Men of color in Tarrant County and Texas account for most executions, per report

Parents say executing their son’s murderer will bring them more pain.

Glenn and Judy Cherry are pleading that Gov. Greg Abbott spare the life of Paul Storey, one of the men who killed their son and was condemned to death.
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Glenn and Judy Cherry are pleading that Gov. Greg Abbott spare the life of Paul Storey, one of the men who killed their son and was condemned to death.

Two of the four executions scheduled in 2017 for Tarrant men have been carried out.

Two men, Paul Storey and Tilon Carter, remain on death row.

The single Tarrant County man executed in 2018, Erick Davila, 31, was on death row for more than nine years, according to a report made public Friday by the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

According to a report from the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center, 25 people were executed in the United States in 2018.

About half, 13, of the executions in the nation were carried out in Texas, which led the nation in executions during a year when they remained at near historic lows.

Harris County juries and courts, with 129 executions, used the death penalty the most since it was resumed in 1982, according to the report. Dallas (60), Bexar (46) and Tarrant (41) followed.

All 10 inmates sentenced to death in Tarrant and Dallas counties since 2012 were African-American, the report says. Statewide, African-Americans made up 43 percent of the people who have been executed during the past five years.

About 70 percent of the death sentences imposed in Texas have been carried out on people of color, the report states.

“It is extremely troubling,” said Kristin Houlé, Executive Director of TCADP, the organization that published the report. “It’s reflective of a broader pattern. Racial bias permeates the entire criminal justice system and there certainly is a lot of work to do to address the bias in the system.”

Houlé said the number of district attorneys elected in November who acknowledge bias as an issue is a good sign. Houlé hopes they will bring a new perspective to their offices when considering the death penalty.

Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson said her office would not speculate on what cases might merit death penalty consideration in the coming year.

“While district attorneys say they evaluate on a case-by-case basis, the statistics certainly cry out for a proportionality review by these offices,” Houlé said. “The statistics raise questions about the decision making processes in the district attorney’s offices.”

Six individuals scheduled for execution in 2018 received reprieves, including four stays granted by state or federal courts, the withdrawal of an execution date in one case, and one clemency grant, the report stated.

Three of those six cases involved individuals convicted in Tarrant County, according to the report.

On Oct. 5, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stayed the execution of Juan Segundo based on a claim of intellectual disability. Segundo was scheduled to be put to death on Oct. 10 for the 1986 rape and murder of 11-year-old Vanessa Villa in Fort Worth.

Segundo’s attorneys argued he had been diagnosed by multiple professionals as intellectually disabled based on consistently low IQ scores and severe deficits such as being unable to read a clock or tell right from left.

The Texas Court of Criminal appeals stayed the execution of Kwame Rockwell on Oct. 19, finding that the trial court had erred in ruling about Rockwell’s ability to pay for a mental health expert.

Rockwell was scheduled to be put to death on Oct. 24, despite the fact that he has been diagnosed as schizophrenic by doctors retained by both the state and defense. He was convicted of the robbery and murders of store clerk Daniel Rojas and deliveryman Jerry Burnett in Fort Worth in 2010, the report said.

On May 8, state District Judge Everett Young recommended that Storey’s death sentence be commuted to life in prison after finding prosecutors had presented false evidence and withheld evidence from the defense.

Storey was sentenced to death for the murder of Jonas Cherry in Tarrant County in 2008. In April 2017, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stayed his execution and remanded the case to the trial court to determine whether prosecutors had committed misconduct and, if so, whether that misconduct could have been discovered by previous attorneys.

Carter’s case was sent back to a lower court by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in September 2017, after appeals judges ruled that the court must reconcile the statements made by Nizam Peerwani, Tarrant County Medical Examiner, and three other forensic pathologists.

This story includes information from Star-Telegram archives.
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Mitch Mitchell is an award-winning reporter covering courts and crime for the Star-Telegram. Additionally, Mitch’s past coverage on municipal government, healthcare and social services beats allow him to bring experience and context to the stories he writes.