Houston man executed in deaths of estranged
lover, her brother
By Allan Turner - Houston Chronicle
September 10, 2014
HUNTSVILLE – Willie Tyrone Trottie, condemned
for the murder of his estranged wife and her brother, went to his
death in Texas' execution chamber Wednesday offering apologies to
his victims' family. As relatives of Barbara Canada and Titus
Canada embraced and sobbed, Trottie smiled faintly, called their
names and said, "I hope this brings you some closure. Stay strong.
I am going home to be with the Lord. "Find it in your hearts to
forgive me. I'm sorry," he continued. "Jesus take me home."
Trottie, 45, was declared dead at 6:35 p.m. – 30 minutes after the
lethal injection of pentobarbital began flowing.
Later, relatives of the victims issued a
statement saying they were "glad to see justice finally served all
these years later. It is time for our family to end this chapter
and move on." Trottie's case gained national attention earlier
this year when he shared his views concerning his crime, death row
and capital punishment with the online publication, gawker.com. In
his letter, Trottie denounced his pending execution as a "murdercution."
The former Houston security guard's death
sentence grew out out of a romantic relationship that ended on May
3, 1993 in a bloody shootout at the Canada family home. Trottie
insisted that he had fired his 9 mm semi-automatic "in the heat of
passion," only after he had been wounded by shots fired by his
estranged lover's brother. Trottie said he had gone to the
residence to borrow a car. Accounts of the fatal night included in
court documents, though, indicate Trottie's appearance at the
Canada home came after repeated threats that he would murder
Barbara Canada if she failed to return to him. "Bitch, I told you
I was going to kill you," he said as he pumped 11 bullets into the
24-year-old woman's body. Titus Canada, 29, was shot twice in the
head, and the pair's mother and sister also were wounded. Trial
witnesses testified that Trottie frequently telephoned his former
lover at home and work and that, on one occasion, he bumped her
car with his vehicle at highway speeds. In response to the threats
and harassment, Barbara Canada obtained a restraining order
barring further contact.
In state and federal appeals filed days before
the scheduled execution, Trottie's lawyers argued that Canada -
mother of Trottie's young son - continued their intimate
relationship despite the court order. Arguing that Trottie had
suffered from ineffective representation, they said that jurors in
their client's first trial never heard such testimony - testimony
that might have lent credence to his claims of passion and
self-defense. Sixteen years passed, they told appeals courts,
before prosecutors told Trottie's legal team that a trial witness
had privately conceded that Canada "probably had messed with (Trottie's)
mind." According to court documents, Trottie and Canada began
dating in 1989, later living together in a common-law marriage.
They separated three years later.
In an 11th-hour filing Tuesday with the U.S.
Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Trottie's lawyers questioned
whether state prison officials were truthful when they asserted
pentobarbital to be used in the execution would remain potent and
pure. Lawyers asked the court to issue a stay and schedule oral
arguments concerning the compounding pharmacy-produced drug.
Trottie was the eighth Texas killer put to death this year.
Willie Tyrone Trottie
Trottie and Barbara Canada met and began dating
in about 1989. Shortly thereafter, the two moved in together and
had a child. In September 1992, the couple separated and Barbara
moved in with her family. Trottie's behavior towards Barbara
became increasingly violent following their 1992 separation.
According to state witnesses that testified at Trottie's trial,
Trottie warned Barbara that he would kill her if she did not
return to him and repeated the threat several times in the months
after she moved out.
