Executed August 14, 2008 06:30 p.m. CDT by Lethal Injection in Texas
20th murderer executed in U.S. in 2008
1119th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
8th murderer executed in Texas in 2008
413th murderer executed in Texas since 1976
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder-Execution)
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder)
Michael Anthony Rodriguez
H / M / 38 - 45
W / M / 29
Rodriguez v. Quarterman, Slip Copy, 2007 WL 2809914 (N.D. Tex. 2007) (Habeas).
Spicy fried chicken breast, grilled pork steak with grilled onions, a bacon cheeseburger with everything, a fresh garden salad with French dressing and French fries with ketchup.
“Yes, I do. I know this in no way makes up for all the pain and suffering I gave you. I am so, so sorry. My punishment is nothing compared to the pain and suffering I have caused. I hope that someday you can find peace. I am not strong enough to ask forgiveness because I don’t know if I am worthy. I realize what I’ve done to you and the pain I’ve given. Please Lord forgive me. I have done some horrible things. I ask the Lord to please forgive me. I have gained nothing, but just brought sorry and pain to the wonderful people. I am sorry - so, so sorry. To the Sanchez family who showed me love and to the Hawkins family, I am sorry. I know I have affected them for so long. Please forgive me. Irene [his spiritual advisor], I want to thank you for being with me on Death Row and walking with me and helping me find Christ’s love. These last few steps I must walk alone. Thank you and thank your husband, Jack. I’ll be waiting for you. I am so sorry. To these families, I ask forgiveness. Father God, I ask you, too, for your forgiveness. I am ready to go Lord. Thank you. I am ready to go." He begin to sing the following few words before the drugs took effect: "My Jesus, my savior there is none like you. All of my days I want to praise, let every breath. Shout to the Lord. Let us sing."
Texas Department of Criminal Justice - Executed Offenders (Michael Rodriguez)Inmate: Rodriguez, Michael Anthony
Prior Prison Record: #698074, received on 3/16/1995 on a life sentence from Bexar County on one count of capital murder with a deadly weapon (was on escape from TDCJ when he committed present offense).
Co-Defendants: George Rivas (sentenced to death), Donald Newberry (sentenced to death) Randy Halprin, Patrick Murphy, Jr., Joseph Garcia, Larry Harper
Summary of incident: While on escape from TDCJ, Rivas and 6 co-defendants robbed a sporting goods store at gunpoint. An Irving police officer was murdered outside the store as Rivas and co-defendants left the scene.
Texas Execution Information Center by David Carson.
Dallas Morning News
"Texas Seven member Michael Anthony Rodriguez executed," by Steve Yhompson. (August 14, 2008)
Michael Anthony Rodriguez wanted to die, and shortly after 6:30 this evening he got his wish. The 45-year-old is the first member of the Texas Seven to be executed. The infamous band of convicts killed an Irving police officer in December 2000, about a week after their escape from prison.
Mr. Rodriguez had asked that there be no further appeals in his case, telling a judge that he hoped accepting his fate might help him enter heaven. “Judge, I have changed immensely since coming to death row,” Mr. Rodriguez wrote in 2006, “and realize my punishment is just and I wish to be accountable.”
Before escaping from a South Texas prison with six other convicts, Mr. Rodriguez had been serving a life sentence for paying a hit man $2,000 to kill his wife in 1992. He lured her to her death, prosecutors said, by holding her hand minutes before the triggerman shot her in front of him.
On Christmas Eve 2000, about a week after overpowering workers at the maximum-security prison, the Texas Seven had made there way to Irving. Officer Aubrey Hawkins had interrupted a holiday dinner with family to respond to a robbery at a sporting goods store. The escapees perforated his squad car with at least 20 bullets. Mr. Rodriguez then pulled the 29-year-old husband and father from the car and stole his gun.
Mr. Rodriguez attended a Catholic high school in San Antonio. Defense attorneys argued that sexual abuse by a teacher there – as well as a lifelong effort to conceal his homosexuality from a rigidly religious family – may have spurred his criminal behavior. But that was all a lie, he told The Associated Press recently. "I felt so horrible, the depth of evil I fell into," he said. "That whole thing, then going gay, that was a lie. It's not true. We just had to come up with something."
He took classes at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos and has testified that he is a college graduate. Before he murdered his wife, Theresa, they appeared happily married. She sold insurance; he ran a small cafe. They lived in a nice house and drove a Mercedes.
While on death row, Mr. Rodriguez claimed a religious conversion. In recent years, he has sent letters to judges requesting that there be no further appeals in his case. And he apologized in a letter to Officer Hawkins' mother, Jayne Hawkins, who has since died of cancer.
Ms. Hawkins attended the trials of Mr. Rodriguez and the others, and spoke angrily toward them when given the chance. "Aubrey faced each one of you, and I will face each one of you," she once said. But she declined to say, when asked by a reporter, whether she wished death upon them. "I'm not a vengeful person," she said. "The only peace of mind would be for Aubrey to be here. There's no justice that can be done."
In a 2006 letter, Mr. Rodriguez told her he realized he owed her a debt he could never repay. "Yet I can indeed offer a form of retribution to at least give you a sense of justice," he wrote.
A federal judge approved his request to end his appeals Sept. 27, two days after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider a claim by Kentucky inmates that lethal injection there is inhumane. That case stalled executions around the nation until April, when the high court cleared the way for them to resume.
"Texas Seven member faces execution," by Kristin Edwards. (August 14, 2008 12:32am)
A member of the “Texas Seven,” a group of convicts who escaped prison and eluded authorities for over a month beginning in December 2000, is scheduled for execution today after 6 p.m.
