Glen Charles McGinnis

Executed January 25, 2000 by Lethal Injection in Texas

11th murderer executed in U.S. in 2000
609th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
6th murderer executed in Texas in 2000
205th 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
Glen Charles McGinnis

B / M / 17 - 27

Leta Ann Wilkerson

W / F / 30


On the afternoon of August 1, 1990, a customer walked into Wilkins Dry Cleaners in Conroe, Texas and discovered the body of the clerk, Leta Wilkerson, lying face up on the floor, her eyes open and her body covered with blood. She had been shot once in the face and three times in the back. On the front counter was a pile of jeans with the name "McGinnis" written in the pockets. $140 was missing from the cash register. The victim's van was also missing form the parking lot. Two witnesses identified McGinnis as near the scene earlier. The van was recovered abandoned the same day. Inside, officers found Wilkerson's wallet, from which McGinnis' fingerprint was lifted. Three employees from a nearby shopping center identified McGinnis as asking for assistance after the van had broken down earlier in the day. The following day, McGinnis was arrested at his aunt's home two blocks from the cleaners, with $105 in his possession. A .25 caliber handgun, determined to be the murder weapon, was found in the residence. Two months later, McGinnis' aunt turned into police a set of keys found in the home. The keys belonged to Leta Wilkerson. McGinnis had been placed on probation for auto burglary five days before the murder.


Internet Sources:

Texas Department of Criminal Justice

Texas Department of Criminal Justice - Executed Offenders (Glen McGinnis)

Texas Attorney General Media Advisory


AUSTIN - Monday, January 24, 2000 - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn offers the following information on Glen Charles McGinnis who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m., Tuesday, January 25th:


On the afternoon of August 1, 1990, Homer Burson walked into Wilkins Dry Cleaners in Conroe, Texas, to pick up some cleaning. He waited at the counter, but no one approached to wait on him. He left, then reentered with another customer. Finally, noticing that the cash register was open, Burson walked around the corner of the counter toward the back room of the store where he discovered Leta Wilkerson lying face up on the floor, her eyes open and her body covered with blood. Burson immediately notified the police and called for an ambulance. Wilkerson, who was employed at the cleaners as a clerk, was transported to a nearby hospital where she was pronounced dead on arrival. She had been shot once in the face and three times in the back.

Upon arriving at the scene, investigating officers found spent .25-caliber bullets and bullet casings lying on the floor near where the body was found. Officers also discovered blood on the front counter next to a pile of jeans with the name "McGinnis" written in the pockets. The telephone on the front counter had been left off the hook, objects were in disarray and about $140 was missing from the cash register. Additionally, police were informed that the 1985 silver-gray GMC minivan the victim had driven to work that day was missing. Two individuals picked Glen Charles McGinnis out of a photographic lineup, identifying him as the man they had seen at or near Wilkins Dry Cleaners around the time of the offense.

Late that evening, police found Wilkerson's minivan abandoned in the parking lot of a nearby shopping center. Between the two front seats of the van, they discovered Wilkerson's wallet, from which investigators lifted McGinnis's fingerprint. The following morning, three employees of various businesses in the shopping center where the van was found picked McGinnis out of a photographic lineup as the man they had seen the afternoon before requesting assistance because his van was broken down.

Early on the morning of August 2, 1990, police were dispatched to Williams Square Apartments, just two blocks from Wilkins Dry Cleaners, where McGinnis was thought to be residing with his aunt, Annette McGinnis. Police arrested McGinnis for the capital murder of Leta Wilkerson and transported him to the police station, where they discovered $105 in his possession. Later that morning, police returned to Annette McGinnis's apartment to search for a .25-caliber weapon. Annette McGinnis told police that her nephew had been living with her in the apartment since July 27, 1990. She also told police that she owned a .25-caliber semi-automatic pistol; however, when she discovered that the gun was not where she had left it, she agreed to let police search the apartment. Police found a .25-caliber Raven semi-automatic pistol in a laundry hamper in the hall closet. Annette McGinnis identified the gun as her own, but stated that she did not know how it had gotten in the laundry hamper. Firearms examiner Russell Johnson testified at trial that shell casings recovered from the scene and bullets recovered from both the victim's body and the scene had been fired from Annette McGinnis's gun.

