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Feltus TAYLOR Jr.

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: March 27, 1991
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: 1962
Victim profile: Donna Ponsano, 31 (fried chicken restaurant employee)
Method of murder: Shooting (.22 caliber handgun)
Location: East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, USA
Status: Executed by lethal injection in Louisiana on June 6, 2000
 
 
 
 
 
 

Summary:

On March 27, 1991, Donna Ponsano was working as a cook at Cajun's Fabulous Fried Chicken in Baton Rouge.

At 7:00 a.m., Keith Clark, the restaurant's manager, arrived to assist Ponsano in opening for business.

Taylor, who had been fired by Clark about two weeks previously for poor performance, knocked at the front door. He and Clark were still friendly, so Clark allowed him inside.

Taylor related that he was experiencing financial problems and asked Clark to rehire him. Clark refused, but assisted the defendant in searching for another job by giving him money to buy a newspaper and sitting with him in a restaurant booth to review classified job advertisements.

Clark found that a local Popeye's restaurant was seeking a cook, and called to recommend the defendant for the job.

Clark continued with his morning routine, and the defendant helped by sweeping the dining area of the restaurant.

As Clark was placing money into the cash registers, the defendant decided that robbery was the solution to his financial problems. He exited the restaurant to retrieve a .22 caliber handgun and handcuffs from his car which was parked in front.

Upon reentering the restaurant, Taylor grabbed Ponsano, held the gun to her head and demanded that Clark open the restaurant's floor safe. He then handcuffed Clark and Ponsano together.

Clark opened the safe, and gave the defendant its contents, approximately $800.00. Clark offered to loan or give the defendant a personal check. Taylor refused the offer and instructed Clark not to inform the police about the robbery.

After Clark told the defendant that he would not lie to the police, the defendant again asked Clark to rehire him. Ponsano expressed her opposition to rehiring the defendant, and Clark agreed. The defendant then shot Ponsano five times in the head and upper forearm.

After emptying the gun, he exited the room, reloaded and returned to shoot Clark in the head. He then emptied the cash register of approximately $580.00, got into his car and drove away.

Another employee arriving for work recognized Taylor's car, saw Taylor inside, and heard shots.

When the police arrived at the scene they found Ponsano and Clark lying in the storeroom handcuffed together, each with multiple gunshot wounds to the head.

Ponsano died two days later. Clark survived, but suffers with paralysis and minor brain damage.

Upon arrest, Taylor gave a full confession, led the police to the stolen money, and informed the police that he had thrown the murder weapon into the Mississippi River.

 
 

Feltus Taylor, Jr. (1962 June 6, 2000) was an American murderer. He was convicted and later executed by the state of Louisiana for the robbery and murder of Donna Ponsano.

Crime

On the morning of March 27, 1991, Donna Ponsano, was working as a cook at Cajun's Fabulous Fried Chicken restaurant on Florida Boulevard in Baton Rouge.

At approximately 7:00 a.m., Keith Clark, the restaurant's manager, arrived to assist Ponsano in opening for business. After tending to morning chores in the rear of the restaurant, Clark returned to the front and noticed Taylor at the front door knocking.

Taylor was a former employee of the restaurant whom Clark had hired approximately six months earlier. Although he had been fired by Clark about two weeks previously for poor performance, he and Clark were still friendly.

Clark opened the door for Taylor and allowed him to enter the restaurant. At this time, Taylor, who was experiencing financial problems, asked Clark to rehire him. Clark refused, but assisted him in searching for another job by giving him money to buy a newspaper and sitting with him in a restaurant booth to review classified job advertisements. Clark found that a local Popeyes restaurant was seeking a cook, and called to recommend Taylor for the job. He made a 9:00 a.m. appointment with the Popeyes manager responsible for hiring, and intended to accompany Taylor to discuss his qualifications.

While waiting for the time of the appointment, Clark continued with his morning routine, and Taylor helped by sweeping the dining area of the restaurant. As Clark was placing money into the cash registers, Taylor decided that robbery was the solution to his financial problems. He exited the restaurant to retrieve a .22 caliber handgun and handcuffs from his car which was parked in front.

Upon reentering the restaurant, Taylor grabbed Ponsano, held the gun to her head and demanded that Clark open the restaurant's floor safe which was located in a storeroom towards the rear of the building. Initially Clark refused, but complied after Taylor threatened to shoot Ponsano in the head.