Michael Rodriguez, 45, is one of the six surviving members of the “Texas Seven” who escaped the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Connally Unit and, while on the loose, murdered Irving police officer Aubrey Hawkins. His execution will take place at the TDCJ Walls Unit.
According to a report compiled by Court TV Online, Rodriguez was already serving a life term at the time of the group’s escape, which took place on Dec. 13, 2000. He had been sentenced to life in prison for paying a hit man $2,000 to kill his wife in 1992.
The other members of the “Texas Seven” — George Rivas, Larry Harper, Joseph Garcia, Patrick Murphy Jr., Donald Keith Newbury and Randy Halprin — were also serving various long-term sentences.
On the day of their escape, during a time when there would be less surveillance in certain areas, the seven convicts overpowered and bound nine civilian maintenance supervisors, four correctional officers and three uninvolved inmates in an electrical room. Disguised in stolen civilian clothing and using identification stolen from their victims, the group eventually drove away from the prison in a maintenance truck with weapons they had stolen from a guard tower.
The prison truck was later discovered at a Wal-Mart in Kenedy, Texas approximately three miles from the prison. It was at the Wal-Mart the group picked up their getaway vehicle, which authorities later stated was provided by Rodriguez’ s father. Within the following two weeks, the group traveled through Texas on their way to Colorado, during which time they robbed at least three locations including a Radio Shack in Pearland, Texas and an Auto Zone in Pasadena, Texas.
On Christmas Eve, the seven allegedly robbed Oshman’s Super Sports USA Store in Irving, Texas. Hitting the store at the end of the business hours, the convicts allegedly held several employees hostage and stole $70,000 in cash and checks, at least 40 firearms, ammunition and clothing. On their way out, Irving Police Department Officer Aubrey Hawkins arrived at the scene.
According to the Irving Police Department Web site, Hawkins had been dispatched on a suspicious circumstance call to the store and was the first to arrive. After encountering into the group of convicts, Hawkins “came under a barrage of gunfire without warning and had no time to take evasive or defensive action.” Mortally wounded, Hawkins was then pulled from his squad car and run over by the convicts.
Following the sporting goods store robbery, the group purchased a jeep and a motor home and traveled to Woodland Park, Colorado. They set up a temporary residence in the Coachlight Motel and RV Park shortly after, and stayed in the area for almost a month. The trailer park owner finally contacted Texas authorities when a friend advised him that the group of travelers were likely the “Texas Seven.”
The next day, authorities captured Rivas, Rodriguez and Garcia, who surrendered. They then went to the trailer park to apprehend Halprin and Harper, but Harper committed suicide by shooting himself twice. Newbury and Murphy, who had traveled to Colorado Springs, were found on Jan. 23.
Following their capture, the surviving six convicts were indicted on capital murder charges by a Dallas County grand jury on Feb. 1, 2000. According to the TDCJ Web site, all those connected to the "Texas Seven" were sentenced to death for their parts in the death of Hawkins.
"Texas executes Christmas Eve cop killer." (Fri Aug 15, 2008 1:20am EDT)
DALLAS (Reuters) - Texas executed a convicted killer by lethal injection on Thursday for his role in the slaying of a police officer on Christmas Eve 2000.
Michael Rodriguez, 45, was the eighth convict put to death this year by America's most active death penalty state. He was a member of a group, dubbed the "Texas Seven" by the local press, which broke out of a south Texas prison in December of 2000.
During a subsequent Christmas Eve robbery at a sporting goods store in the city of Irving near Dallas, the band of convicts killed police officer Aubrey Hawkins. Five other members of the gang remain on death row while another committed suicide before he was captured.
In his last statement while strapped to a gurney in the state's execution chamber in Huntsville, Rodriguez apologized to his victim's family, saying: "I am so so sorry."
For his last meal he requested spicy fried chicken breast, grilled pork steak with grilled onions, a bacon cheeseburger with everything, a fresh garden salad with French dressing and French fries with ketchup. Last meals are a ritual of U.S. executions.
Texas has 11 more executions scheduled for the rest of 2008 and one early in 2009 as it works through a death row "backlog" caused by a seven-month halt to capital punishment imposed by the U.S. Supreme Court as it heard a challenge to the three-drug cocktail method used in most lethal injections.
It rejected that challenge in April, paving the way for a resumption of executions in the United States. According to data compiled by the Death Penalty Information Center, Rodriguez was the 20th convict put to death in the United States this year.
Michael Anthony Rodriguez was one of the Texas Seven, who escaped from the Connally Unit, a Texas prison near Karnes City, in December of 2000 and went on a crime spree which included the murder of police officer Aubrey Hawkins. At the time of the escape, Rodriguez was serving a life sentence for capital murder after hiring a man to kill his wife Theresa for an insurance policy worth $250,000 in 1994.
In the escape, the inmates took a dozen employees and 3 other inmates hostage in the maintenance shop where they worked. They took the clothes of the civilian workers, then raided a guard tower for guns and ammunition. They surprised two guards near the back gate and tied them up and stole a white pickup truck in which they made their getaway. The truck was found at a Walmart in Kenedy, Texas, about 3 miles from the prison. The group picked up a second getaway vehicle which authorities believe was provided by Rodriguez's father. This vehicle was found later about 50 miles from San Antonio.