Barbara's close friend testified that Trottie
called Barbara "constantly" at home and at work, begging her to
come back to him. Trottie hit Barbara, bumped Barbara's car with
his own while it was traveling at sixty to sixty-five miles per
hour, and once kidnapped her, releasing her only after she
promised to reunite with him. Barbara obtained a protective order
against Trottie in March 1993. Nevertheless, state witnesses
testified that Trottie telephoned Barbara in April and told her
that she had until May 1, 1993 to return to him, or else he would
On May 3, 1993, Trottie called Barbara again
and told her that "he wasn't going to wait around anymore"ť and
again threatened to kill her. One witness testified that Trottie
also threatened Barbara's brother Titus Canada because, according
to Trottie, he had gotten "in the way."ť
Trottie arrived at the Canada residence at
approximately 11:00 p.m. on the night of May 3, 1993, armed with a
semiautomatic 9mm pistol. At the time, Trottie had visited
Barbara's house earlier that day, armed with a shotgun. Barbara's
brother Titus confronted Trottie with a .380 pistol, at which
point Trottie departed. Before he returned at 11:00 p.m., Trottie
called Barbara's home and said that he "wanted" Barbara and her
brother. There were five children under the age of seven in the
house, along with numerous other family members.
According to state witnesses, Trottie opened
fire immediately, wounding Barbara's mother, sister, and brother.
Barbara's brother returned fire with a .380 caliber pistol and
shot Trottie numerous times. Though wounded, Trottie cornered
Barbara in a bedroom and, while she lay on the ground, shot her
eleven times, saying "Bitch, I told you I was going to kill you."
Trottie then returned to the area where Barbara's brother was
lying wounded and, in the view of at least two small children,
fired two shots into the back of Barbara's brother's head, killing
him. Trottie left the Canada home and was arrested a short time
later in the emergency room of a nearby hospital.
In the penalty phase of the trial, the state
presented evidence that in 1988, Trottie pled guilty in Louisiana
to theft of property valued at less than $100. In July 1990, he
was arrested in Texas for unlawfully carrying a weapon. He pled
guilty to that crime, as well. In September 1990, Trottie was
convicted of theft in Texas and placed on probation. He violated a
condition of the probation in February 1993. In October 1992,
Trottie shot out the tires on Barbara Canada's car.
"I love you all. I'm sorry": Last words of
condemned Texas inmate for 1993 murders
Willie Trottie, 45, drew last breath just
before 6.35pm CDT - 22 minutes after lethal injection began.
Trottie had a last meal of baked chicken,
green beans, mashed potatoes and bread.
Trotte has been convicted of shooting dead
his former common-law wife, and her brother in 1993.
The execution came after U.S. Supreme Court
rejected Trottie's last-ditch appeals.
He became second death row inmate to be
executed Wednesday, following Earl Ringo Jr in Missouri.
September 10, 2014
A Texas death row inmate convicted of killing
his former common-law wife and her brother more than two decades
ago in Houston was executed by lethal injection Wednesday evening.
Willie Trottie's death sentence was carried out about 90 minutes
after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his last-day appeals. He had
contended he had poor legal help at his trial and questioned the
potency of the execution drug.
Trottie repeatedly expressed love to witnesses
- both people he selected and relatives of his victims, Barbara
and Titus Canada - and several times asked for forgiveness as he
was about to be executed. ‘I love you all,’ he said. ‘I'm going
home, going to be with the Lord. ... Find it in your hearts to
forgive me. I'm sorry.’ As the lethal dose of the powerful
sedative pentobarbital kicked in, he closed his eyes and breathed
quietly. After about eight breaths, he opened his mouth to exhale,
then closed it. There was no further movement. Trottie, 45, was
pronounced dead at 6.35pm central standard time - 22 minutes after
the injection began.
Since Texas has struck down the tradition of
offering death row inmates special meals before execution, Trottie
had the same dinner as everyone else in his unit: baked chicken,
green beans, mashed potatoes, bread, and a choice of tea, punch,
or water. His was the eighth lethal injection this year in Texas,
and the first in the nation's most active death penalty state
since recent executions went awry in Oklahoma and Arizona.
Mechanism of death: It took Trottie 22 minutes
to die from the moment he was injected with a lethal dose of
pentobarbital ‘It's time for our family to end this chapter and be
able to move on,’ the statement read. Trottie had acknowledged
shooting Barbara Canada, 24, and her brother, Titus Canada, 28, at
their parents' home in Houston. But Trottie said the May 1993
shootings were accidental and in self-defense, and not worthy of a
death sentence. "I love you all. I'm going home, going to be with
the Lord. ... Find it in your hearts to forgive me. I'm sorry."