As the three of them went to the back of the restaurant, Clark tried to escape through a rear entry door. However, his attempts were unsuccessful because the door was locked. Taylor then handcuffed Clark and Ponsano together. Clark opened the safe, and gave Taylor its contents, approximately $800.00.

Clark tried to convince Taylor not to continue with the robbery, but he refused, saying that his financial problems were too serious and that his car payment of $134.00 was due. Clark responded by offering to loan or give him a personal check to make that payment. Taylor refused the offer, and instructed Clark not to inform the police about the robbery.

After Clark told Taylor that he would not lie to the police, he again asked Clark to rehire him. Ponsano expressed her opposition to rehiring Taylor, and Clark agreed. Taylor then shot Ponsano, hitting her five times in the head and upper forearm. After emptying the gun, he exited the room, reloaded, returned and shot Clark in the head. He then emptied the cash register of approximately $580.00, exited through the front door, got into his car and drove away.

Earlier, while Taylor was herding Clark and Ponsano to the back of the restaurant, another employee of Cajun's, Viola Kaglear, arrived between 8:00 and 8:30 a.m. to begin her workday. She recognized Taylor's car in the front of the building. When no one responded to her knocking on the front door, Kaglear looked into the front windows and saw Taylor and Clark going into the storeroom.

She waited a few minutes, went to the rear of the building, and looked through a two-way peep hole in the back door where she saw Taylor exit and return to the storeroom. Shortly thereafter, she heard gunshots and ran to a neighboring Frostop restaurant where she alerted Josephine Hookfin, a Frostop employee, and William H. Johns, a food salesman, of the shooting.

Hookfin immediately called 911. During the 911 telephone call, Taylor exited the restaurant, and got into his car. As he drove away, Johns was able to read the automobile's license plate number, and relayed it to Hookfin and Kaglear, who gave it to the 911 operator.

When the police and emergency medical personnel arrived at the scene they found Ponsano and Clark lying in the storeroom handcuffed together, each with multiple gunshot wounds to the head. Ponsano died two days later, after treatment and surgery in a nearby hospital. Clark survived, but suffers with paralysis and minor brain damage.

At approximately 10:00 p.m. on the day of the shooting, police arrested Taylor near his apartment for attempted First Degree Murder and Armed Robbery. Thereafter, he confessed and led the police to the stolen money, which was hidden in a field not far from his apartment. Taylor informed the police that he had thrown the murder weapon into the Mississippi River.

Trial

Taylor was indicted by a grand jury for having committed first-degree murder against Donna Ponsano, in violation of Louisiana Revised Statute:30. After trial, the jury found Taylor guilty as charged, and unanimously recommended a death sentence. The trial court sentenced Taylor to death in accordance with the jury's recommendation.

Execution

On June 6, 2000, Taylor was executed by lethal injection at Louisiana State Penitentiary at the age of 38. In his final statement he said, "I want to tell you, Keith, and the Ponsano family that I always regretted what I've done. It was my own doing. After this is over with, I hope you can find the peace to move on."

Wikipedia.org

 
 

ProDeathPenalty.com

Condemned murderer Feltus Taylor was executed by lethal injection for killing a former co-worker at a fast food restaurant. Taylor, 39, was within hours of being put to death in 1999 when the U.S. Supreme Court blocked his execution.

The execution was stayed to give Taylor a chance to ask the high court to hear his appeal. It was the fifth stay of his execution. The U.S. Supreme Court later refused to hear the appeal, lifting the stay on the execution.

Taylor was sentenced to die by lethal injection for the 1991 murder of Donna Ponsano during a robbery at a Baton Rouge fast-food restaurant. He was convicted of first-degree murder in 1992 and condemned to death for killing Ponsano, 31, at Cajun's Fabulous Fried Chicken on March 27, 1991.

Taylor had been hired and fired twice as a fry cook at the Florida Boulevard restaurant. The manager, Keith Clark, survived four shots in the head. Clark, who uses a wheelchair because of his injuries, said he planned to attend the execution.

A state judge in Baton Rouge denied a last-minute effort from Taylor's attorney, Michelle Fournet, to stop the execution.

Prior to the execution, Taylor read a brief statement in which he apologized to the slain woman's family and to the wounded restaurant manager. "I want to tell you, Keith, and the Ponsano family that I always regretted what I've done. It was my own doing. After this is over with, I hope you can find the peace to move on," Taylor said. After Taylor spoke, the slain woman's sister, Lisa Allen, whispered "Oh, Jesus," then began crying.