Almost two months after the offense, Annette McGinnis contacted police to inform them she had found a set of keys in her apartment. The keys were later identified as the keys of Leta Wilkerson. In addition, when asked at trial about the jeans found at the cleaners, Annette McGinnis identified them as hers, but testified that she had not taken the jeans to the cleaners. Rather, the jeans had previously been stored away in a closet in her apartment because she did not wear them anymore.


On October 8, 1990, McGinnis was indicted in Montgomery County, Texas, for the capital murder of Leta Wilkerson while in the course of committing and attempting to commit the offense of robbery, which occurred on August 1, 1990. McGinnis was tried before a jury upon a plea of not guilty, and on July 23, 1992, the jury found him guilty of the capital offense. On July 30, 1992, in accordance with state law, the trial court assessed McGinnis's punishment at death.

McGinnis appealed his conviction and sentence to the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas, which affirmed on December 14, 1994, and denied rehearing on March 1, 1995. McGinnis then filed a petition for writ of certiorari to United States Supreme Court, which was denied on October 2, 1995. McGinnis next filed an application for writ of habeas corpus in the convicting court on May 7, 1996. On July 12, 1996, the trial court issued findings of fact and conclusions of law recommending that relief be denied. The Court of Criminal Appeals denied relief based on the trial court's findings and conclusions in an order dated August 28, 1996.

On January 3, 1997, McGinnis filed in federal district court a petition for writ of habeas corpus. On February 2, 1998, the federal district court issued a memorandum opinion and entered final judgment denying relief. After denying a post-judgment motion on April 7, 1998, the federal district court granted McGinnis permission to appeal one issue. On July 20, 1999, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, after full briefing and oral argument from the parties, affirmed the district court's denial of habeas corpus relief. The court of appeals denied McGinnis's petition for rehearing on August 25, 1999, and the Supreme Court denied certiorari review on January 18, 2000. Also on January 18, 2000, the Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed a second application for state writ of habeas corpus filed by McGinnis as an abuse of the writ. A clemency petition is pending before the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.


At the punishment phase of trial, the State presented evidence of McGinnis's prior criminal history. On July 30, 1986, after several minor offenses culminating in criminal trespass, McGinnis, then 13 years old, was adjudicated delinquent and placed on juvenile probation by the 314th Judicial District Court of Harris County, Texas. The court entered an order modifying the conditions of his probation on April 16, 1987, based on a finding that McGinnis had violated his probation by leaving court-ordered placement. Then on September 3, 1987, the court revoked McGinnis's probation and committed him to the institutional division of the Texas Youth Commission after McGinnis was found guilty of burglary of a vehicle. McGinnis was sent to Gainesville State School. He was paroled on January 22, 1988.

At about 12:30 a.m. on August 28, 1988, Carole Speight left a club in Houston, got in her minivan, and pulled out into the street. After going about a block, Speight heard a voice from the rear of the van say "This is a stick up." Speight turned around in the car, saw a man in the back seat of her van, and started screaming. The man shot at her, shattering the front driver's side window. Finally, Speight was able to slow down, jump out of the moving vehicle, and run away. The man drove away in her van. Speight was unable to positively identify McGinnis as the gunman who stole her van. However, McGinnis was seen driving the van on September 4, 1988, when he was involved in a minor traffic collision. At the scene of the accident, McGinnis offered as identification a credit card with the name Carole Speight, claiming that it was his mother's credit card. When police eventually recovered the van in Missouri City, Texas, on September 7, 1988, McGinnis was driving. When the arresting officer asked McGinnis for identification, he presented three credit cards with Carole Speight's name on them, claiming they were his mother's credit cards. On September 28, 1988, McGinnis was charged with felony theft and misdemeanor assault. He was classified as a "repeat offender," his parole was revoked, and he was sent back to Gainesville State School. McGinnis was paroled again on March 28, 1989.

On April 15, 1989, McGinnis was apprehended driving a stolen vehicle in Houston. The steering column of the vehicle had been broken, and a pair of needle-nosed pliers found in the front floorboard of the car had apparently been used to start and turn off the vehicle as there were no keys to the vehicle. McGinnis was charged with the felony offense of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, and on April 26, 1989, his parole was revoked. He was reclassified as a "chronic serious offender" and was sent to Crockett State School. McGinnis was released from Crockett State School in February of 1990.

