Ronford Lee Styron, Jr.

Executed May 16, 2002 by Lethal Injection in Texas


28th murderer executed in U.S. in 2002
777th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
12th murderer executed in Texas in 2002
268th murderer executed in Texas since 1976


Since 1976
Date of Execution
State
Method
Murderer
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder-Execution)
Date of
Birth
Victim(s)
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder)
Date of
Murder
Method of
Murder
Relationship
to Murderer
Date of
Sentence
777
05-16-02
TX
Lethal Injection
Ronford Lee Styron, Jr.

W / M / 24 - 32

08-23-69
Lee Hollis Styron

W / M / 11 mo

10-26-93
Beating
None
10-28-94

Summary:
On Oct. 23, 1993, Ronford Lee Styron punched his 11-month-old son, Lee Hollace Styron, at least three times in the head and face, causing him to black out and act abnormally thereafter. Styron did not take the infant to the hospital until the child's condition worsened three days later. The infant died as a result of subdural hemorrhaging due to trauma to the head. The fatal injuries were the culmination of a long pattern of abusive behavior directed at the 11-month-old victim, including punching him in the face, dunking him in ice water, squeezing him hard enough to break his ribs, and shaking him hard enough to cause retinal hemorrhages. The victim's older injuries included at least 10 broken bones. Styron also stuffed tape into the child's mouth to quiet him and palmed the child's head like a basketball, thus dangling the child like a puppet. Styron's abusive treatment of the victim was motivated by Styron's anger at his wife for allegedly having an affair and Styron's expressed opinion that the victim was not his biological child.

Citations:
Styron v. Johnson, 262 F.3d 438 (5th Cir. 2001) (Habeas).

Final Meal:
Mexican platter with all the works, two classic Cokes, pickles, olives, and Cookies and Cream ice cream.

Final Words:
"I'm going to go with my little boy and play with him. ... Lord Jesus, I see your spirit, it's OK, I love you."

Internet Sources:

Texas Department of Criminal Justice - Executed Offenders (Ronford Lee Styron)

Texas Attorney General Media Advisory

MEDIA ADVISORY - Tuesday, May 14, 2002 - Ronford Lee Styron Scheduled to be Executed.

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn offers the following information on Ronford Lee Styron, who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 16, 2002. On Oct. 27, 1994, Ronford Lee Styron was sentenced to death for the capital murder of Lee Hollace Styron in Liberty County, Texas, on Oct. 23, 1993. A summary of the evidence presented at trial follows:

FACTS OF THE CRIME

On Oct. 23, 1993, Ronford Lee Styron punched his 11-month-old son, Lee Hollace Styron, at least three times in the head and face, causing him to black out and act abnormally thereafter. Styron did not take the infant to the hospital until the child's condition worsened three days later. The infant died as a result of subdural hemorrhaging due to trauma to the head. Any one of the three blows could have caused the death.

The fatal injuries were the culmination of a long pattern of abusive behavior directed at the 11-month-old victim, including punching him in the face, dunking him in ice water, squeezing him hard enough to break his ribs, and shaking him hard enough to cause retinal hemorrhages. The victim's older injuries included at least 10 broken bones. Styron also stuffed tape into the child's mouth to quiet him and palmed the child's head like a basketball, thus dangling the child like a puppet.

Styron demonstrated little concern for the condition of the infant either before or during his final hospitalization. When advised by police that Lee Hollace was not expected to live, Styron showed no remorse or sign of being upset.

Styron was the child's primary caregiver. Living conditions in his home were filthy and Styron's other baby was not in good condition at the time of the victim's death. Styron's abusive treatment of the victim was motivated by Styron's anger at his wife for allegedly having an affair and Styron's expressed opinion that the victim was not his biological child.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Styron was indicted on Dec. 1, 1993, in the 253rd Judicial District Court of Liberty County, Texas, for the capital offense of murdering Lee Hollace Styron, an individual less than six years of age, on Oct. 23, 1993. Styron was tried before a jury upon a plea of not guilty, and on Oct. 24, 1994, the jury found him guilty of the capital offense. On Oct. 27, 1994, following a separate punishment hearing, the jury answered affirmatively the first special sentencing issue, and negatively the second special issue. In accordance with state law, the trial court assessed Styron's punishment at death.

Styron's conviction and sentence were automatically appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which affirmed in an unpublished opinion. On April 29, 1997, that court appointed James F. Keegan to represent Styron on state habeas corpus review. Styron filed his original application for writ of habeas corpus in the state trial court on Sept. 17, 1997, raising 43 grounds for relief. On Feb. 24, 1998, the state trial court issued findings of fact and conclusions of law recommending that relief be denied on Styron's original application. In an unpublished order issued on April 29, 1998, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals adopted the trial court's findings and conclusions and denied habeas corpus relief.