On Christmas Eve, the escapees robbed an Oshman's sports store in Irving, Texas. They went in at closing time and took several employees hostage while they stole guns and ammunition along with around $70,000 in cash and checks. It was while they were fleeing the store that they ran into Irving police officer Aubrey Hawkins. Aubrey Hawkins was shot 13 times, including six shots to the head, and was run over by the escapees' car as they fled the scene of the murder.
They went to Colorado and bought a truck, a van and an RV and parked in the Coachlight RV Park in Garden of the Gods, Colorado. For nearly a month, the group tried to blend in to the community, telling other residents that they were Christian missionaries. On January 21, 2001, the owner of the RV park and a friend of his became suspicious that the residents of the RV might be the Texas Seven and went to the Americas Most Wanted web site, then contacted authorities. The next day, three of the escaped inmates, including Rodriguez, were arrested peacefully at a local convenience store. The police then went to the RV and found two other of the inmates, one of whom surrendered peacefully while the other committed suicide rather than be returned to prison. The other two had already split from the group and were in Colorado Springs and they were arrested after a short standoff at a hotel.
UPDATE: The first member of the Texas Seven was executed after apologizing profusely for his crimes. He had dropped all of his remaining avenues of appeal and went to his execution voluntarily. "My punishment is nothing compared to the pain and sorrow I've brought you," Rodriguez said. As he looked directly at the victim witnesses, Lori, the widow of Aubrey Hawkins and his dead wife's sister, he said, "I'm not strong enough to ask for forgiveness because I don't know if I am worthy. I ask the Lord to please forgive me. I've done horrible things that brought sorrow and pain to these wonderful people. I'm sorry, so sorry." Rodriguez began praying in a whisper, "I'm ready to go, Lord."
The parents of Theresa Rodriguez, Eddie and Susie Sanchez spoke to a local Irving television station recently. "He has no idea of the hurt he's put my family through. No idea at all," Eddie Sanchez said. "I think that's why he decided to get the needle, because he can't stand it any more. This is a way out for him." "The memory of Officer Aubrey Hawkins, his dedication to duty and family are cherished by the Irving Police Department and others that knew Aubrey," the Irving department said in a statement released Thursday. "His legacy and his service are not forgotten. Our police family suffered a devastating loss through Aubrey's ultimate sacrifice." "The hardest thing is the constant presence of it," Hawkins' wife, Lori, said before the execution.
"It's not like there's one person involved. There are six." She attended the first couple of trials but then stopped. "It was like reliving it every two years," she said. She had been married to the officer for four years, then at age 27 became a widow. She has since remarried. "I had to move on," she said.
"Texas Prison Escapees Sought." (AP Sunday, December 31, 2000)
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - New charges of robbery have been filed against two of the seven convicts who escaped together earlier this month from a Texas prison, and officials have posted a $100,000 reward for their capture.
Since their Dec. 13 escape, when the seven fugitives loaded up with an arsenal of prison guards' weapons, they are suspected of robbing a store near Houston and killing a police officer during a robbery near Dallas on Christmas Eve.
Five of the fugitives were believed to have been spotted Thursday at a fast-food restaurant near Dallas, but most of the leads police have received have gone nowhere, law enforcement officials said. ``We hope the high reward money will entice those people who have been assisting them in traveling and hiding,'' prison spokesman Larry Todd said Saturday. ``We believe these are the same people who helped them make good on the escape.''
The ringleader is believed to be George Rivas, an armed robber who prosecutors have called ``one of the most dangerous men in Texas.''
On Friday, aggravated robbery charges were filed against Rivas and Donald Keith Newbury, 38, in connection with the Dec. 15 robbery of a Radio Shack in Pearland, a Houston suburb. Victims said the men tied up store employees and customers and then looted the store and the victims' pockets. The Pearland robbery was similar to the Christmas Eve heist in Irving, where two dozen employees were tied up in the back of an Oshman's sporting goods store. Irving Police Officer Aubrey Hawkins was killed when he approached the robbers behind the store.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that at least two of the robbers ambushed Hawkins, shot him multiple times, then ran him over with a sports utility vehicle stolen from a store employee. Hawkins' mother told the newspaper her son had been shot in the face several times. He was buried Thursday. The Irving police department is offering the $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and indictment of those responsible for the officer's slaying.
Rivas, 30, was involved in more than a dozen robberies in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona during 1987-94. He was finally caught after a three-hour standoff in El Paso and was sentenced to 99 years for aggravated kidnapping and burglary. Texas authorities won't discuss any leads they are pursuing or what security measures they are taking for the fugitives' victims and prosecutors. Some relatives are clearly frightened.
A couple who years ago adopted one member of the group, 23-year-old Randy Halprin, have fled the state with their two preteen children, afraid that he might try to return to their home in Dalworthington Gardens. Halprin was serving 30 years for injury to a child.
Relatives of another of the fugitives, Patrick Henry Murphy Jr., went on television in Dallas on Thursday night, pleading for him to surrender. Murphy was serving 50 years for aggravated sexual assault with a deadly weapon and burglary in Dallas. ``Patrick, wherever you are, just please stop this violence and turn yourself in,'' said a tearful Kristina Rogers, Murphy's younger half-sister. ``You know you weren't raised to do this. Just stop the pain that the family is going through.''
The other escapees are Michael Rodriguez, 38, serving a life sentence for capital murder in San Antonio; Larry Harper, 37, serving 50 years for aggravated sexual assault in El Paso; Donald Newbury, 38, serving 99 years for aggravated robbery; and Joseph Garcia, 29, serving 50 years for murder in San Antonio.
The subsequent manhunt has frustrated law officers from the several federal, state and local agencies involved. ``We've had spottings all over the state,'' Todd said. ``The leads did not prove fruitful.''
