Crime

Execution of man convicted in fatal Fort Worth robbery delayed by Criminal Appeals Court

Kwame Rockwell, during his capital murder trial in Tarrant County in 2012, was set to be executed Oct. 24 but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has delayed it while ordering a judge to appoint two mental health experts to re-examine Rockwell for mental health issues.
Kwame Rockwell, during his capital murder trial in Tarrant County in 2012, was set to be executed Oct. 24 but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has delayed it while ordering a judge to appoint two mental health experts to re-examine Rockwell for mental health issues. Star-Telegram archives

The execution of a man who robbed a Fort Worth gas station in 2010 was delayed Friday by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

Kwame Rockwell, 42, was set to be executed Oct. 24 for the deaths of a gas station clerk and delivery man in a Fort Worth robbery. Rockwell and two other men robbed the store and fatally shot Daniel Rojas and Jerry Burnett, according to court records. In 2012, Rockwell was convicted for the murder of Rojas.

On Friday, a majority of Texas Court of Criminal Appeals judges ordered Rockwell’s execution be delayed, the Texas Tribune reported. They also ordered a judge to appoint two mental health experts and re-examine Rockwell for execution.

On Wednesday, Rockwell and his attorneys filed a motion to stay the execution, arguing Rockwell’s schizophrenia prevents him from understanding his execution and the murder conviction.

According to state law, a person must be competent in order to be executed.

Rockwell’s attorneys said he has a lifelong history of severe mental illness with fixed delusions that snakes and demons surround him and invade his body, The Associated Press reported.

Rockwell was also diagnosed with schizophrenia in prison, according to an appeal he made in April 2017.

On Oct. 4, Rockwell’s attorney filed a motion to delay Rockwell’s execution.

On Oct. 12, the Court of Criminal Appeals denied the motion, saying Rockwell did not show substantial evidence of incompetency, according to court records.

Multiple experts have examined Rockwell and suggested he is feigning his symptoms, the prosecuting office said in the response to Rockwell’s first execution stay motion. The objection motion also said Rockwell staged a suicide in jail, showing he was feigning mental health symptoms.

Rockwell’s attorneys, however, said he is kept in a psychiatric facility and prescribed anti-psychotic medication. They filed again to have Rockwell’s execution stayed.

In April 2017, a federal appeals court rejected an appeal from Rockwell, who argued he had poor legal help at his Tarrant County trial when his lawyers decided to not present evidence he may be schizophrenic and that he used steroids.

In the 2017 appeal, Rockwell said his lawyers in the murder case did not adequately investigate his schizophrenia and present evidence of it to the jury. He said once he was convicted, jail medical staff examined him, monitored his symptoms and prescribed him an anti-psychotic drug.

In March 2010, Rockwell and two other men entered the Valero gas station while wearing dark clothing and black ski masks. Chance Smith, who is serving a 20-year sentence for the robbery, testified Rockwell shot the clerk and delivery man inside the store, according to court records.

Burnett, the delivery man, died 10 days later.

Four days later, Rockwell was approached by uniformed police officers in San Antonio while sitting in his truck, according to court records. He jumped out of the truck and ran into a convenience store restroom, yelling he would kill himself.

When police broke open the door, Rockwell was holding a piece of broke glass to his throat, court records state. As police handcuffed him, Rockwell told police, “Just (expletive) kill me man. I’m going to die in there anyway.”

Kaley Johnson: 817-390-7028, @KaleyJohnson6
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