Prosecutors said he had threatened to kill
Canada, who had a protective order against him, if she didn't
return to him. They said he carried out that threat when barging
into the house and opening fire. Trottie's attorneys had argued to
the Supreme Court that lawyers at his 1993 trial were deficient
for not addressing his self-defense theory and for failing to
produce sufficient testimony about Trottie's abusive childhood
with an alcoholic mother. State attorneys scoffed at the argument,
saying Trottie's self-defense claim was absurd and had been
rejected in earlier appeals.
Trottie's attorneys also contended the dose of
pentobarbital for his lethal injection was past its effectiveness
date and could subject him to unconstitutional ‘tortuous’ pain.
The state responded that the drug doesn't expire until the end of
the month and that tests showed proper potency. They argued the
appeal seeking details of the drug was merely another attempt to
force prison officials to disclose the compounding pharmacy that
provides the execution drugs, something the courts repeatedly have
refused to order.
Investigators have said that Trottie called his
24-year-old ex-wife May 3, 1993, and renewed an earlier death
threat. They said he then showed up at her parents' house and
opened fire with a semi-automatic pistol. Titus Canada, 29, also
had a gun and wounded Trottie, who then cornered his ex-wife in a
bedroom and shot her 11 times before returning to the wounded
brother and shooting him twice execution style in the back of the
head as at least two young children watched, according to
investigators. Trottie drove himself to a hospital, where police
Harris County man executed for 1993 murders
By Cody Stark - Huntsville Item
Thursday, September 11, 2014
A Harris County man apologized to the family of
his former common-law wife and her brother whom he gunned down
more than 21 years ago before he was put to death Wednesday night.
Willie Tyrone Trottie was executed by lethal injection about an
hour and a half after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his final
appeals. He became the eighth inmate to be executed in Texas this
year and the first in the state since executions in Oklahoma and
Arizona did not go as planned.
Trottie, who turned 45 Monday, was sentenced to
death after he was convicted of murdering Barbara Nell Canada, 24,
and her brother Titus Canada, 28, at their parent’s in Houston on
May 3, 1993. He admitted shooting the siblings, but said Barbara
Canada’s death was an accident and that he shot Titus Canada in
self-defense. He asked the victims’ relatives several times for
forgiveness and said he hoped “this brings you some closure”
before he was executed. He also told his family and friends “I
love you” and to “stay strong.” “Find it in your hearts to forgive
me. I’m sorry,” Trottie said.
The single lethal dose of pentobarbital began
at 6:13 p.m. As the drug began to take affect, Trottie began
breathing heavily and closed his eyes. He was pronounced dead 22
minutes later at 6:35 p.m.
Trottie’s appeals contended he had poor legal
help at his trial and questioned the potency of the execution
drug. His lawyers argued that the state’s supply of pentobarbital
had expired. During his trial, prosecutors said he had threatened
to kill Canada, who had a protective order against him, if she
didn’t return to him. They said he carried out that threat when
barging into the house and opening fire. His attorneys had argued
to the Supreme Court that Trottie’s lawyers at his 1993 trial were
deficient for not addressing his self-defense theory and for
failing to produce sufficient testimony about Trottie’s abusive
childhood with an alcoholic mother. State attorneys scoffed at the
argument, saying Trottie’s self-defense claim was absurd and had
been rejected in earlier appeals.
Trottie’s attorneys also contended the dose of
pentobarbital for his lethal injection was past its effectiveness
date and could subject him to unconstitutional “tortuous” pain.
The state said the doses were not expired. The state responded
that the drug doesn’t expire until the end of the month and that
tests showed proper potency.
Ex parte Trottie, Not Reported in
S.W.3d (Tex. Crim. App. 2009). (State Habeas)
This is an application for writ of habeas
corpus filed pursuant to the provisions of Article 11.071,
Tex.Code Crim. Proc. In November 1993, Applicant was convicted of
the offense of capital murder. The jury answered the special
issues submitted pursuant to Article 37.071, Tex.Code Crim. Proc.,
and the trial court, accordingly, set punishment at death. This
Court affirmed Applicant's conviction and sentence on direct
appeal. Trottie v. State, No. AP-71, 793 (Tex.Crim.App. September
20, 1995)(not designated for publication).