During his trial, Taylor admitted shooting Ponsano to death after he robbed the restaurant's safe. Clark had hired and fired Taylor twice as a fry cook. On the day of the shooting, Taylor went to the restaurant trying to get his job back.

Clark already had replaced Taylor, but gave him 35 cents to buy a newspaper so the two could sort through classifieds. But Taylor snapped when Ponsano passed by the table where the two men sat, Clark said. Taylor grabbed her arms and demanded that Clark open the safe. Clark eventually gave into the demand and gave Taylor $1,300 from the safe, but Taylor still opened fire with a handgun.

"It was a heinous murder that resulted in the death of a fine woman and the maiming and paralyzing of a very fine man," Sinquefield said. "The viciousness of the act and the suffering that was caused has always been demanding of the death penalty."

Clark and Ponsano's sister Lisa Allen were among execution witnesses. Both refused to talk to reporters before the execution, but after the hearing Tuesday, Allen said Taylor's death would give her closure. "After 9 years, I'm going to be OK," she said. "I'm just glad it's going to be finally over. He has gotten away so many times."

 
 

Fight the Death Penalty in the USA

Feltus Taylor, 39, 2000-06-06, Louisiana

Convicted killer Feltus Taylor, whose life had been temporarily spared 5 times by reprieves, was executed Tuesday night for the 1991 murder of a fast-food restaurant employee.

Taylor, 39, was sentenced to death in 1992 for the murder of Donna Ponsano during a robbery at Cajun's Fabulous Fried Chicken in Baton Rouge on March 27, 1991. The restaurant manager, Keith Clark, was shot 4 times in the head and left partially paralyzed. A state judge in Baton Rouge on Tuesday denied a last-minute effort from Taylor's attorney, Michelle Fournet, to stop the execution.

A coroner pronounced Taylor dead at 8:40 p.m. CDT from a chemical injection at the Louisiana State Penitentiary. Prior to the execution, Taylor read a brief statement in which he apologized to the slain woman's family and to the wounded restaurant manager. "I want to tell you, Keith, and the Ponsano family that I always regretted what I've done. It was my own doing. After this is over with, I hope you can find the peace to move on," Taylor said. After Taylor spoke, the slain woman's sister, Lisa Allen, whispered "Oh, Jesus," then began crying.

In the hearing earlier Tuesday before District Judge Don Johnson, Fournet argued that Taylor had been given anti-psychotic drugs on an irregular basis, which affected his behavior during the sentencing part of the trial.

During the trial, as Taylor's grandmother pleaded for his life, Taylor slapped his hands against the defense table where he sat with his attorneys, burst into tears and then knocked over the table.

Fournet argued that new money from the state would be available in July that would allow her to hire experts who could testify that Taylor was not in his normal mental state at the time of the commotion. Johnson ruled that argument already had been rejected by other courts and he saw no reason to grant a reprieve.

In an unusual move, Warden Burl Cain of the Louisiana State Penitentiary brought Taylor to the hearing at the request of prosecutor John Sinquefield. Taylor, wearing a prison work shirt and jeans, showed no emotion when the judge denied his request for a stay. After the hearing, Taylor visited with his grandmother, brothers and a few friends, Cain said. The hearing may have given Taylor false hopes, and on the way back from Baton Rouge he said little, Cain said.

During his trial, Taylor admitted shooting Ponsano to death after he robbed the restaurant's safe. Clark had hired and fired Taylor twice as a fry cook. On the day of the shooting, Taylor went to the restaurant trying to get his job back. Clark already had replaced Taylor, but gave him 35 cents to buy a newspaper so the 2 could sort through classifieds.

But Taylor snapped when Ponsano passed by the table where the 2 men sat, Clark said. Taylor grabbed her arms and demanded that Clark open the safe. Clark eventually gave into the demand and gave Taylor $1,300 from the safe, but Taylor still opened fire with a handgun.

"It was a heinous murder that resulted in the death of a fine woman and the maiming and paralyzing of a very fine man," Sinquefield said. "The viciousness of the act and the suffering that was caused has always been demanding of the death penalty."