Employees at a fast-food restaurant in the Dallas suburb of The Colony said five of the fugitives were there on Thursday and left in a dark sports utility vehicle, said police dispatcher Gloria Carver.
All seven fugitives were serving sentences ranging from 30 years to life and worked together in the maintenance department at the Connally Unit in Kenedy, a maximum-security state prison 60 miles southeast of San Antonio. They allegedly made their escape by posing as prison workers, tying up prison employees, stealing their clothes and escaping with 14 pistols, a loaded shotgun, a loaded rifle and 238 rounds of ammunition. They also left a note warning: ``You haven't heard the last of us.''
Wikipedia - Michael Rodriguez
Michael Anthony Rodriguez (October 29, 1962 - August 14, 2008) was one of the infamous Texas Seven, a group of seven convicted felons who collectively escaped from the John Connally Unit near Kenedy, Texas on December 13, 2000.
On Christmas Eve, while robbing an Irving, Texas Oshman's sporting goods store, the Texas Seven severely wounded Irving police officer Aubrey Hawkins during a shootout, then pulled him from his vehicle and shot him again in the head and back at close range. They then climbed into their getaway vehicle and ran over him, leaving him for dead. The gang, subject of a nationwide manhunt, finally was caught a month later in Colorado after a viewer's tip to America's Most Wanted. Michael Anthony Rodriguez admitted pulling the officer from his patrol car.
Rodriguez escaped while serving a life term for hiring a hit man to kill his wife, Theresa, 29, to collect on her $250,000 life insurance policy. She was gunned down in 1992 getting out of her car outside their San Antonio home. The trigger man, Rolando Ruiz, also is on death row.
As of November 2007, Michael Rodriguez had requested that all appeals on his behalf be discontinued. Due to the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision to review the death penalty as currently enacted in most states (lethal injection), Rodriguez was not given an execution date.
However, with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on April 16, 2008 that essentially allowed executions to be scheduled, Rodriguez was assigned an execution date of August 14, 2008. Rodriguez was executed by lethal injection on August 14, 2008.
Michael Rodriguez's final statement was: “Yes, I do. I know this in no way makes up for all the pain and suffering I gave you. I am so, so sorry. My punishment is nothing compared to the pain and suffering I have caused. I hope that someday you can find peace. I am not strong enough to ask forgiveness because I don’t know if I am worthy. I realize what I’ve done to you and the pain I’ve given. Please Lord forgive me. I have done some horrible things. I ask the Lord to please forgive me. I have gained nothing, but just brought sorry and pain to the wonderful people. I am sorry - so, so sorry. To the Sanchez family who showed me love and to the Hawkins family, I am sorry. I know I have affected them for so long. Please forgive me. Irene [his spiritual advisor], I want to thank you for being with me on Death Row and walking with me and helping me find Christ’s love. These last few steps I must walk alone. Thank you and thank your husband, Jack. I’ll be waiting for you. I am so sorry. To these families, I ask forgiveness. Father God, I ask you, too, for your forgiveness. I am ready to go Lord. Thank you. I am ready to go."
He begin to sing the following few words before the drugs took effect: "My Jesus, my savior there is none like you. All of my days I want to praise, let every breath. Shout to the Lord. Let us sing." Seven minutes later, at 6:20 p.m. CDT, he was pronounced dead."
He was the eighth convicted killer executed this year (2008) in the nation's busiest capital punishment state and the fourth this month. Another is set for next week. He was the first of the six surviving "Texas 7" band to be put to death
America's Most Wanted, August 14, 2008 (http://www.amw.com/Fugitives/brief.cfm?id=25079)
Court TV, December 18, 2007 (http://www.courttv.com/trials/texas7/011502_ctv.html)
The Crime Library - The Texas 7 (Rodriguez)
Michael Anthony Rodriguez, 38, was born in San Antonio, Texas, on October 29, 1962. Like Joseph Garcia, he still had ties there following his escape from the Connally Unit, and both men were convicted murderers, but that was as far as the similarities between the two men went. While Garcia worked and lived as a blue-collar laborer and drank cheap beer in less than desirable bars, Rodriguez ran his own restaurant, dressed fashionably, wore a Rolex, and drove around town in his yellow classic Mercedes-Benz. He attended the private Central Catholic High School in San Antonio, and was always looking toward the future. Ironically, the detective who investigated the murder of Rodriguez’s wife and helped send Rodriguez to prison was an old classmate from Central Catholic.
While still in his twenties, Rodriguez worked at a local Taco Bell fast-food restaurant and saved his money diligently to put toward his dream of opening his own Mexican restaurant someday. After saving $9,000, he asked his father, Raul Rodriguez, for a $15,000 loan to go with what he had saved. His father, who owned his own business, a convenience store, wanted to see his son succeed and he agreed to loan him the money for the restaurant. As a result, Rodriguez soon opened the Taco House restaurant, and it became an almost instant success. By 1992, Rodriguez and his wife, Theresa, were living well. It was at about that time that Rodriguez decided that he wanted to become a teacher, and he began taking courses in education at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos.
While attending classes, a young woman caught Rodriguez’s eye and he began writing letters to her expressing his affection. He described himself to the young woman as a lonely widower. To others, however, particularly his brother, Mark, he had complained how his wife had gotten fat after they were married and he began exploring ways to get rid of her. With Mark’s help, murder became an option that they began to explore.