On the afternoon of May 3, 1990, Tara Applegate left her car unlocked and took her keys with her into a five-and-dime store in Conroe, Texas, near Wilkins Dry Cleaners. Minutes later, she left the store, got into her car, and started the ignition. She turned around and saw McGinnis crouched down in the floorboard of the back seat of her car. Applegate tried to open the door and get out of her car but she got tangled in the seat belt. Finally, she was able to untangle herself and get out of the car. McGinnis then put the car in reverse with the door still open. He started backing up with Applegate running along beside the car, caught in the open door. Applegate fell underneath the car, and McGinnis ran over her foot and drove away. McGinnis pled guilty and received deferred adjudication for the theft of Applegate's vehicle. McGinnis was released on adult probation on July 27, 1990, and was directed to report immediately to the Montgomery County Probation Department. He never reported. Five days after his release, McGinnis murdered Leta Wilkerson.

Martin Rocha, McGinnis's juvenile parole officer, testified that McGinnis repeatedly failed to fulfill his parole obligations. Rocha contacted McGinnis's father at one point to see whether it would be possible for McGinnis to live with him after he was released. McGinnis's father told Rocha that McGinnis could come live with him if he was willing to comply with certain rules. Rocha contacted McGinnis and relayed that information to him. Rocha testified that McGinnis never made a serious attempt to change his behavior while under his supervision regardless of the opportunities Rocha and others afforded him. Rocha further testified that, in his opinion, McGinnis is a threat to society.

DRUGS AND/OR ALCOHOL - There was no evidence of drug or alcohol use connected with the instant offense.

Glen McGinnis was convicted in the robbery and murder of Leta Ann Wilkerson, 30. Leta was working as a clerk at a dry cleaners in Conroe. McGinnis entered the store and shot her once in the head and three times in the back with a .25 caliber handgun he had stolen from his aunt. He stole money from the cash register and took Leta's van. His thumb print was found on Leta's wallet. McGinnis had been placed on probation for an auto theft charge just five days before Leta was murdered. McGinnis had an extensive juvenile record.

APBNews Online

"Juvenile Offender Executed for 1990 Murder; Vatican, Lawyers' Group Fought for Killer's Life."

(January 26, 2000) HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) -- Texas has carried out its sixth execution this year and its first for the year 2000 of a killer who committed his crime as a juvenile. Glen Alan McGinnis was 17 when he shot Leta Ann Wilkerson to death for $140. Without so much as a whimper, McGinnis received a lethal injection Tuesday night. Larry Wilkerson traveled to Huntsville from Conroe with the eldest of his two daughters, Kristy. Standing silently in a witness room, Wilkerson watched his wife's killer die. "Justice has been served," he said afterward. "He's been living nine and a half years. My wife, she missed out on those nine and a half years," Wilkerson said. "There ain't a holiday that goes by -- there ain't a day that goes by -- that it doesn't affect me."

Victim left to die

Leta Ann Wilkerson was behind the counter in a laundry in August 1990 when a teenage gunman burst in, opened fire and emptied the cash register. He left the 30-year-old mother of two dying on the floor. The state carried out McGinnis' execution despite protests from the Vatican, the European Union and the American Bar Association. Those groups asked Texas to spare McGinnis' life because he was a juvenile when he killed Wilkerson. On death row, McGinnis admitted to his crime. He said in a recent interview that he doesn't want to use a tough childhood as an excuse for murder. Still, he said, he wondered how life could have been if he hadn't spent his youth on the streets.

'I'm not crying' "I mean, man, I'm young," McGinnis said last week. "I'm not crying, I'm not groping, but it's kinda sad that I got caught up so young." In the summer of 1990, McGinnis already had logged time in juvenile lockups, lived out of cars and learned to live by his wits. His mother was serving a prison term for prostitution. McGinnis grew up bouncing in and out of juvenile centers and relatives' homes, stealing cars and trespassing. At his 1992 trial, former Montgomery County District Attorney Peter Speers told an all-white suburban Houston jury that McGinnis, who is black, was "bad to the bone." "He has spit in the face of every chance he's had to go straight," Speers said.

'A black man who killed a white woman'

But defense attorney William Hall described a deeply troubled teen whose race and homosexuality doomed him in the eyes of the jury. "He was polite, respectful [and] legitimately sorry about what he'd done," Hall said. "But he was also a black man who killed a white woman. And he was very, very gay, and that didn't help." After his father abandoned him, the young man lived in a one-bedroom apartment with a mother who traded sex for crack cocaine. McGinnis was raped as a child and beaten with an extension cord. "I was kinda lost within myself," McGinnis said last week. "It seemed like every time I found something I thought I could grasp on to, it went away."