Clark and Ponsano's sister Lisa Allen were among execution witnesses. Both refused to talk to reporters before the execution, but after the hearing Tuesday, Allen said Taylor's death would give her closure. "After 9 years, I'm going to be OK," she said. "I'm just glad it's going to be finally over. He has gotten away so many times."

Taylor was scheduled to be executed in September 1999, and was eating his final meal of seafood gumbo and fried soft-shell crabs when the execution was delayed by the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court lifted the reprieve in April when it refused to hear the appeal.

On Monday, the Supreme Court again refused to issue a stay of execution and refused to consider taking Taylor's appeal. It's the 1st execution in Louisiana since Dobie Gillis Williams was put to death in January 1999 for stabbing a woman while he was out of prison on a weekend furlough. Taylor becomes the 26th person executed in Louisiana since the state resumed capital punishment in 1983.

 
 

Louisiana execution

Associated Press

June 6. 2000

Convicted killer Feltus Taylor, whose life had been temporarily spared 5 times by reprieves, was executed Tuesday night for the 1991 murder of a fast-food restaurant employee.

Taylor, 39, was sentenced to death in 1992 for the murder of Donna Ponsano during a robbery at Cajun's Fabulous Fried Chicken in Baton Rouge on March 27, 1991. The restaurant manager, Keith Clark, was shot 4 times in the head and left partially paralyzed.

A state judge in Baton Rouge on Tuesday denied a last-minute effort from Taylor's attorney, Michelle Fournet, to stop the execution. A coroner pronounced Taylor dead at 8:40 p.m. CDT from a chemical injection at the Louisiana State Penitentiary.

Prior to the execution, Taylor read a brief statement in which he apologized to the slain woman's family and to the wounded restaurant manager. "I want to tell you, Keith, and the Ponsano family that I always regretted what I've done. It was my own doing. After this is over with, I hope you can find the peace to move on," Taylor said. After Taylor spoke, the slain woman's sister, Lisa Allen, whispered "Oh, Jesus," then began crying.

In the hearing earlier Tuesday before District Judge Don Johnson, Fournet argued that Taylor had been given anti-psychotic drugs on an irregular basis, which affected his behavior during the sentencing part of the trial.

During the trial, as Taylor's grandmother pleaded for his life, Taylor slapped his hands against the defense table where he sat with his attorneys, burst into tears and then knocked over the table.

Fournet argued that new money from the state would be available in July that would allow her to hire experts who could testify that Taylor was not in his normal mental state at the time of the commotion. Johnson ruled that argument already had been rejected by other courts and he saw no reason to grant a reprieve.

In an unusual move, Warden Burl Cain of the Louisiana State Penitentiary brought Taylor to the hearing at the request of prosecutor John Sinquefield. Taylor, wearing a prison work shirt and jeans, showed no emotion when the judge denied his request for a stay. After the hearing, Taylor visited with his grandmother, brothers and a few friends, Cain said. The hearing may have given Taylor false hopes, and on the way back from Baton Rouge he said little, Cain said.

During his trial, Taylor admitted shooting Ponsano to death after he robbed the restaurant's safe. Clark had hired and fired Taylor twice as a fry cook. On the day of the shooting, Taylor went to the restaurant trying to get his job back.

Clark already had replaced Taylor, but gave him 35 cents to buy a newspaper so the two could sort through classifieds. But Taylor snapped when Ponsano passed by the table where the 2 men sat, Clark said. Taylor grabbed her arms and demanded that Clark open the safe. Clark eventually gave into the demand and gave Taylor $1,300 from the safe, but Taylor still opened fire with a handgun.

"It was a heinous murder that resulted in the death of a fine woman and the maiming and paralyzing of a very fine man," Sinquefield said. "The viciousness of the act and the suffering that was caused has always been demanding of the death penalty." Clark and Ponsano's sister Lisa Allen were among execution witnesses.

Both refused to talk to reporters before the execution, but after the hearing Tuesday, Allen said Taylor's death would give her closure. "After 9 years, I'm going to be OK," she said. "I'm just glad it's going to be finally over. He has gotten away so many times."

Taylor was scheduled to be executed in September 1999, and was eating his final meal of seafood gumbo and fried soft-shell crabs when the execution was delayed by the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court lifted the reprieve in April when it refused to hear the appeal. On Monday, the Supreme Court again refused to issue a stay of execution and refused to consider taking Taylor's appeal.