Mark was a cocaine dealer at the lower end of the drug trafficking spectrum, and he always seemed to be in need of money. Theresa, 30, was more than adequately insured, with two $150,000 life insurance policies in her name listing her husband as the beneficiary. Before long the two brothers began to conspire to kill Theresa. Mark assured Michael that he could find a killer, and that he would do so for $50,000 of the insurance money that he said he would use to expand his cocaine trade.
The two brothers found Roland Ruiz, 20, an ex-con who had just gotten out of jail on robbery charges. Ruiz needed money, so he agreed to kill Theresa for $2,000.
The plan called for Michael and Theresa to drive to Macaroni’s restaurant, where Ruiz would be waiting. He would shoot Theresa in the parking lot as she and Michael arrived for dinner. However, Ruiz backed out at the last minute. There were security guards on the premises, which he had not expected. After their plans went awry several more times, the three men finally decided to commit the murder at Rodriguez’s home. It would be done at night, when Michael and Theresa returned home from an outing.
It was on an evening in October 1992 when the plot was finally brought to fruition. Michael and Theresa had gone out to the movies to see The Prince of Tides, with Nick Nolte and Barbara Streisand. As Rodriguez was pulling the Mercedes into the garage, Ruiz ran up to the passenger side of the car and shot Theresa one time in the head as she opened the car door to get out. Ruiz fled afterward, and Theresa died almost instantly.
Ruiz’s mother, suspicious because of all the new clothing and other items he was buying, knew that her son had been up to no good and kicked him out of the house. Soon, however, his money was gone.
The police were onto the three men within days. They learned, among other things, that Rodriguez had gone out drinking with friends on the night of his wife’s funeral, something a mourning husband wouldn’t likely do. They also learned about the letters that he had written to the young woman at the university claiming to be a widower before the fact. And then they learned about Ruiz, who broke down and confessed after being confronted about Theresa’s murder.
After being confronted by the police with Ruiz’s confession, Michael Rodriguez also confessed to the plot to murder his wife.
Michael Rodriguez, along with his brother, Mark, received life sentences for Theresa’s murder. Roland Ruiz received the death penalty.
Using darkness as a cloak of cover, the Texas 7 slipped out of their Econo Lodge motel room at night and began scouting around the Dallas metroplex for their next target. They needed money and clothing before they moved on, and they needed it fast. Using the police scanners that they had stolen from the Radio Shack in Pearland, they were reasonably confident that the authorities did not suspect that they were in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. It didn’t take long before they settled on an Oshman’s sporting goods store in nearby Irving for their next robbery. George Rivas had robbed an Oshman’s before with one accomplice and, although he had ultimately been unsuccessful and was caught and sent to prison, in his cockiness he felt confident that with all the help he now had he could pull off a successful heist there and get away before the police realized that the Texas 7 were the perpetrators. After discussing it with the others, they decided that December 24, Christmas Eve, would be a good day to hold up the store. Rivas was counting on a large take because of all the last minute shoppers.
As it turned out, it would become a heist worthy of a Hollywood movie. The seven escaped convicts arrived at the Oshman’s located at State Highway 183 and Beltline Road just before the store’s 6 p.m. closing time. At least three of them were wearing dark pants, gray shirts, and dark hats that read “Security.” The same three men had arm patches on their shirts that read, “APS,” the name of a security service. They were wandering around the store, pretending that they were doing their last minute Christmas shopping while they posed as off-duty security guards. One store employee later recalled that they looked like the security guards that work in the schools.
Shortly after 6 p.m., after the last of the legitimate customers had exited the store and the security gates had been closed, the three men approached the store managers and asked them to call all of the employees to a counter at the front of the store. They explained that they wanted to show the employees a number of photographs of young people who had been recently robbing businesses in the area. The managers, believing that the request was legitimate, complied. As soon as all of the employees were gathered at the counter, one of the three men pulled out a pistol and pointed it in the air. Even then the employees didn’t think that a robbery was taking place; they merely thought that they were being shown what would happen if one of the robbers that the “security agents” were telling them about showed up. In fact, the employees didn’t suspect that anything was amiss until one of the workers attempted to make a telephone call to a friend.
“Hang up that phone!” one of the men commanded, waving a gun and announcing that a robbery was in progress.
The gunmen then forced the employees to place their hands on the glass counter where they were gathered, after which they were frisked. Their wallets containing cash and identification were taken, as were a number of pocketknives that some of the employees had been carrying. They were then forced to form a straight line and were ordered to walk to the back of the store to the employee break room. Everyone, except for the store’s manager, Wesley Farris, was forced to face a wall and kneel down. In an apparent show of force designed as a warning to the others to cooperate, one employee was roughed up when one of the robbers punched him in the ribs and slammed his head against the wall. “If you don’t fuck up, you’ll see Christmas,” one of the thieves said to the employees.
Similar to the methods used in the breakout of the Connally Unit, some of the employees were bound with plastic zip-ties and others were tied up with their belts. Employees were forced to cross their legs, which the thieves then bound with rope.
Although the fugitives were carrying two-way radios, they did not use them much. However, at one point one of them, presumably the leader, told the others: “If you kill one of them, you’ll have to kill them all.”
Satisfied that the employees were securely bound and would not cause them any problems, the thieves took Farris, the store manager, and forced him to open the store’s safe. Three cash deposits amounting to more than $70,000 for Christmas Eve’s receipts had been placed into the safe, and they took all of it. They also went through each of the store’s cash registers and removed cash and checks. Afterward, still forcing Ferris to accompany them, they went around the store and took at least 40 guns and ammunition, and filled a couple of shopping carts full of winter clothing and other supplies. By 6:25 p.m. they had taken all that they wanted and were ready to exit by the store’s rear freight door. Before leaving, however, they took the keys to Farris’s Ford Explorer, forcing him to tell them where it was parked.
