The parents of a man slain during a robbery in 2006 in Northeast Tarrant County have signed an affidavit calling on the state not to execute one of the killers next month.
Glenn and Judy Cherry, whose son Jonas Cherry was killed at Putt-Putt Golf and Games in Hurst where he was an assistant manager, wrote a letter to state and local authorities requesting that Paul Storey’s death sentence be commuted to life without parole.
“Paul Storey’s execution will not bring our son back, will not atone for the loss of our son and will not bring comfort or closure,” the affidavit states. “We are satisfied that Paul Storey remaining in prison until his death will assure that he cannot murder another innocent person in the community, and with this outcome we are satisfied and convinced that lawful retribution is exercised concerning the death of our son.”
Paul Storey’s execution will not bring our son back, will not atone for the loss of our son and will not bring comfort or closure.
Glenn and Judy Cherry letter to governor.
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Cherry’s parents, who are opposed to the death penalty, addressed the letter to Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson, Gov. Greg Abbott, state District Judge Robb Catalano and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Glenn and Judy Cherry said they know how hard it is to lose a child and have no wish to see Storey’s family suffer in a similar way.
“His family did not harm us and are innocent regarding our suffering,” the letter states.
Jonas Cherry begged for his life during the crime, which took place about 8:45 a.m. Oct. 16, 2006. Storey and Mike Porter stood over Jonas Cherry, who pleaded: “Please! I gave you what you want. Don’t hurt me.”
They refused and shot him twice in the head and twice in his legs. Cherry, who was approaching his first wedding anniversary, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Storey and Porter were convicted of capital murder, but only Storey got the death penalty. Porter got life without parole after making a deal with the Tarrant County district attorney’s office.
Storey is scheduled to be executed April 12. On Monday afternoon, Storey’s lawyers continued their efforts to persuade the state to spare his life. During a hearing, attorneys Mike Ware and Keith Hampton said they plan to file their client’s clemency petition with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles this week.
If Paul Storey is executed on April 12, he will be the third Tarrant County inmate executed this year.
Clemency, or mercy, is something attorneys representing Death Row clients routinely ask for but seldom receive. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 282 Death Row inmates nationwide have been granted clemency for humanitarian reasons since 1976, but only two of those inmates were in Texas.
According to documents filed in federal court, Storey’s lawyers were never told that he was just barely functional intellectually. That information has, in part, led at least one juror to change his mind.
Sven Berger, a 36-year-old software engineer now living in Washington state, voted for the death penalty along with the other 11 jurors at the end of Storey’s trial in 2008. The jury deliberated less than two hours before assessing the death penalty, Berger said.
There was a definite sense in the room that a decision had already been made.
Sven Berger, juror in Storey’s 2008 trial.
“There was a definite sense in the room that a decision had already been made,” Berger said. “Had I known he was mentally impaired there would have been a much longer conversation about my decision.”
Berger, who has signed an affidavit detailing his change of mind, also said that prosecutors argued during the trial that Cherry’s parents wanted the death penalty to be imposed. Ware recently told him that Cherry’s parents wanted Storey to have a life sentence without parole.
“More than anything else that affected me,” Berger said. “If the family of the deceased did not want the perpetrator executed, that would have been important for me to know, and I believe it would have been important to the other jurors.”
Christopher Wilkins, who went on a two-day killing spree in Fort Worth and was executed on Jan. 11, was the first person executed in the United States in 2017.
Berger said he got the impression during testimony that Storey was not very bright but was not a future danger to society. But he did not feel equipped at that time to sway other jurors to his way of thinking.
He said he never understood why Storey deserved a death sentence while his accomplice, Porter, received a life sentence.
“It seemed clear to me that Porter was the leader,” Berger said. “It irritated me that he took the plea deal. It was infuriating to see Porter get life and Storey get death.”
Storey’s mother, Marilyn Shankle-Grant, said she spoke to Berger about his change of heart and forgave him.
“This young man was placed in the position of deciding whether someone was going to live or die,” Shankle-Grant said. “He didn’t want to go against the crowd. There were a whole lot of people who were going one way and he didn’t want to voice his opinion.
“We all have things that we’ve done in the past that we wish we could have done differently. I can’t hate him for that.”
Shankle-Grant called the support that Cherry’s parents are giving to the effort to commute her son’s sentence remarkable. Shankle-Grant said she has never stopped thinking about the Cherry family.
“I’m just so grateful, extremely grateful,” Shankle-Grant said. “I think about how difficult it must have been for her at Christmas and Thanksgiving to have that empty chair at the table. They must have the heart of Jesus Christ himself to want to have anything to do with the life of someone who was involved in taking their own son’s life.
Shankle-Grant also said the idea that her son was involved in an act that caused these parents to lose their son is devastating.
“But Paul is my son,” Shankle-Grant said. “As devastating as what he did was, he’s still my son. I still don’t want to see him die.”