It's the 1st execution in Louisiana since Dobie Gillis Williams was put to death in January 1999 for stabbing a woman while he was out of prison on a weekend furlough. Taylor becomes the 26th person executed in Louisiana since the state resumed capital punishment in 1983. Taylor becomes the 42nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 640th overall since executions resumed in America on Jan. 17, 1977.

 
 

Man Executed in Louisiana as Appeal Fails

The Irish Times

Feltus Taylor, a cook who murdered one former co-worker and left another paralysed during a 1991 robbery, was executed last night by lethal injection, Louisiana prison officials said.

A last-ditch appeal in state district court was rejected yesterday afternoon, and the US Supreme Court refused to block the execution on Monday. Five earlier execution dates had been stayed by state and federal courts. Louisiana State Penitentiary Warden Mr Burl Cain reported Taylor was pronounced dead at 8:40 p.m. CDT (02.40 Irish Time). He became the 26th man executed in Louisiana since the death penalty was reinstated there in 1983.

Taylor (38) was convicted in 1992 of gunning down Ms Donna Ponsano (31), an employee at a fast-food outlet from which he had been sacked. He also paralysed his former boss, Mr Keith Clark, with four shots to the head. He stole about $1,300 before shooting Ms Ponsano.

Prison spokeswoman Kathy Jett said Taylor's last words were: I want to tell you, Keith, and the Ponsano family, that I've always regretted what I have done. It was my own doing. After this is over with, I hope you can find the peace to move on."

For his last meal, Taylor ate onion rings, barbecued ribs and shrimp, corn on the cob and toast and cheesecake, prison officials said. His attorney, Ms Michelle Fournet, attended the execution. After the district court refused to block Taylor's death earlier on Tuesday, she said there were no other appeals left to file. His surviving victim Mr Clark said after the execution: "I felt justice was done. I had gone out on a limb for him and then he shot me."

(Source: Reuters)

 
 

BR Man's Execution Blocked; Supreme Court won't hear case until after Oct. 4

By Christopher Baughman - The Advocate Online

September 10, 1999

ANGOLA -- Feltus Taylor slumped over what would have been his last bowl of gumbo when he heard Thursday night that the U.S. Supreme Court had blocked his execution just two hours before he was set to die.

Justice Antonin Scalia ordered the stay at 5:25 p.m. as the 38-year-old Taylor was eating his last meal, preparing to die by lethal injection for the 1991 murder of Donna Ponsano during a robbery at a Baton Rouge fast-food restaurant. "Tonight, a brief and shallow victory goes to Feltus Taylor," First Assistant District Attorney John Sinquefield said after Louisiana State Penitentiary Warden Burl Cain announced the stay, Taylor's fifth. "This, at most, is a minor setback in the process that will lead to Feltus Taylor receiving justice for what he did," said Sinquefield, who prosecuted Taylor.

A jury convicted Taylor of first-degree murder in 1992 and condemned him to death for killing Ponsano, 31, and wounding a co-worker during the robbery at the Cajun's Fabulous Fried Chicken on March 27, 1991.

The high court is on recess and won't convene until Oct. 4. At least four of the nine justices must vote to hear Taylor's case, Sinquefield said. If the Supreme Court decides on its first day back not to hear the case and lifts the stay, another execution date cannot be set for at least 30 days after that, he said.

Sinquefield said he had only given a 50-50 chance of the execution occurring Thursday "under our system, where sometimes it can appear that murderers have more rights than victims."

Taylor was eating a bowl of gumbo, part of his last meal that included soft-shell crabs and fried shrimp, when he got word of the stay, said Cathy Jett, executive staff officer at Angola. "He didn't say anything. He just dropped his head and he stayed like that for 10 or 15 minutes," she said. "I saw a tear, too. He was crying."

One of Taylor's lawyers, Michele Fournet, said Taylor was relieved when he got word of the stay. Waiting for the execution had been stressful, she said, but Taylor also is aware of the stress on the victims. "He's not oblivious to their suffering," Fournet said. "He's very, very sorry for what he did."

Taylor had been hired and fired twice as a fry cook at the Florida Boulevard restaurant. He'd gone to the restaurant the morning of the killing to try to get his job back. Taylor admitted during his trial that he handcuffed Ponsano to store manager Keith Clark, who was trying to help Taylor find another job, and shot each repeatedly before stealing $1,300.

