Texas Executes Man Who Killed Woman After
The New York Times
September 4, 1993
A truck driver who had abducted
and sexually abused two women and then shot them both in the head,
killing one of them, was executed by lethal injection early today.
The inmate, Johnny James, 39, was pronounced dead
at 12:17 A.M., about eight minutes after an executioner started the
flow of lethal chemicals into catheters attached to Mr. James's arms.
It was the second execution carried out by Texas this week.
Mr. James, dressed in a blue prison uniform, had no
last statement. His eyes remained closed as he gasped twice when the
chemicals began flowing into his arms.
About two dozen people, including relatives of Mr.
James who met with him earlier in the day, stood outside the prison
holding a vigil while the execution was carried out.
Mr. James was convicted of kidnapping Barbara
Mayfield, 47, from BJ's Lounge near High Island, about 50 miles south
of Houston, in October 1985 and murdering her. Ms. Mayfield was the
owner of the nightclub, and Mr. James had once worked there.
After shooting the woman in the foot, he put her in
the trunk of her car and drove her to a convenience store about 15
miles away in Winnie, stole $300 and kidnapped a female clerk.
Mr. James, a native of Arkansas, forced the women
to engage in sexual acts with each other before sodomizing and raping
the store clerk, according to court records.
He then shot both women at least twice in the head
with a .38-caliber pistol and left them on the side of the road. The
clerk survived the shooting and identified Mr. James as the killer,
according to court records.
The United States Supreme Court voted 6 to 3 on
Wednesday not to halt the execution. The Court's new Justice, Ruth
Bader Ginsburg, joined the minority voting to stay the execution.
Lawyers for Mr. James have said that
he was a recovering alcoholic who had been abused by an alcoholic
In her first case, Ginsburg dissents
By Linda Greenhouse - The New York Times
her first official act as a Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader
Ginsburg was a dissenter today, joining two other members of the
Court in voting to grant a stay of execution for a condemned Texas
murderer who is scheduled to die on Friday.
A majority of six Justices voted to deny the stay
in an unsigned order, with Justice Harry A. Blackmun and John Paul
Stevens joining Justice Ginsburg in opposition. While Justice
Ginsburg's vote did not affect the outcome, it provided the first
indication that she may take a different approach to questions on
the death penalty that did her predecessor, Justice Byron R. White.
Justice White rarely if ever voted to grant any
of the numerous applications for stays of execution that reach the
Court, and he was in the 5-to-4 majority in two cases last term in
which the Court rejected constitutional challenges to the Texas
death penalty statute. Lawyers for the inmate in today's case,
Johnny James, raised a similar challenge to the Texas law and asked
the Court to overrule the two recent decisions.
Because neither the majority nor the dissenters
wrote opinions explaining their votes today, there was no way to
know whether the Court considered the underlying issues or whether,
by contrast, the application was rejected for essentially procedural
reasons. 'A Moral Victory'
Brent Newton, a lawyer with the Texas Resource
Center in Houston who represented Mr. James, said he interpreted
Justice Ginsburg's vote as an indication that she might be willing
to reconsider the recent precedents that upheld the Texas law. "Getting
her vote is a moral victory for us," Mr. Newton said.
Mr. James was sentenced to death for kidnapping
and killing a woman in 1985. His conviction and sentence have been
upheld by the Texas state courts and, most recently, by the United
States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, which
rejected his petition for a writ of habeas corpus that challenged
the constitutionality of his death sentence, as well as for a stay
An alcoholic who was drunk when he committed the
crime, Mr. James argued that the Texas death penalty law
unconstitutionally limited the jury's ability to evaluate his
alcoholism as a factor that lessened his moral culpability and
therefore argued against imposing a death sentence.
Four years ago, ruling in the case Penry v.
Lynaugh, the Supreme Court found that the Texas law was
constitutionally flawed because it did not permit a jury to give
adequate weight to a capital defendant's mental retardation. The
Texas law, which has since been amended, required the jury to decide
whether a convicted murderer presented a future danger to society.
In the Penry case, the Court found that this requirement made it
more likely that a jury would weigh retardation as an argument for
the death penalty rather than as a factor against it.