would gladly trade the last 24 years if it would bring back Mark Frederick - give him back his life, give back my father his life and my mother her health," he continued. "All I ask is that I have one day, and all the memories of you and my family and all the things that have happened. "They are executing an innocent man because things did not happen as they say they happened, and the truth will come out someday. I am not the same person I was 24 years ago. Who would have thought it would have taken 24 years to get to this moment? Don't give up, don't give in. If I am paying my debt to society, I am due a rebate and a refund, but I love you all, and you all watch out for Mom and you all keep up, keep going. Thank you, Warden."

Hughes was pronounced dead at 6:18 p.m., 8 minutes after a lethal mixture of drugs began flowing into his arms. Frederick's mother, Pat Teer of Houston, said the fact that Hughes still would claim his innocence was hard to take. "I guess I should expect it but I didn't expect that Mr. Hughes would go out lying like he did," she said, adding that she felt Hughes' statement was 'true to his manipulative character.' "I'll be happy not to hear any more lies," she added.

In a prepared statement, Teer said her family finally will be able to go on. "My son, Trooper 11 Mark Alan Frederick paid the ultimate price of protecting the public when he stopped Billy Hughes on April 4, 1976, and was subsequently murdered," she said. "Tonight, Billy George Hughes Jr. was punished to the full extent of the law after having one of the largest tenures on death row. "After 24 long years, this family has spent vacation time and funds seeking justice, living our worst nightmares over and over and over. Mark can now rest in peace and our nightmares will end knowing that Billy Hughes will not take another life. Teer thanked several people before adding, "I hope and pray that no other family has to go through what we have been through. Mark, justice has been served. God be with you."

Walker County District Attorney David Weeks, who was the prosecuting attorney at Hughes' 2nd trial, also felt Hughes' claims of innocence were inappropriate. "He went out lying," he said. "His story about what happened is not consistent with the facts. "Mr. Hughes has told a number of stories over the years," he continued. "He's a very manipulative individual and to claim that he was innocent tonight was just a final chapter in showing what a manipulative human being he was. If I was going to feel any sympathy for him, I lost it all at that point."

Frederick, 26, had been a trooper for 5 years when he stopped Hughes' car on April 4, 1976. At that time 25 years old, Hughes had served time for various offenses in his home state of Alabama and was wanted for theft by credit card when Hughes stopped him. According to police reports, Hughes shot the trooper in the chest as he approached Hughes car. Hughes claimed he was reaching for his wallet when the officers shot at him, leading him to fire one shot which struck and killed Frederick. Hughes then fled the scene. A massive manhunt involving as many as 500 police officers soon began, with Hughes being found near Sealy about 2 days later.

Hughes was convicted of the crime in September 1976, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals later ruled that a juror had been excluded improperly and overturned the conviction in 1987. He again was sentenced to die in June 1988, along the way filing many unsuccessful appeals that ended with the U.S. Supreme Court rejecting Hughes' bid for help on Monday. While in prison, Hughes earned two college degrees, developed a comic strip, operated a greeting card business, translated books into braille for the blind and even worked from his cell as a registered legislative lobbyist.

ABOLISH Archives (Scripps Howard News Service)

01-26-00 - TEXAS:

It was a moment neither could have predicted - a committed Texas death penalty opponent and an equally passionate defender of victims' rights coming together to protest what both saw as a "disgusting display" following an execution. What provoked Dianne Clements of Justice For All in Houston, a victims' rights group, and David Atwood of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, was a staged celebration following Billy George Hughes' execution, complete with cheerleaders and a marching band. That performance was set up by a production company working with satirist Michael Moore, best known for "Roger and Me," a documentary film that criticized General Motors executives.

The purpose of the celebration "was to mock executions and to embarrass Texas," said a statement jointly released by groups for and against the death penalty after the Hughes execution Monday. "But in fact it showed great disrespect for Officer Mark Frederick, the murder victim, his family, and for the family of Billy George Hughes, the man executed for Frederick's murder."

Witnesses said that prior to Hughes' execution, groups with opposing views on the death penalty had been conducting respectful vigils outside the walls of the corrections facility in Huntsville, Texas. Then, just after Hughes was executed, pompon waving cheerleaders and several musicians marched down the street between the groups. "It was truly disgusting," said Clements. "They were doing synchronized cheers, and there was some guy without a shirt on, painted blue and wearing a helmet. They were handing out anti-George W. Bush signs and they had a lighted scoreboard counting the number of executions. It was the most vulgar thing you have ever seen."

Atwood had more mixed feelings. "It appeared to be a parody of the death penalty, which I agree with," he said, adding that initially some of the death penalty supporters seemed to join the stunt before realizing it was being filmed. But Atwood said he was ultimately saddened by the pain the event could have caused family members on both sides. "We do have a lot of feeling of compassion for the police officer's family," he said. "This was very disrespectful to the family. I know if I were a family member of the officer I would have felt terrible, and I think it is likely that is how the family felt about it."

Clements said that members of a production company that filmed the escapade had misrepresented themselves and hyped aspects of the event, trying to portray those there to support the officer's family as drunken revelers. Dave Hamilton, a producer for Moore's cable television show, "The Awful Truth" denied any deception in filming the event. "We did perform a stunt there, with a pep band and cheerleaders," Hamilton said. "This is what our show is, dark satire. It is Swiftian humor."

Hamilton said he "couldn't speculate" on why the antics were disavowed by those in Texas who were protesting the execution. Frederick was 26, and a husband and father when he was shot to death during a traffic stop in April, 1976, by Hughes, a 25-year-old wanted criminal. Over the next 24 years, Hughes was twice convicted of the crime. During that time he collected two college degrees, wrote a book and a movie script and published cartoons illustrating animal rights and other causes.

Atwood said that despite the methods of the film crew, "I am all for putting Texas and George W. Bush under the spotlight on the death penalty issue." And he said the stunt, however "ignorant and insensitive," had served another purpose. "If there was a positive out of this, for the first time ever the 2 sides on this issue came together on something," he said. Clements agreed that was extraordinary. "To get us on the same page, you know it had to be a revolting display."