Clark, 42, survived four shots in the head, but the attack left him partially paralyzed. He was at Angola on Thursday night to watch Taylor's execution, and said the stay surprised him. "It was a shock," Clark said, clutching a picture of Ponsano and speaking to reporters from a wheelchair. "We really thought it was going to go through this time." His father, Paul, who also intended to view Taylor's death, was more outspoken, blaming the delay on legal maneuvers. "The system's sick," he said. "I'm upset with the system. The system stinks."

Neither Fournet nor Taylor's other lawyer, Jean Faria, would speculate on the reasons Scalia issued the stay. They had filed papers with the court Sept. 1, basing their request on two issues. One is the exclusion of potential jurors who said they would find it hard to vote for the death penalty if they heard evidence of mental illness.

The other is that Taylor was getting psychotropic drugs from Parish Prison during his trial on an irregular basis, and without the knowledge of his attorneys. While his grandmother pleaded for his life during his trial, Taylor slammed his hands on the table where he sat with his defense attorneys, burst into tears and flipped the table.

Taylor spent Thursday with his lawyers, his spiritual advisor, Charlie deGravelle, and with Cecile Guin, a social worker, Fournet said. Cain, the warden, said he and some assistant wardens each put up $5 to buy Taylor a shirt featuring his favorite professional wrestler, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.

Taylor is well-liked among Death Row inmates, Cain told a news conference outside the gates of the prison about an hour before the stay. "We'll miss him. He's one of the good ones," Cain said.

Taylor would have been the first person from East Baton Rouge Parish to be executed in Louisiana since 1991, when Andrew Lee "Flash" Jones was put to death. Jones was the last person in Louisiana to be executed in the electric chair before the state turned to lethal injection.

 
 

CCADP - Feltus Taylor Homepage

Feltus Taylor - Executed in Louisiana June 6, 2000

"To everyone that has supported me and prayed for me this day it really means a lot and I love all of you all. But never give up the fight even if you all lose me tonight, because one day you all who fight so hard for all of us on the row will win and put an end to this crazyness. God bless you all." - Feltus Taylor Jr. (executed 6-6-2000)

FELTUS TAYLOR's PEN-PAL REQUEST TO THE CCADP:

I have been on DR for nine years. I am an 38 year old African American man with brown eyes, 5ft 6 and 188 pounds. I like to read and write and to meet new people. I consider myself a spiritual person. I love to talk about God and listen to other peoples beliefs. I have just finished writing an autobiography, focusing on my journey to Death Row. The book is aimed at young people, especially those who may already be in the Juvenile Justice System. My hope is that by reading about my mistakes, it may help them to turn their own lives around and make more positive choices. I am happy to write to either males or females. I just want to have friends who will not judge me on where I am and that will be a good and loyal friend. Thank you very much for reading this. I hope to hear from you soon. - Feltus Taylor -

 
 

Goodbye to Mr. Smile

A Tribute to Feltus Taylor by Jane Officer

On June 6th 2000 the sun went down over Angola at exactly 8.30pm. At that moment Feltus Taylor was being killed by the state of Louisiana in Camp F and about 15 of us, his friends and supporters stood in a circle outside the main gates, holding hands and singing Amazing Grace.

At 8.43pm a guard walked towards us and shouted ' Time of death, 8.40pm.' and returned to his post. Thoughts were very mixed up at this time; anger, shock, sadness and also a sense of relief... no one could ever hurt Feltus again.

This was my second experience of being in Louisiana for the execution of a friend. In July 1991 my first death row penfriend, Andrew Lee Jones, became the last man to be electrocuted to death in Angola.

I had spent that night with Andrew's family at their home in the tiny town of Glynn, a ferry ride across the Mississippi. It was a truly shocking experience for my first ever visit to the US.

In May 1992, Sr. Helen Prejean was here in my home town of Birmingham, England speaking to the members of the LifeLines, a British DR penfriend's organisation. Later, she asked me, as the LifeLines Louisiana coordinator, if I would find someone to write to Feltus who had just arrived on DR. I wrote to him... and so did two other LifeLiners; Jan McDonald and Carol Bowden. All three of us wrote to Feltus through all his eight years on DR. We became his other family. His mother and two sisters.

I first visited with Feltus in May 1993 and he asked me if I would please do the same for him as I had for Andrew... be there in the event of his execution. I agreed without hesitation but hoped it would never come to that.