Released five days before killing

Just five days before the killing, McGinnis was released on probation for auto theft. He said he entered the Conroe laundry to steal cash for his imprisoned mother. "I used to have no respect for people," McGinnis said. "I never had no compassion." McGinnis' execution was Texas' sixth this year and the second of three scheduled for this week. He was the eighth juvenile offender executed in Texas since capital punishment resumed in the 1970s.

ABOLISH Archives (Houston Chronicle & Rick Halperin)

A man who was just 17 years old when he murdered a Montgomery County mother of 2 was executed Tuesday night. In the moments before his execution, Glen Alan McGinnis, 27, lay silently strapped to the death chamber gurney with his eyes closed. He gave no final statement. As the lethal drugs began flowing into his arms, McGinnis' chest heaved and he gasped slightly before falling into unconsciousness. McGinnis was pronounced dead at 6:17 p.m., 7 minutes after the flow of lethal drugs began.

His aunt, Mary Carter, and his cousin, Reponzel Scott, who witnessed the execution through a nearby window, stood in prayer with their hands in the air, their fingers spread. After he was declared dead, Carter said, "Praise God. Thank you, Lord. I will bless the Lord at all times." Then she and Scott collapsed onto each other in sobs.

McGinnis said in a recent interview that he doesn't want to use his difficult childhood as an excuse for gunning down Laundromat clerk Leta Ann Wilkerson, but he wondered what might have been had he not spent his youth on the streets. "I mean, man, I'm young," McGinnis said last week. "I'm not crying, I'm not groping, but it's kinda sad that I got caught up so young."

In August of 1990, McGinnis already had logged time in juvenile lockups, lived out of cars and learned to live by his wits. Just five days before the slaying, he was released on probation for auto theft. His mother was serving a prison term for prostitution when he walked into a Laundromat, opened fire and helped himself to $140 from the cash register.

On death row, McGinnis did not deny his crime. He shot Wilkerson in the head, shoulders and back during the robbery, leaving the 30-year-old mother of 2 young daughters dying on floor. At McGinnis' 1992 trial, former Montgomery County District Attorney Peter Speers told an all-white suburban Houston jury that McGinnis, who is black, was "bad to the bone." "He has spit in the face of every chance he's had to go straight," Speers added.

But defense attorney William Hall described a deeply troubled teen whose race and homosexuality doomed him in the eyes of the jury. "He was polite, respectful, legitimately sorry about what he'd done," Hall said. "But he was also a black man who killed a white woman. And he was very, very gay, and that didn't help."

Pointing to the killer's youth, the Vatican, the European Union, the American Bar Association and Amnesty International pleaded for McGinnis' life. Late Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. Supreme Court denied McGinnis' request for a stay of execution.

McGinnis' execution was the 6th this year in Texas and the 2nd of 3 scheduled for this week. He was the 8th juvenile offender executed in Texas since capital punishment resumed in the 1970s.

My San Antonio

"To Victims' Families, the Anguish is Ageless," by Lisa Sandberg. (Jan 22, 2000)

Karen Newsum hopes the final image her sister's killer sees at his execution Tuesday is the face of his victim. "I want him to know that she still matters," said the older sister of Leta Ann Jones Wilkerson, who was killed Aug. 1, 1990, by 17-year-old Glen McGinnis during a robbery at Wilkerson's dry cleaning store. Newsum and three other family members, including Wilkerson's 21-year-old daughter, will be watching from the death chamber's visiting room when McGinnis, now 26, is executed.

She said she is not seeking vengeance. "I forgave him first for my sister, and I knew before I went to his execution I would have to forgive him for myself," she said. "Leta would have been the first to forgive him and would have turned right around and have helped him." Wilkerson, who was 30, was alone at the cleaners she and her husband owned in Conroe, about 45 miles north of Houston, when McGinnis came in and demanded money. After taking about $100 in cash and checks, McGinnis fired five shots into his victim.