They might have gotten away unscathed had it not been for an off-duty employee who, from outside the store, noticed their suspicious activity through a window and called the police.
Officer Aubrey Hawkins, a 29-year-old rookie cop who had been with the Irving Police Department for only 14 months, was down the street a few hundred yards at an Olive Garden restaurant enjoying a Christmas Eve dinner with his wife and 9-year-old son when the call about the suspicious activity at Oshman’s came in. Hawkins announced to his wife and son that he had to take the call, and he dutifully left the restaurant and took off for Oshman’s in his police cruiser.
Hawkins arrived at the same time that another officer arrived, a response time that took about three minutes. Hawkins responded to the rear of the store, and the other officer went to the store’s front, and additional officers were en route. George Rivas and the others were exiting the freight door as Hawkins pulled up. The gunfire that followed occurred quickly. Farris, hearing the gunfire and unaware that officers were already on the scene, called the police and began untying the employees.
The barrage of gunfire was deafening, and could easily be heard by the employees inside the store as well as by anyone passing by. Hawkins was shot, literally assassinated in the hail of gunfire, through the windows of his cruiser. According to what store employees would later tell the police, at least 20 to 25 shots had been fired, in rapid succession. Hawkins hadn’t stood a chance against the surprise attack, and hadn’t even been afforded the opportunity to try and speed away to save his life.
It all had happened so fast. After disabling Hawkins by shooting him through his car windows, the assailants dragged him out of his car and shot him several more times, in the head and the back. His attackers stole his handgun and, after climbing into their getaway car, Farris’s Ford Explorer, ran over Hawkins’s head three times.
The next officer to arrive found Hawkins lying on the parking lot near his car, mortally wounded. He called for medical assistance as a SWAT team raced toward the store, but it was too late for the fallen officer. Hawkins died at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas shortly after his arrival.
The Oshman’s employees were soon transported to the Irving Police Department, where each of them provided a statement. They also were shown photographs of possible suspects, including photos of the Texas 7, to see if they could identify any of the thieves. Several of the Texas 7 inmates were identified, but the police would not publicly announce which ones. Although the police had earlier been led to believe that only three suspects had been involved in the robbery and subsequent murder of Officer Hawkins, after interviewing the store employees all night they felt that all seven of the escapees were involved.
Even though the police initially released few details about the robbery and shooting, they did tell reporters that Farris’s Ford Explorer used as the getaway vehicle had been found about a half-mile from the store. The fact that they ditched the vehicle so close to the store was an indication that they either had another car waiting nearby, or someone, possibly one or more of the Texas 7 themselves, had followed those in the getaway car from the store to the location where it was abandoned.
Among the many things that bothered the investigators was how these thugs had so mercilessly gunned down Officer Aubrey Hawkins before Hawkins had a chance to even get out of his car, and then had cold-bloodedly ran over his head and body three times before fleeing. The robbery and murder was a clear indication of how far they would go to remain free. But the fact that they had now murdered a cop would show just how far the authorities would go to catch them.
Nobody kills a cop and gets away with it for long. Nobody.
Irving, Texas Police Department - Memorial
Officer Aubrey Wright Hawkins #830
Served from 10-4-99 to 12-24-00
Assignment at time of death - Patrol Division
On December 24, 2000, at 6:29 P.M., Officer Aubrey Hawkins was dispatched to a suspicious circumstance call at the Oshman's Sporting Goods Store at State Highway 183 and Belt Line Road. Officer Hawkins took the call from a restaurant less than one mile away where he had just finished eating Christmas Eve dinner with his wife, Lori, his son, his mother and grandmother. Aubrey arrived before any other units and approached from the north entrance from the service road. He drove through the parking lot looking at the front of the business then around the south side to the rear of the building. As he made it to the west side loading dock area and entered the driveway, he came under a barrage of gunfire without warning and had no time to take evasive or defensive action. Mortally wounded, Officer Hawkins was pulled from his squad car and run over by the killers. What had begun as a suspicious circumstance call turned out to be a robbery-in-progress committed by seven dangerous and violent escaped prisoners (known as the Texas 7) from the Texas Department of Corrections Facility in Huntsville, Texas, earlier that month. It was later learned that a lookout to the east of the store had seen his approach and warned the others causing them to abandon the numerous store employees that were huddled together, and bound, inside the store. Officer Hawkins' arrival to the dock area had coincided with the exit, from the building, of the escaped convicts providing them with an overwhelming advantage. Following the murder of Officer Hawkins, international media coverage followed the largest manhunt in Texas history. The manhunt ended in January 2001 in the communities of Woodland Park and Colorado Springs, Colorado, with the suicide of one escapee and the nonviolent capture of the other six after law enforcement located and descended upon them. The cold-blooded murder of Officer Hawkins on Christmas Eve tore at the very fabric of law, order and decency. The chaos, sorrow, and heartbreak created in the lives of his loved ones and the community has healed somewhat over time, but the scars of that tragic holiday season and Aubrey's memory will not be forgotten. With these words and feelings that Lori wrote, you can judge for yourself the void the world has due to the loss of Officer Aubrey Wright Hawkins:
"He was the kind of father that all the kids in our neighborhood wanted to be around. The love and relationship between Aubrey and Andrew is indescribable. It was a relationship that most parents could only dream of having. The 9-year-old little boy was Aubrey's pride and joy. They were "buddies". It breaks my heart that Aubrey will never get to see Andrew grow up to be the man he always taught him to be. Aubrey was the kind of son who worried about his mom living alone. He always looked out for her and made sure she was safe. He truly loved her from the bottom of his heart. Aubrey was a loving and devoted husband. He was my best friend. He made me laugh when nobody else could. His face would "light-up" every time I walked into a room. Never again will I hear him come home and yell throughout the house . . . "Where's my girl?" Never again will I feel his big arms wrapped around me and his kiss on my forehead."