Over the years we wrote regularly and I visited at least once a year. Jan, Carol and I also kept in touch, which added to the 'circle of love and care'. Feltus always drew a smiley face on his letters and referred to himself as 'Mr. Smile'.

While on DR Feltus 'grew up' in many ways. He learnt how to paint, helped by another of my penfriends, Scotty Loyd, who was in the adjoining cell for several years. From Scotty he also learnt how to control his temper and reflect upon his misspent youth and acknowledge his responsibility for what happened to condemn him to death row.

He started and later, completed his life story and began to discuss how he could say sorry to the victims of his crime. He wanted to do something positive about his life whether dead or alive.

In the last 15 months of his life Feltus had two 'serious' dates with stays at 36 and 11/2 hours. Jan and I were there both times and took his aged grandmother, Henrietta up to say her final 'goodbyes'.

He found these stays very difficult to deal with but also, I believe gained strength and a deep religious belief from them, especially with the support of his exceptional spiritual advisor, Charlie deGravelles. But this June there was no stay.

Feltus last day of visiting was reduced to no more than 3 hours by his court appearance but he took control of the time he had to talk with his family and friends and to draw us together in prayer and thanksgiving. It was a beautiful and unforgettable experience. We left at 5pm with heavy hearts but knowing he had those who loved him to see him through the darkest part of the day; Charlie, Jean Faria and Michelle Fournet.

Feltus died with dignity and with words of regret and comfort for his victims. He did not die in vain. His words and hopes will live on in the form of his book and the Feltus Taylor Foundation. His life brought people together in love and fellowship and I imagine him smiling and cracking his jokes till the end of time.

Goodbye, Mr Smile! I love you, my 'special' son.

Jane Officer, Birmingham, UK, July 2000

 
 

The Lousiana Coalition To Abolish The Death Penalty

Feltus Taylor- executed June 6, 2000...7:30pm (EST)

In 1992 Feltus Taylor was convicted of and sentenced to death for the murder of Donna Ponsano. Ms. Ponsano was 31 years old at the time of her murder. Both Feltus Taylor and Donna Ponsano were workers at a fried chicken restaurant in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Taylor had been hired and fired at the restaurant a couple of times and had apparently come back to his former work place to rob it. Not only was Ms. Ponsano killed but another worker, Mr. Keith Clark was shot in the head four times and survived. He now needs a wheelchair to get around.

During Mr. Taylor's trial he was misadministered a medication which he must take for a psychotic disorder. As a result of this, during the sentencing phase of his trial Mr.Taylor had a violent outburst during which he turned over the counsel table in the court room. This happened of course in full view of the jury.

Mr. Taylor's attorney was not even aware that his client took medication for such a disorder. Mr. Taylor has received five stays of his execution. The most recent stay came from Justice Scalia at the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court has since refused to hear Taylor's appeal and now another execution date has been set. Feltus Taylor will now be executed by the State of Louisiana on June 6, 2000.

This whole episode has been and still is very painful for many in this city. We are saddened when we think about the loss suffered by the relatives and friends of Ms. Ponsano. We want to also acknowledge the pain and suffering endured each day by Mr. Clark. There are other victims of this murder as well. These are the relatives and friends of Mr. Taylor.

We are opposed to the killing of Mr. Taylor. We dissent from the majority opinion that while it is wrong for individuals to kill it is okay for the state to kill. When the state kills a murderer the state allows the murderer to set the standard for behavior. If the standard response to killing is to kill again then the chain of death will never end.

 
 

State v. Taylor, 669 So.2d 364 (La. 1996) (Direct Appeal).

Feltus Taylor was indicted by the grand jury for the first degree murder of Donna Ponsano, in violation of La.R.S. 14:30. After trial, the jury found the defendant guilty as charged, and unanimously recommended a death sentence. The trial court sentenced the defendant to death in accordance with the jury's recommendation. This is a direct appeal from that conviction and sentence. La. Const. art. V, 5(D)(2). The defendant raises 339 assignments of error for reversal of his conviction and sentence.We find no reversible error, and affirm the conviction and sentence.

On the morning of March 27, 1991, the victim, Donna Ponsano, was working as a cook at Cajun's Fabulous Fried Chicken restaurant on Florida Boulevard in Baton Rouge.

At approximately 7:00 a.m., Keith Clark, the restaurant's manager, arrived to assist Ponsano in opening for business. After tending to morning chores in the rear of the restaurant, Clark returned to the front and noticed the defendant at the front door knocking.