Because of his age at the time of the murder, McGinnis' scheduled execution touched off a wave of international protests last week, including a direct appeal from Pope John Paul II to Gov. George W. Bush. The United States is the world's only developed country that executes inmates who were under age 18 at the time of their crimes. Newsum isn't swayed by the arguments of death penalty opponents. "I'm a teacher and I can tell you that at 17 these kids know right from wrong — even if they haven't been raised in the perfect environment." She was referring to reports that McGinnis had been raped at age 10 by his stepfather and subjected to vicious beatings. Once he was struck over the head with a baseball bat. Another time his mother and stepfather burned his stomach with hot grease. McGinnis left home for good when he was 11.

Texas lets up to five members of the inmate's and victim's families witness executions from separate rooms. Dan Guerra, assistant director of the Victim Services Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said executions tend to be more emotional for the inmate's family, since they are grappling with their loved one's death for the first time. That's not to say executions are painless for victims' families. Stephani Walsh, whose mother was murdered in 1977 in her San Antonio home by Joseph John Cannon, said her relatives were not emotionally prepared for the 1998 execution of the killer, who was 17 at the time of his crime. "There was closure but it was traumatic," Walsh said. "And it did create another anniversary date."

Amnesty International - Canada

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - "Shame in the 21st Century: Glen Charles McGinnis - Scheduled for Execution on 25 January 2000 - Texas"

“Can you seriously expect to rehabilitate someone who was never ‘habilitated’ to start with?” District Attorney, arguing for a death sentence at trial of Glen McGinnis, 1992

Glen McGinnis, a 26-year-old African American, was born in Houston, Texas, on 11 January 1973. He is scheduled to die on 25 January 2000 in Huntsville, where some 200 prisoners have been executed since Texas resumed judicial killing in 1982.

Glen McGinnis had little contact with his natural father, who lived separately. His mother worked as a prostitute out of the one-bedroom apartment that she shared with her son. She was addicted to crack cocaine -- he remembers her drug abuse from when he was about eight or nine years old -- and she spent several periods in jail on drug possession charges. The young boy would often be left alone to fend for himself. He suffered abuse, including beating with an electric cord, at the hands of his stepfather, who lived in the apartment for about two years. The state Child Protective Services (CPS) intervened on three occasions, once after the boy was raped by his stepfather when he was about nine or 10 years old, a second time when he was beaten on the head with a baseball bat, and thirdly after his mother and stepfather burned his stomach with hot sausage grease. Each time the CPS returned him to his mother’s home after he had been treated for his injuries, and each time he ran away, only to be caught shoplifting and returned home again by the authorities. He ran away from home for good when he was 11, and his formal schooling ended around this time. He alternated between the streets of Houston and state juvenile facilities, where he was sent when he was caught stealing cars. During his time on the streets, he has said that he lived in cars and empty apartments, and sometimes with adult friends. He continued to shoplift clothing and food.

At the age of 17 he stole a car in an incident in which the vehicle ran over the owner’s foot as the teenager drove away. Now considered an adult under state law, he spent three months in Montgomery County Jail for the offence. He was released on probation and went to stay with his aunt who lived in Conroe, a small town in Montgomery County about 20 miles north of Houston. A few days later, on 1 August 1990, the 17-year-old decided to rob Wilkins Cleaners and Laundry in Conroe, apparently on the encouragement of a neighbour. He twice entered the laundry, but hesitated and left. He says that he then fetched his aunt’s gun to “scare” the attendant, and brought some clothes with him in order to pretend to be engaged in legitimate business at the laundry. A few minutes later Leta Ann Wilkerson, the 30-year-old white attendant, was shot dead. Glen McGinnis left the premises, leaving a bag of clothes marked “McGinnis” behind. A little after 7am on the following morning, he was arrested at his aunt’s house and charged with capital murder.

For the next two years he was held in Montgomery County Jail before coming to trial in July 1992. The trial lawyer told Amnesty International in November 1999 that he had “tried and tried and tried” to obtain a plea bargain from the District Attorney, whereby Glen McGinnis would plead guilty to two crimes (robbery and murder) and receive consecutive life prison sentences. The lawyer said that he had achieved this before, but in this case the District Attorney appeared set on obtaining a death sentence.