Timeline of Texas Prison Escape
December 13, 2000 Seven convicts escape from the Connally Unit in Kennedy, southeast of San Antonio, by overpowering civilian workers and prison employees. Flee with stolen clothing, pickup truck and 16 guns.
December 15, 2000 Two fugitives suspected of stealing police radio scanners from suburban Houston Radio Shack.
December 24, 2000 Convicts suspected of robbing Oshman's Sporting Goods Store in Irving, Texas (near Dallas), kill Police Officer Aubrey Hawkins. The robbers escaped with $70,000 in cash and checks, 25 weapons and clothing.
January 3, 2001 US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms charges the escapees with weapons violations. Autopsy shows that Officer Hawkins was shot 11 times and was run over by a vehicle.
January 4, 2001 FBI agents in the Dallas area file separate federal charges of unlawful flight to avoid federal prosecution for capital murder, broadening the manhunt nationwide.
January 11, 2001 The Texas Board of Criminal Justice releases review of the escape, saying prison staff missed critical opportunities to prevent the escape by ignoring a fire alarm, not reporting unsupervised inmates and not demanding proper identification from inmates.
January 19, 2001 Texas officials demote warden and suspend three other prison workers.
January 22, 2001 Woodland Park, Colorado - Escapee Larry J. Harper committed Suicide after a brief stand-off with law enforcement officers.
January 22, 2001 Several escapees arrested in Woodland Park, Colorado without resistance when confronted by law enforcement officers.
August 29, 2001 George Rivas received death sentence.
January 28, 2002 Donald Newbury received death sentence.
May 9, 2002 Michael Rodriguez received death sentence.
February 13, 2003 Joseph Garcia received death sentence.
June 12, 2003 Randy Halprin receives death sentence.
November 20, 2003 Patrick Murphy, Jr. receives death sentence.
Rodriguez v. Quarterman, Slip Copy, 2007 WL 2809914 (N.D. Tex. 2007) (Habeas).
JOE FISH, Chief Judge.
After making an independent review of the pleadings, files and records in this case, and the findings, conclusions and recommendation of the United States Magistrate Judge, the court finds that the findings and conclusions of the Magistrate Judge are correct and they are ADOPTED as the findings and conclusions of the court. Federal habeas counsel's objections to the findings and conclusions of the Magistrate Judge are OVERRULED. SO ORDERED.
FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
IRMA CARRILLO RAMIREZ, United States Magistrate Judge.
This cause of action was referred to the United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to the provisions of Title 28, United States Code, Section 636(b), implemented by an order of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas. The Findings, Conclusions, and Recommendation of the United States Magistrate Judge follow:
FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS
Pending before this Court is a pro se motion filed by Petitioner on July 19, 2007, stating his desire to dismiss his federal habeas case, along with any further appeals, of his conviction for capital murder and his death sentence. This is the second pro se motion to dismiss Petitioner has filed with the Court, and Petitioner has also sent numerous letters to the Court advising the Court of his wish to waive all further appeals of his conviction and sentence. On July 2, 2007, this Court issued an order appointing a mental health expert, Dr. Mary Alice Conroy, a board-certified forensic psychologist, who had been agreed to by the parties and had indicated a willingness to be appointed by the Court. This Court ordered Dr. Conroy to examine Petitioner and to submit a report to this Court regarding Petitioner's competency to waive his appeals within thirty days. Dr. Conroy interviewed Petitioner on July 13, 2007, and filed a report based on this evaluation with the Court on July 16, 2007.
An evidentiary hearing was held by this Court on August 22, 2007, in order to hear evidence on the issue of Petitioner's competency to waive his appeals and in order to ascertain whether Petitioner's waiver would be knowing and voluntary. At this hearing, the Court heard sworn testimony from Dr. Conroy and Petitioner and heard arguments from Petitioner's federal habeas counsel and Respondent.
Dr. Conroy testified at the hearing that, in her professional opinion, based upon her interview of Petitioner, her examination of his TDCJ medical records, the federal habeas petition filed by counsel on June 19, 2007, and testimony given at his state trial by Petitioner's mother and aunt, Petitioner is competent to waive his right to pursue federal habeas relief. In particular, Dr. Conroy testified that Petitioner does not suffer from a mental disease or defect and that Petitioner understands his legal position and the options available to him and is capable of making a rational choice to waive any further appeals of his conviction and sentence. See Rees v. Peyton, 384 U.S. 312, 86 S.Ct. 1505, 16 L.Ed.2d 583 (1966). Dr. Conroy testified that Petitioner explained to her that he wished to waive any further appeals because he had had a religious conversion while on Death Row, and that he had to accept his death sentence and submit to it as payment in order to be forgiven and obtain salvation.