The defendant was a former employee of the restaurant whom Clark had hired approximately six months earlier. Although he had been fired by Clark about two weeks previously for poor performance, he and Clark were still friendly.

Clark opened the door for the defendant and allowed him to enter the restaurant. At this time, the defendant, who was experiencing financial problems, asked Clark to rehire him.

Clark refused, but assisted the defendant in searching for another job by giving him money to buy a newspaper and sitting with him in a restaurant booth to review classified job advertisements. Clark found that a local Popeye's restaurant was seeking a cook, and called to recommend the defendant for the job. He made a 9:00 a.m. appointment with the Popeye's manager responsible for hiring, and intended to accompany the defendant to discuss his qualifications.

While waiting for the time of the appointment, Clark continued with his morning routine, and the defendant helped by sweeping the dining area of the restaurant. As Clark was placing money into the cash registers, the defendant decided that robbery was the solution to his financial problems. He exited the restaurant to retrieve a .22 caliber handgun and handcuffs from his car which was parked in front.

Upon reentering the restaurant, the defendant grabbed Ponsano, held the gun to her head and demanded that Clark open the restaurant's floor safe which was located in a storeroom towards the rear of the building. Initially Clark refused, but complied after the defendant threatened to shoot Ponsano in the head.

As the three of them went to the back of the restaurant, Clark tried to escape through a rear entry door. However, his attempts were unsuccessful because the door was locked. The defendant then handcuffed Clark and Ponsano together. Clark opened the safe, and gave the defendant its contents, approximately $800.00.

Clark tried to convince the defendant not to continue with the robbery, but he refused, saying that his financial problems were too serious and that his car payment of $134.00 was due. Clark responded by offering to loan or give the defendant a personal check to pay the note. The defendant refused the offer, and instructed Clark not to inform the police about the robbery.

After Clark told the defendant that he would not lie to the police, the defendant again asked Clark to rehire him. Ponsano expressed her opposition to rehiring the defendant, and Clark agreed.

The defendant then shot Ponsano, hitting her five times in the head and upper forearm. After emptying the gun, he exited the room, reloaded and returned to shoot Clark in the head. He then emptied the cash register of approximately $580.00, exited through the front door, got into his car and drove away.

Earlier, while the defendant was herding Clark and Ponsano to the back of the restaurant, another employee of Cajun's, Viola Kaglear, arrived between 8:00 and 8:30 a.m. to begin her workday.

She recognized the defendant's car in the front of the building. When no one responded to her knocking on the front door, Kaglear looked into the front windows and saw the defendant and Clark going into the storeroom.

She waited a few minutes, proceeded to the rear of the building, and looked through a two-way peep hole in the back door where she saw the defendant exit and return to the storeroom. Shortly thereafter, she heard gunshots and ran to a neighboring Frostop restaurant where she alerted Josephine Hookfin, a Frostop employee, and William H. Johns, a food salesman, of the shooting. Hookfin immediately called 911.

During the 911 telephone call, the defendant exited the restaurant, and got into his car. As the defendant drove away, Johns was able to read the automobile's license plate number, and relayed it to Hookfin and Kaglear, who gave it to the 911 operator.

When the police and emergency medical personnel arrived at the scene they found Ponsano and Clark lying in the storeroom handcuffed together, each with multiple gunshot wounds to the head. Ponsano died two days later, after treatment and surgery in a nearby hospital. Clark survived, but suffers with paralysis and minor brain damage.

At approximately 10:00 p.m. on the day of the shooting, police arrested the defendant near his apartment for attempted first degree murder and armed robbery.

Thereafter, he confessed and led the police to the stolen money, which was hidden in a field not far from his apartment. The defendant informed the police that he had thrown the murder weapon into the Mississippi River. After Ponsano died two days later, the defendant was charged with first degree murder and armed robbery.

At trial, the defendant conceded guilt, and the jury found him guilty. After a four-day penalty phase hearing, the jury recommended a death sentence, finding four aggravating circumstances: (1) that the defendant was engaged in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of an armed robbery; (2) that the defendant knowingly created a risk of death or great bodily harm to more than one person; (3) that the defendant had been previously convicted of an unrelated armed robbery; and (4) that the offense was committed in an especially heinous, atrocious and cruel manner.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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