On June 11, 1998, Styron filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Tyler Division. On March 5, 1999, the district court granted the Director's motion for summary judgment and denied Styron's request for federal habeas relief. An addendum to the memorandum opinion and order, also denying relief, was issued on April 14, 1999. On May 20, 1999, the district court granted in part Styron's application for a certificate of appealability.

In May 1999 Styron filed a notice of appeal and requested expansion of the certificate of appealability. On Dec. 28, 2000, the Fifth Circuit entered an order carrying Styron's motion for COA with the case. On Aug. 15, 2001, the Fifth Circuit denied Styron's request for COA, and affirmed the district court's denial of habeas corpus relief in a published opinion. On Aug. 8, 2001, Styron filed a motion for rehearing which the Fifth Circuit denied on Sept.10, 2001.

On Nov. 30, 2001, Styron filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court. On Feb. 25, 2002, the United States Supreme Court denied certiorari.

On March 17, 2002, Styron filed a pro se original petition for federal habeas corpus relief in the United States Supreme Court. The petition was docketed by the Court clerk as an extraordinary writ. The Director filed a brief opposing the grant of habeas relief on grounds the issues raised in the pro se petition had already been raised before and rejected by the Supreme Court. Styron's pro se petition is still pending.

CRIMINAL HISTORY

Styron's documented criminal history reflects that he had been in trouble with the law several times prior to the 1993 capital murder of Lee Hollace Styron that ended in his sentence of death.

On April 18, 1991, Styron was convicted and sentenced to one year of probation for carrying a weapon by the County Criminal Court at Law of Harris County, Texas.

On June 8, 1999, Styron was convicted and sentenced to one year of probation for assault by the County Criminal Court at Law of Harris County, Texas.

In addition, the jury learned that:

Styron had a reputation for being a schoolyard bully and for provoking fights with classmates beginning in the seventh grade. At least one of his victims required medical attention and at least one of his attacks resulted in his expulsion from school.

Styron was discharged from the military for punching his sergeant. He had problems with authority figures in his civilian employment and physically threatened several people while on the job.

Styron had a reputation in his neighborhood for being overly aggressive. Neighbors reported that Styron participated in a violent street riot, that he had been observed taking out his anger on his car, firing a gun at it, kicking it, etc., and that he had made an unprovoked physical attack upon one of his neighbors which broke the man's jaw.

Styron had been arrested for an incident on the freeway in Houston in which he pointed a pistol at the passengers in another vehicle, and later started a fist fight with the driver on the side of the freeway.

ProDeathPenalty.com

A man convicted of killing his 11-month-old son was put to death by lethal injection on Thursday in a Texas prison. Ronford Styron was condemned for punching son Lee at least three times in the head and face on Oct. 23, 1993, at their home in Dayton, Texas, northeast of Houston. The boy died two days later of a brain hemorrhage. At his trial, Styron admitted striking the child in anger because he suspected the boy was not his biological son. He said he did not mean to kill him, but investigators said the child had numerous broken bones from a long history of abuse - physical evidence showed at least 10 previous broken bones. In a final statement as he lay strapped to a gurney in the Texas death chamber, Styron said: "I'm going to go with my little boy and play with him. ... Lord Jesus, I see your spirit, it's OK, I love you." For his final meal, Styron requested a platter of Mexican food, two Classic Coca-Colas, pickles, olives, and cookies-and-cream ice cream.

Texas Execution Information Center by David Carson.

Ronford Lee Styron Jr., 32, was executed by lethal injection on 16 May in Huntsville, Texas for beating his infant son to death. In October 1993, Ronford Styron, then 24, took his 11-month-old son, Lee Hollace Styron, to the hospital in Liberty. The baby had a swollen face and several broken ribs. He was transferred to Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, where he died two days later. The cause of death was subdural hemorrhaging due to trauma to the head. Doctors later discovered that Lee had older injuries that included at least ten broken bones.

Styron told police that he suspected that the baby boy was not his biological offspring, and he took his anger out on him. He waited several days before taking him to the hospital. At his trial, Styron testified that he did strike his son, but only once, to stop him from choking on food. He said that he never intended to kill the child. Witnesses, however, testified that Styron had a history of anger and brutality. He was expelled from the seventh grade for fighting with classmates, was discharged from the military for punching his sergeant, he physically threatened co-workers, and he broke a neighbor's jaw. Neighbors observed him kicking his own car and firing a gun at it. He was also arrested for pointing a pistol at another vehicle on the freeway and for starting a fist fight with the driver. Styron's only prior conviction was in 1991. He was sentenced to one year of probation for unlawfully carrying a weapon.