The pool from which jurors were to be selected for the trial initially consisted of 102 individuals. Three of them were African American, the rest were white. Although this was approximately representative of the Montgomery County population at the time, what happened next ensured that none of the three blacks would appear on the jury. Under Texas law, prior to actual jury selection by the defence and prosecution, the judge considers reasons from any of the potential jurors as to why they should be excused from jury duty. All three black jurors in the McGinnis jury pool asked to be excused, two for medical reasons and one because she was going on holiday. Over the defence lawyer’s objections, the judge excused all three after little or no consideration of their excuses. The judge excused 19 of the 33 white jurors who asked to pull out of jury duty. His action meant that Glen McGinnis was given no opportunity to have African Americans serving on his jury, as his defence lawyer was faced by a pool of 80 whites from which he and the prosecutor would select 12 jurors.

Amnesty International has long voiced its concern that death sentences in the USA are handed out disproportionately against the poor and members of ethnic minority groups from an overwhelmingly white judicial and law enforcement system. Many blacks have been sentenced by all-white juries after blacks have been removed during jury selection. Studies have consistently shown that the colour of a defendant’s skin, or that of the victim, appears to be a factor in death sentencing. Whilst it is almost impossible to prove actual racial discrimination in any one individual case -- the standard set by the US Supreme Court for a capital defendant to win an appeal against their sentence on racial grounds -- the history of racism in the application of the death penalty alone places an obligation on the authorities to ensure that all steps are taken to ensure that the process is free, and seen to be free, from any hint of racial prejudice. By any measure, the Montgomery authorities failed to meet this obligation in the jury selection for Glen McGinnis’ trial.

The jury convicted Glen McGinnis of capital murder and the proceedings moved into a sentencing phase. In a Texas capital sentencing, jurors are required to decide whether the defendant had acted deliberately in killing the victim and whether he or she represented a continuing threat to society. If their answer to both questions is unanimously “yes”, then they are asked to consider if there are any mitigating factors which should result in leniency. If the answer to this is “no”, the defendant is sentenced to death.

The District Attorney (DA) argued vigorously for a death sentence, depicting Glen McGinnis as an habitual criminal who would represent a continuing threat to society if allowed to live. The local press reported the DA as stating: “this guy’s been a criminal since he was 13 years old... It’s been one crime after another, with capital murder just kind of being the inevitable result”. The judge even allowed the prosecutor to introduce evidence of a crime of which Glen McGinnis had never been identified as the perpetrator. In Houston in 1988 a woman had her van stolen at gunpoint by a black male. Over a week later, 16-year-old Glen McGinnis was found in possession of the van. The woman had not been able to identify the teenager as the gunman, and had described an individual of different appearance. At Glen McGinnis’ trial, over the objections of the defence, the woman’s testimony of the incident was presented to the jury, thereby linking the defendant to a crime (armed robbery, as opposed to possession of a stolen vehicle) of which he had never been convicted. It is unknown what weight the jury attached to this evidence in weighing up the teenager’s “future dangerousness”.

For its part, the defence presented evidence of the defendant’s childhood of abuse and neglect, as well as his apparent capacity to flourish in a structured environment. Four employees at the juvenile detention facility where he had been held in 1989 and 1990 testified that he had a good disciplinary record in the institution, and that he was polite and respectful to adult staff members. They told the jury that he was not violent or aggressive, even in the face of repeated taunting and aggression from other juveniles in the facility aimed at his open homosexuality. They also testified that they believed that it was not in Glen McGinnis’ character to deliberately enter a store with the intent to kill someone. One of the staff members told the jury that she had considered adopting Glen McGinnis after working with him during his time in detention.

The defence also presented an expert witness, a former head of the state prison system’s psychology program, who argued that Glen McGinnis was a product of his environment, and an impulsive teenager who had acted without deliberation when he shot Leta Wilkerson. Based on interviews with the teenager, psychological tests, and a review of the state’s records, he argued that Glen McGinnis was not likely to be a continuing threat to society, especially when held in the structured environment of a prison, and that he had the capacity for remorse. The expert sought to support his opinion with testimony from an interview he had conducted with Glen McGinnis, in which the teenager had told him that he had become “panicked and hysterical” when Leta Wilkerson told him that she did not have the key to the cash register and that he had only fired the gun in her direction “to prove to her that it was real” and “to scare her”. The judge refused to allow the jury to hear this evidence on the grounds that it was hearsay, and therefore unreliable, despite the fact that an experienced professional psychologist had assessed it as being valid supporting testimony. The jurors were unable to consider this testimony in their deliberations at which they decided that the teenager should be sentenced to death.

