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Johnny JAMES





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Kidnapping - Robbery - Rape
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: October 22, 1985
Date of birth: January 30, 1954
Victim profile: Barbara Mayfield (female, 47)
Method of murder: Shooting (.38 caliber pistol)
Location: Chambers County, Texas, USA
Status: Executed by lethal injection in Texas on September 3, 1993


Texas Executes Man Who Killed Woman After Abducting Her

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 father.


In her first case, Ginsburg dissents

By Linda Greenhouse - The New York Times

September 2, 1993

In 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 of execution.

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.



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