A jury convicted Ronford Styron of capital murder in October 1994 and sentenced him to death. He was the first person to be convicted under a revised Texas statute that made the killing of a child under the age of 6 a capital offense. Styron's lawyer argued that his sentence was unconstitutional because the state had not proven an intent to kill his son. Prosecutors pointed to Styron's pattern of past conduct and the child's old injuries as evidence of his intent. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed his conviction and sentence in October 1996. All of his subsequent appeals in state and federal court were denied.

"I love y'all and I want y'all to know that," Styron said in his final statement. "I am going to go with my little boy and play with him." Styron then named several family members by name and said, Y'all be careful. Lord Jesus, I see your Spirit, it's o.k. I love you." After this, the lethal injection was started.

Houston Chronicle

"Inmate Executed for Killing 11-month-old son," by Michael Graczyk. (Associated Press May 17, 2002)

HUNTSVILLE -- An unemployed laborer with a history of aggressive behavior was executed Thursday for fatally beating his 11-month-old son 8 1/2 years ago. Ronford Styron, 32, told family and friends that he loved them and was worried about them. "I'm going to go and be with my little boy and I'm going to have fun with him," he said, smiling and looking at relatives, including his mother and grandmother, who watched through a window. "I know where I'm going. I want to see all of you there. You get your hearts right," he said. He sputtered and gasped and stopped moving. He was pronounced dead at 6:20 p.m., seven minutes after the lethal dose began.

Styron, from Dayton in Liberty County, acknowledged he punched the child once in the head but contended in last-day appeals to the courts that he didn't intend to kill his son. The U.S. Supreme Court refused Thursday afternoon to review his case. He was the 12th Texas inmate put to death this year and second this month. Three more executions are set for May, including one next week.

The death of Lee Hollace Styron culminated what authorities said was repeated abuse and months of mistreatment that had left the baby with numerous broken bones and other injuries. "Except somebody who kills hundreds or thousands of people, I don't see how you can get a more heinous offense," Steve Greene, who prosecuted Styron in 1994, said this week. "He basically tortured the child through most of his short life." The child was one month shy of his first birthday when he died Oct. 28, 1993, at Houston's Texas Children's Hospital, three days after he was brought into an emergency room in Liberty, about 40 miles east of Houston. When the child's injuries did not match information presented to physicians treating the comatose infant, authorities began investigating. It was just weeks after a then-new Texas law took effect that made accused killers of children under the age of 6 eligible for the death penalty. "We were going for the death penalty because a child is the most helpless person you can have, especially an 11-month-old baby," Greene said.

Medical examiners found the baby suffered three recent blows to the head and any of them could have been fatal. At least 10 bones were broken in previous injuries. Testimony showed Styron stuffed the child's mouth with tape to stop him from crying, palmed his head like a basketball, dunked him in ice water, squeezed his chest hard enough to break ribs and shook him so hard the retinas of his eyes hemorrhaged. "I won't be forgetting him," Greene said. "It was really a sad case."

Psychologists found Styron hostile, aggressive and a person who held grudges and had trouble with authority figures. Testimony showed Styron was booted out of school for fighting and let go from the military for punching a sergeant, that he beat up a neighbor, kicked and shot at his own car and brawled with another motorist on the side of a Houston freeway. Relatives told investigators they thought of reporting Styron to child protective officials but feared him. Although he had not been in prison before, he had been on probation twice for a weapons offense and assault.

Greene said prosecutors had no evidence to tie Styron's wife and the child's mother to any of the abuse although the home conditions were described as filthy. "She just wasn't a very attentive mother," Greene said. "There was evidence both of them had been unfaithful at different times and he doubted the baby was really his, even though his family said the child looked a lot like him."

Deathrow.at

Ronford Styron: Killed by the state of Texas on May 16, 2002.

Ronford Styron waved his fingers at his family and friends through the wraps used to bind him to the gurney as he began his final statement at 6:12 p.m. "I know where I am going," Styron said. Addressing his family, he added, "I want to see you there, so get your heart right. You know I love you and care for you." Styron then said, "I am going to go see my little boy now and I'm going to have some fun with him."

Choking back tears, Styron addressed his family a final time, saying, "Y'all take care and I love y'all." The fatal dose of chemicals was administered to Styron at 6:13 p.m., and he lost consciousness looking at his family. He was pronounced dead at 6:20 p.m.

Styron v. Johnson, 262 F.3d 438 (5th Cir. 2001) (Habeas).