Applicant presents eight allegations in his
application in which he challenges the validity of his conviction
and resulting sentence. The trial court did not hold an
evidentiary hearing. The trial court adopted the State's amended
proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law recommending that
the relief sought be denied.
This Court has reviewed the record with respect
to the allegations made by Applicant. We adopt the trial judge's
findings and conclusions, with the exception of findings # 65, #
66, and # 67. Based upon the trial court's findings and
conclusions and our own review, we deny relief. IT IS SO ORDERED.
Trottie v. Stephens, --- Fed.Appx.
---- (5th Cir. 2014). (Federal Habeas)
Appeal from the United States District Court
for the Southern District of Texas, USDC No. 4:09–CV–00435.
Before HIGGINBOTHAM, DAVIS, and ELROD, Circuit
Judges. PER CURIAM:
Pursuant to Fifth Cir. R. 47.5, the court has
determined that this opinion should not be published and is not
precedent except under the limited circumstances set forth in
Fifth Cir. R. 47.5.4.
Willie Tyrone Trottie was convicted of capital
murder for the deaths of Titus and Barbara Canada in 1993 and
sentenced to death. Trottie is scheduled to be executed September
10, 2014. On August 18, 2014, Trottie filed a motion under Rule
60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in the district
court for relief from the district court's judgment that had
denied his petition for federal habeas relief. The district court
denied Trottie's motion on September 2, 2014. Trottie v. Stephens,
No. 4:09–cv–00435, 2014 WL 4354445, (S.D.Tex. Sept. 2, 2014).
Trottie now requests a COA on the district court's denial of the
60(b) motion. For the following reasons, Trottie's application for
a COA is denied.
A detailed factual background of this case is
set out in the district court's order denying Trottie's Rule 60(b)
motion, Trottie, 2014 WL 4354445, and this court's previous
opinion that denied Trottie's previous application for a COA.
Trottie v. Stephens, 720 F.3d 231 (5th Cir.2013). A brief overview
is provided here.
Trottie and Barbara began dating in 1989 and
soon thereafter began living together and had a child. In
September 1992, Trottie and Barbara separated and she moved in
with her family. After some time, the relationship soured and
Barbara moved out. Trottie threatened that he would kill her if
she did not return to him. He repeated the threat regularly,
called Barbara constantly at home and at work, hit Barbara, bumped
her car with his own while traveling at highway speed, and once
kidnapped Barbara. In March 1993, Barbara obtained a protective
order against Trottie. In April 1993, Trottie told Barbara that he
would kill her if she did not return to him by May 1, 1993. On May
3, 1993, Trottie called Barbara and repeated his threat to kill
her and her brother Titus, because, Trottie claimed, Titus had
gotten in the way of their reunion.
Trottie arrived at Titus's house at
approximately 11:00 p.m. on May 3, 1993, armed with a
semi-automatic 9mm pistol. At the time, there were numerous family
members in the house, including five children under the age of
seven. Trottie opened fire immediately, wounding Barbara's mother,
sister, and Titus. Titus returned fire, wounding Trottie. Trottie
then cornered Barbara and shot her eleven times, saying “B–––ch, I
told you I was going to kill you.” Trottie then returned to where
Titus lay wounded and shot him twice in the back of the head.
The state charged Trottie with the capital
murders of Barbara and Titus Canada. During the penalty phase the
state provided evidence of multiple prior criminal charges,
probation violation, past violence toward Barbara and evidence
that the killing was “both premeditated and extreme.” Trottie
presented testimony from his mother and sister about his
childhood, during which he experienced abandonment and neglect,
eventually being placed in foster care. Trottie also presented
favorable testimony about his work history, efforts through
volunteer programs, good disciplinary record while incarcerated,
positive testimony from his probation officer and expert testimony
regarding his abandonment and mental health issues.