Petitioner testified that it is his wish to dismiss his federal petition and to waive any further appeals of his capital murder conviction and death sentence. Petitioner testified that he understands that he has the right to file a federal writ of habeas corpus and that he has a right to appointed counsel. He further testified that he is a college graduate, and that he understands that if the Court grants his motion to waive his rights and dismisses his petition, an execution date would be set for him and he would be executed. Petitioner also testified that he understands that, should he for some reason change his mind, he would in all likelihood be time-barred from filing another federal petition under the AEDPA guidelines. Finally, Petitioner testified that his decision was not a result of threats or promises, that he did not suffer from a mental disease or defect, that he was not under the influence of any drug or alcohol, and that he was making this decision because he was remorseful for the crimes he had committed. He testified that he believed justice would be served by his execution, and that he could then enter heaven after his death.
Petitioner's federal habeas attorney argues that Petitioner should not be considered competent to waive any further appeals of his conviction and sentence because he has changed his mind on this issue in the past, and because Petitioner's TDCJ records indicate that he has been prescribed medication for bipolar disorder and for seizures during his incarceration. Counsel also contends that it is against public policy to allow Petitioner to waive his appeals because the applicable federal statute does not provide for such waiver. He argues the case should no longer be considered as Petitioner's alone due to the seriousness of the issues raised, and because the State should not assist Petitioner to, in effect, commit suicide.
With regard to a past instance where Petitioner changed his mind about waiving further appeals of his conviction and sentence, Petitioner clearly and articulately explained to this Court the circumstances surrounding his change of mind. He stated to this Court, under oath, that he understood that a dismissal of his federal petition was in all likelihood an irrevocable decision given the time limitations under federal law. Petitioner is not incompetent to make this decision because he has changed his mind in the past. With regard to Petitioner's TDCJ medical records, Petitioner contends that he does not and has never suffered from bipolar disorder or seizures and that he was prescribed lithium due to a short-term depression he experienced and was prescribed dilantin because he lied to prison officials and told them that he suffered from seizures in order to avoid heavy work. But, even if Petitioner did suffer from these maladies, the evidence before this Court is that Petitioner suffers from no mental disease or defect which prevents him from understanding his position and making a rational choice. Petitioner is not incompetent to waive his appeals based on his TDCJ medical records.
Regarding counsel's public policy arguments, as partial support for these arguments, counsel cites U.S. Bancorp Mortgage Company v. Bonner Mall Partnership, 513 U.S. 18, 115 S.Ct. 386, 130 L.Ed.2d 233 (1994). In that case, after the debtor and creditor in a bankruptcy action entered into a settlement agreement, the creditor requested that the Court of Appeals' decision be vacated. The Supreme Court held that mootness by reason of settlement does not justify the vacatur of a federal civil judgment under review as the losing party, by settling the case, has voluntarily forfeited his legal remedies. Id. at 25. Federal habeas counsel, in citing this case, argued at the evidentiary hearing that it supports his claim that a case under federal review cannot be abandoned. This case does not, however, support this argument. Petitioner has requested to waive his appeals, not vacate a judgment already made by a court.
Counsel also contends that Petitioner should not be permitted to waive his statutory right to pursue federal habeas relief because 28 U.S.C. § 2254 does not provide for such a waiver, because the issues involved in this death penalty case are serious and potentially meritorious, and because it would be assisting Petitioner in committing suicide. Contrary to counsel's arguments, both the Supreme Court and the Fifth Circuit have issued cases that both contemplate that a federal habeas petitioner under a sentence of death can waive his appeals and imply that he has right to do so, if he is judged competent to do so and the waiver is a voluntary one. In Rees v. Peyton, 384 U.S. 312, 86 S.Ct. 1505, 16 L.Ed.2d 583 (1966), a case involving a federal habeas petitioner under a sentence of death, the Supreme Court set forth the standard for determining that a petitioner is competent to waive his right to file a petition for certiorari. And, in Mata v. Johnson, 210 F.3d 324 (5th Cir.2000), the Fifth Circuit cited the Rees v. Peyton standard as the appropriate standard for a district court to use when determining if a federal habeas petition under a death sentence is competent to waive further collateral review of his conviction and sentence. In Mata, the Fifth Circuit also held that, when a federal habeas petition has stated a desire to waive any further collateral appeals, a district court meets due process requirements by ordering a mental examination of the petitioner by a qualified expert, allowing the parties to present evidence on the issue of competency, and questioning the petitioner on the record in open court concerning the knowing and voluntary nature of his decision. Id. at 328, 330-31. Accordingly, notwithstanding counsel's arguments that public policy should not permit a federal habeas petitioner under a death sentence to waive his right to collateral appeals, higher courts have implicitly recognized Petitioner's right to do so. And, while these cases are pre-AEDPA cases, counsel has presented no argument as to why Petitioner cannot be permitted to waive his statutory rights under the AEDPA, regardless of the extreme finality of the sentence and the seriousness of the issues raised in the petition. In summary, if he is competent to do so and does so in a knowing and voluntary manner, Petitioner has the right under federal case law to determine that he does not wish to pursue any further collateral attacks on his conviction and/or sentence.
Based on the sworn testimony before it, as well as all relevant documents provided by the parties, this Court finds that Petitioner is competent to waive his appeals. In particular, this Court finds that Petitioner does not suffer from any mental disease, disorder, or defect which prevents him from understanding his legal position and the options available to him or prevents him from making a rational choice among those options. Furthermore, based on Petitioner's clear, articulate and unequivocal sworn testimony, this Court finds that Petitioner's waiver of his right to pursue further appeals is a knowing and voluntary one. Petitioner is aware of his legal rights and is aware of his circumstances and the consequences of his waiver. Accordingly, this Court recommends that Petitioner's pro se motion to dismiss his federal habeas petition be granted. SIGNED this 31st day of August, 2007.