Appellant Ronford Lee Styron, Jr., was convicted of the capital murder of his eleven-month old son, Lee Hollace Styron, and sentenced to death. The medical evidence introduced at trial indicated that the victim died as a result of subdural hemorrhaging caused by trauma to the head. The evidence revealed that the child had suffered at least three distinct blows to his head, any one of which could have caused his death. Medical testimony indicated that the blows appeared to have been inflicted contemporaneously. Styron testified that he punched the victim in the head one time and did not offer any explanation as to how the victim received multiple bruises on his head.

Other medical evidence revealed the victim sustained retinal hemorrhages consistent with repeated episodes of shaken-baby trauma and multiple rib fractures within at least two weeks prior to his death. Testimony established that Styron squeezed the victim's stomach approximately three weeks before his death. Other testimony revealed that Styron had on numerous occasions physically abused the victim. The child had been taken to the hospital on three prior occasions: once for a cut lip, once for a broken leg, and once for treatment of a seizure disorder.

Styron was indicted by the grand jury of the 75th District Court of Liberty County, Texas. Count I of the indictment alleged that Styron, on or about October 23, 1993, in Liberty County, Texas, intentionally and knowingly caused the death of Lee Hollace Styron, an individual under six years of age, by striking and hitting the child's head with his fist, by causing the child's head to strike and hit an object, and by manner and means unknown. Count II of the indictment charged Styron with murder, alleging essentially the same conduct as did Count I. Count III alleged injury to a child. The 75th District Court found Styron to be indigent and appointed Walter F. Fontenot to represent him on November 2, 1993.

At the request of the State, without notice to Styron or his attorney and without a hearing, the action was transferred by the 75th District Court to the 253rd District Court of Liberty County. On January 4, 1994, the 253rd District Court, on Styron's motion, appointed Gary W. Bunyard as additional counsel. On January 5, 1994, Styron filed a pre-trial motion to quash the indictment contending that the government manipulated the transfer to secure a more favorable forum in which to prosecute the action. On May 10, 1994, after a hearing, the trial court denied the motion to quash.

Styron was tried before a jury upon a plea of not guilty. His defense was based upon a lack of intent to harm or to kill the child. The defense presented evidence that Styron was in fact a loving father to the victim; however, the jury convicted Styron of capital murder on October 24, 1994.

On October 27, 1994, the punishment phase of the trial was presented to the jury. The State produced numerous witnesses who testified about their knowledge of Styron's reputation and behavior. Four witnesses testified of his propensity to instigate fights. One witness testified that Styron provoked a fight with a boy who could not fight back because of a bad arm, *443 and that Styron hit the boy several times before the witness grabbed Styron. Styron's high school principal and assistant principal both testified that he had a reputation for violence. A Dayton police officer, Shannon Spear, testified that Styron had violently attacked another boy while in the seventh grade, attacked a man on a freeway, and punched his sergeant while in the Army.

Curtis Wills, a psychologist called as a witness by the defense, testified that he could not predict whether Styron was likely to commit future criminal acts. On cross-examination, Wills testified that the results of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) indicated that Styron was hostile, was aggressive, and was a person who harbored grudges. Wills further testified that Styron was the type of person who tends to be diagnosed with an anti- social personality. Dr. Gripon, a psychiatrist, testified for the State. After a review of the offense reports, Styron's statements, and the results of the MMPI, in response to a hypothetical question Dr. Gripon testified that in his opinion Styron was a continuing threat to commit future acts of violence.

After the hearing, the jury answered affirmatively the first special sentencing issue as to whether Styron posed a continuing threat to society. The jury answered negatively the second special sentencing issue as to whether mitigating circumstances warranted a sentence of life imprisonment rather than the imposition of a death sentence. Accordingly, the trial court sentenced Styron to death in accordance with Texas law.

Styron appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The conviction and sentence were affirmed in an unpublished opinion issued October 30, 1996. Styron v. State, No. 72,001 (Tex.Crim.App.1996). The Court of Criminal Appeals appointed James F. Keegan to represent Styron on state habeas corpus review. Application for writ of habeas corpus was filed, raising forty-three grounds for relief. Ex parte Styron, No. 20,278-A. Without a hearing on the state writ, the state trial court adopted the findings of fact and conclusions of law submitted by the State and recommended that relief be denied. The Court of Criminal Appeals, without discussion or analysis, adopted the trial court's findings and conclusions in a one-page opinion and denied habeas corpus relief in an unpublished order. Ex parte Styron, No. 37,058- 01 (Tex.Crim.App.1998).

Styron filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2254. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas denied his motion for summary judgment and writ of habeas corpus, lifted the stay of execution, and granted respondent's motion for summary judgment. Styron v. Johnson, No. 6:98 CV 338 (E.D.Tex.1999). The district court issued COA on four of twenty-one issues requested