Following the jury trial, the trial court
sentenced Trottie to death. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
affirmed Trottie's conviction and sentence. Trottie v. State, No.
71,793 (Tex.Crim.App. Sept. 20, 1995). Trottie filed a state
application for a writ of habeas corpus which was denied on
February 11, 2009. Ex parte Trottie, No. 70,302–01 (Tex.Crim.App.
Feb. 11, 2009). Trottie filed a federal petition for a writ of
habeas corpus on February 13, 2009, and amended petitions on
September 14, 2009, and March 10, 2010. The state responded and
moved for summary judgment on December 20, 2010. Trottie responded
and cross-moved for summary judgment on August 17, 2011. The
district court granted the state's motion for summary judgment on
September 30, 2011. This court subsequently denied Trottie's
application for a COA, Trottie v. Stephens, 720 F.3d 231 (5th
Cir.2013), and the Supreme Court denied Trottie's petition for a
writ of certiorari. Trottie v. Stephens, 134 S.Ct. 1540 (2014).
On August 18, 2014, Trottie moved pursuant to
Rule 60(b) for relief from the district court's judgment, which
the district court denied in an order dated September 2, 2014.
Trottie, 2014 WL 4354445. Trottie now seeks a COA from this court.
This court reviews the denial of a Rule 60(b)
motion under an abuse of discretion standard. Hernandez v. Thaler,
630 F.3d 420, 428 (5th Cir.2010). A COA is improper where
reasonable jurists could not disagree that the district court did
not abuse its discretion. Id. “It is not enough that the granting
of relief might have been permissible, or even warranted ... [the]
denial must have been so unwarranted as to constitute an abuse of
discretion.” Diaz v. Stephens, 731 F.3d 370, 374 (5th Cir.), cert.
denied, 134 S.Ct. 48 (2013). A movant is required “to show
‘extraordinary circumstances' justifying the reopening of a final
judgment.’ “ Id. (quoting Gonzalez v. Crosby, 545 U.S. 524, 535
(2005)). “Such circumstances will rarely occur in the habeas
context.” Gonzalez, 545 U.S. at 535.
The district court denied Trottie's 60(b)
motion as untimely. The district court further determined that
even if it were timely, Trottie's motion merely attacked the
substance of the district court's resolution of his habeas
petition on the merits. Moreover, Trottie had failed to show
extraordinary circumstances that would entitle him to Rule 60(b)
As the district court noted, a Rule 60(b)(6)
motion must “be made within a reasonable time.” See Tamayo v.
Stephens, 740 F.3d 986, 991 (5th Cir.2014) (holding that waiting
eight months after relevant change in law to bring a 60(b) motion
was not within a reasonable time). Trottie's motion came almost
three years after the district court had denied his petition and
more than a year after we denied a COA. Trottie did not cite any
newly discovered evidence or intervening changes in law.
Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion in
concluding that Trottie's motion was not brought “within a
reasonable time,” and he did not show good cause for the delay.
Turning to other bases for the district court's
determination, we next consider whether the district court erred
in determining that Trottie failed to present “extraordinary
circumstances.” A movant is required to “show ‘extraordinary
circumstances' justifying the reopening of a final judgment.”
Diaz, 731 F.3d at 374 (quoting Gonzalez, 545 U.S. at 535). Trottie
did not demonstrate any “extraordinary circumstances” justifying
the reopening of the district court's final judgment. Moreover,
Trottie largely raised the same arguments regarding the Texas
capital murder statute and ineffective assistance of counsel,
which were previously considered and rejected by the district
court and for which this court denied a COA. Insofar as Trottie
sought to re-litigate claims that have already been litigated and
resolved, “[a] Rule 60(b) motion is not a proper mechanism to
re-litigate the merits of [previously litigated claims] and surely
not a proper vehicle for doing so when the judgment from which [Trottie]
seeks relief has been confirmed on appeal....” Hall v. Stephens,
No. 3:10–CV–135, 2014 WL 4215329 (5th Cir. Aug. 27, 2014); see
United States v. Hernandes, 708 F.3d 680 (5th Cir.2013) (holding
Rule 60(b) motion should be construed as a successive habeas
petition under § 2255 where it attacked the merits of the district
court's resolution of the initial petition); Adams v. Thaler, 679
F.3d 312, 319 (5th Cir.2012) (recognizing that a Rule 60(b) motion
is proper only to challenge a procedural, not substantive error).