Whatever led to the shooting inside Wilkins Laundry on 1 August 1990, whether the teenager’s panic and confusion as Glen McGinnis claims, or as the result of calculated deliberation as the prosecution asserted, the end result was that Leta Ann Wilkerson lay dead, shot four times. She left a husband and two young daughters, more victims of gun violence. Amnesty International does not seek to excuse the crime or its tragic consequences. It seeks only that the state not compound the violence by carrying out another killing.

President George Bush ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in June 1992, with a proviso worded by the US Senate that the country’s prosecutors and courts could ignore the treaty’s ban on the use of the death penalty against child offenders. One month later, just such a defendant -- Glen McGinnis -- was sentenced to death, possibly the first such sentence passed after US ratification of the ICCPR. The Governor of Texas, George W. Bush Jr, son of the former president and himself a would-be US President, will have the last word in whether Glen McGinnis is executed in violation of international law.

GLENN McGINNIS - Executed on January 25, 2000

On 25 January 2000 Glen McGinnis was executed in Texas shortly after 6pm local time. His execution is a blatant violation of international law, which prohibits the use of the death penalty against child offenders. Glen McGinnis had been sentenced to death for the murder of Leta Ann Wilkerson during a robbery of a laundry in Conroe, Montgomery County, Texas, in August 1990. He was 17 at the time of the crime.

Glen McGinnis gave no final statement before being given a lethal injection. In a recent interview he reportedly said that he did not want to use the abuse and abandonment that marked his childhood to make excuses for his crime, although he wondered what would have been if he had not lived on the streets for most of his teenage years

The European Union appealed for clemency: 'The European Union respectfully urges the United States authorities to commute Mr McGinnis' sentence to life imprisonment, or such other penalty compatible with international law.' The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the American Bar Association and the Pope also appealed for the execution to be stopped.

In a letter sent to Governor George W. Bush of Texas on 24 January, Amnesty International's Secretary General Pierre Sane wrote: On behalf of more than one million Amnesty International members across some 100 countries, I am writing to you in your capacity not only as a Governor who took office on a promise to make Texas a 'beacon' state, but also as a presidential contender in a country which claims to be a shining light for human rights in the world. There is indeed no doubtthat in the next few hours, a spotlight of an international nature will be focused on the USA specifically on your office, and the power invested in you to reprieve those condemned to death in Texas. After those hours have passed, citizens and governments across the world will be able to make their own assessment of the respect for global human rights standards held, not only by the highest executive officer of an individual US state, but also by a potential future leader on the world stage.'

Governor Bush has again shown his contempt for international standards of justice, and deepened the USA's isolation in a world where almost no other country executes people for crimes committed when they were children. Glen McGinnis becomes the third child offender to be executed in the USA in January 2000. Since October 1997, there have been eight known executions of child offenders in the world - one in Iran and seven in the USA. Three of these US executions have taken place in Texas, under the governorship of George W Bush. Eleven prisoners have been executed in the USA in January 2000, bringing to 609 the total number of inmates executed since the USA resumed executing in 1977.

ABOLISH Archives (Reuters and Rick Halperin)


A man who was still legally a boy when, at the age of 17, he killed a laundry clerk during a 1990 robbery was executed by lethal injection on Tuesday in a Texas prison.

Glen McGinnis, 27, died without making a statement in an execution that drew protests from the European Union, human rights group Amnesty International and the American Bar Association because McGinnis was a juvenile at the time of the killing.

McGinnis was sentenced to die for the Aug. 1, 1990 killing of Leta Ann Wilkerson in Conroe, Texas near Houston. He shot her 4 times in the head and back while robbing the laundry where she worked, then fled in her car.

Death penalty opponents complained that McGinnis came from a troubled background from which the state of Texas should have protected him when he was young. His mother was a drug abuser and he was raped and beaten as a child. "Texas failed to protect Glen from an extremely abusive home situation. It is failing him again by executing him for a crime he committed as a youth. Texas Gov. George W. Bush could exhibit some 'compassionate conservatism' by granting clemency,'' the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty said in a statement. Bush, the Republican presidential frontrunner who was campaigning in New Hampshire on Tuesday, took no action in the case. He has commuted only one death sentence to life in prison since taking office in January 1995.

McGinnis becomes the 6th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas, and the 205th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on Dec. 7, 1982. McGinnis also becomes the 11th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 609th overall since the USA resumed executions on Jan. 17, 1977.