In addition to seeking 60(b) relief, Trottie
requested an evidentiary hearing. It is unclear whether Trottie's
motion for a COA asks this court to hold that the district court
erred in not granting him an evidentiary hearing, or asks this
court directly to order such a hearing. In either case, Trottie is
not entitled to an evidentiary hearing. The district court did not
err by refusing to grant a hearing, and there is no reason for
this court to grant a hearing in response to the motion for a COA.
A hearing is not appropriate where, as is the case here, there are
“no relevant factual disputes that would require development in
order to assess the claims.” Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 420, 436
(2000). Furthermore, review of the state habeas proceeding “is
limited to the record that was before the state court that
adjudicated the claim on the merits.” Cullen v. Pinholster, 131
S.Ct. 1388, 1398 (2011). Thus, in reviewing any defects that
Trottie alleges in his state habeas proceeding, the district court
would be limited to the record that was before the state court.
Trottie's argument for an evidentiary hearing
turns, again, in large part on his ineffective assistance of
counsel claims.FN1 Trottie alleged that “[t]he state court's
failure to consider the core of Trottie's ineffective assistance
claimthat is, the inadequacy of the investigation conducted by
trial counsel-opens the door to an evidentiary hearing before the
District Court.” Because these claims have already been considered
and rejected, Trottie is not entitled to relitigate them, and thus
not entitled to an evidentiary hearing to develop them.FN2 See §
2254(d); Trottie, 720 F.3d at 241–51. In addition, Trottie's
request for an evidentiary hearing is foreclosed by § 2254(e)(2).
See § 2254(e)(2) (restricting evidentiary hearings to narrow
circumstances). Accordingly Trottie's request for a COA is DENIED.
FN1. Trottie argues that he is entitled to an
evidentiary hearing under Trevino v. Thaler, 133 S.Ct. 1911
(2013). Trevino extended the application of Martinez v. Ryan, 566
U.S. 1 (2012), to Texas cases. In Martinez, the Supreme Court held
that “an otherwise procedurally defaulted claim of ineffective
assistance of counsel may be heard by a federal habeas court where
it was not properly raised in the state habeas court on initial
review due to state habeas counsel's ineffective representation.”
Escamilla v. Stephens, 749 F.3d 380, 395 (5th Cir.2014) (emphasis
omitted). “ Martinez does not apply to claims that were fully
adjudicated on the merits by the state habeas court because those
claims are, by definition, not procedurally defaulted.” Id.
Trottie stated in his previous motion for a COA that he fully
exhausted his ineffective assistance of counsel claims before the
state habeas court. Thus, by Trottie's own admission, this is not
a Martinez case, nor does Trottie assert that Martinez applies in
his current motion for a COA. Thus, Trottie is not entitled to
relief under Martinez or Trevino, and an evidentiary hearing is
FN2. Trottie makes much of the fact that
neither state nor federal habeas counsel has been able to contact
or procure an affidavit from Connie Williams, the trial counsel.
The exact type of evidence Trottie seeks does not alter the
conclusion that his ineffective assistance of counsel claims may
not be re-litigated because they were already considered and
rejected on the merits. See § 2254(d).
Trottie also requests a stay of execution. A
stay of execution is an equitable remedy. Adams v. Thaler, 679
F.3d 312, 318 (5th Cir.2012) (citing Hill v. McDonough, 547 U.S.
573, 584 (2006)). Nothing in Trottie's application for a COA
requires further time for adjudication and Trottie has not
demonstrated that he is entitled to a stay of execution. As such,
his motion for a stay is DENIED.