was executed on July 24, 1987. Watson was convicted of the
kidnapping, rape, and murder of Kathy Newman, a Tulane University
medical student, in St. Charles Parish on April 5, 1981.
When asked if he
had any last words, Watson calmly shook his head no.
Killer of Medical Student Dies
In Electric Chair in Louisiana
The New York Times
July 25, 1987
Willie Watson went calmly and silently to his death
in the electric chair early today for the rape, robbery and murder of
a Tulane University medical student.
He was the sixth murderer executed in Louisiana
since early June and the second this week.
The student, Kathy Newman, 25 years old, was
abducted, raped and shot to death in 1981. Mr. Watson, 30, confessed
that he killed her, attributing the crime to his drug addiction while
an adolescent growing up in New Orleans housing projects.
The execution, which had been scheduled for
midnight, was delayed two hours after the United States Supreme Court
rejected Mr. Watson's appeal on a 4-to-4 tie vote and Mr. Watson's
lawyers made a last-minute plea to Gov. Edwin W. Edwards in Baton
Rouge. Refused Final Statement
At 1:58 A.M. Mr. Watson walked into the death
chamber. His head had been shaved of the shoulder-wide Afro hairstyle
he had the day before when he appeared at the state Pardon Board in a
Asked if he wanted to make a final statement, Mr.
Watson shook his head no. He was then strapped into the wooden
Before his face was masked, he looked at his
spiritual adviser, Sister Lee Scardina, and mouthed ''I love you,
Then he received the first of four
jolts of electricity at 2:02 A.M. He was pronounced dead at 2:09.
After it was over, the spiritual adviser went to Jed Stone, Mr.
Watson's lawyer, who was outside the death chamber, and cried on his
Outside the prison, six advocates of the death
penalty marched in the darkness.
Appeals Question Law
Mr. Watson spent his last day visiting with his
girlfriend, his mother, three sisters, and the adviser. Hilton Butler,
the warden, said Mr. Watson had spurned a final meal before the
In the days before the execution, Mr. Watson lost
all his appeals, which were based in part on the argument that
Louisiana's death penalty law is unconstitutional.
Willie Celestine, 30, of Lafayette, was put to
death Monday for raping, beating and strangling an 81-year-old woman
in 1981. Mr. Celestine was the 12th person to die in Louisiana's
electric chair since executions resumed.
Supreme Court Blocks Execution
The New York Times
September 5, 1986
The Supreme Court today blocked the scheduled
execution of Willie Watson Jr., the convicted killer of a Tulane
University medical student.
The Justices ordered the Louisiana authorities to
spare Mr. Watson's life until the Court, in a separate case, studied
an issue Mr. Watson has raised in his appeal.
Mr. Watson's lawyers contend that Louisiana's death
penalty law is racially discriminatory. They argue that the killers of
whites are more likely to receive a death sentence than the killers of
Mr. Watson was sentenced to death for the 1981
kidnapping, rape and murder of 25-year-old Kathy Newman in New Orleans.
Ms. Newman was white.
United States Court of
Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
756 F.2d 1055
March 18, 1985
Appeal from the United
States District Court for the Eastern District of
Before GEE, JOHNSON, and DAVIS Circuit
Willie Watson, Jr., was convicted in Louisiana of
capital murder and sentenced to death. After
appealing his conviction and seeking collateral
relief in the Louisiana state courts, Watson filed
the instant petition in federal district court
seeking habeas corpus relief, 28 U.S.C. Sec. 2254,
from his execution scheduled for the early morning
hours of Tuesday, March 19, 1985. On March 18, 1985,
the district court entered judgment denying all
There is presently before this Court Watson's motion
to proceed in forma pauperis, his application for
certificate of probable cause and his application
for stay of execution. Concluding that Watson has
not made a "substantial showing of the denial of [a]
federal right," Barefoot v. Estelle, 463 U.S. 880,
103 S.Ct. 3383, 3394, 77 L.Ed.2d 1090 (1983), we
grant the motion for pauper status but deny the
application for stay of execution and for
certificate of probable cause.
I. BACKGROUND FACTS AND PROCEDURAL
On the evening of
April 5, 1981, Willie Watson abducted Kathy Newman,
a third-year Tulane University medical student, at
gunpoint as she arrived at her apartment building in
the Carrollton section of New Orleans.
Newman to drive to an isolated area in St. Charles
Parish where he robbed her of her jewelry and raped
and sodomized her.
instructed Newman to dress herself; and as she did
so, he shot her in the back of the head, mortally
wounding her. Watson later confessed to the murder,
stating that he shot Newman because he feared that
she could identify him.
On June 5, 1981,
Watson was found guilty of first degree murder,
La.Rev.Stat.Ann. Sec. 14:30, by a St. Charles Parish
jury. After finding three aggravating circumstances:
(1) the offender was engaged in the perpetration or
attempted perpetration of aggravated rape; (2) the
offender was engaged in the perpetration or
attempted perpetration of armed robbery; and (3) the
offender had a significant prior history of criminal
activity, the jury recommended the death sentence.
See La.Code Crim.Proc.Ann. art. 905.4.
On Watson's direct
appeal of his conviction and sentence, the Louisiana
Supreme Court affirmed the conviction, but reversed
the sentence of death because of an erroneous jury
instruction given by the trial court. State v.
Watson, 423 So.2d 1130 (La.1982).
After remand to
the trial court for a new sentencing hearing, a jury
again recommended the death sentence. In Watson's
second appeal of his death sentence, the Louisiana
Supreme Court affirmed, rejecting Watson's fourteen
assignments of error. State v. Watson, 449 So.2d
1321 (La.1984). Certiorari was denied by the Supreme
Court. Watson v. Louisiana, --- U.S. ----, 105 S.Ct.
939, 83 L.Ed.2d 952 (1985). Watson then
unsuccessfully sought state habeas corpus relief.
Those applications were denied summarily by the
state trial court without an evidentiary hearing,
and by the Louisiana Supreme Court.
state court remedies, Watson filed the instant
petition in federal district court on March 16,
1985, alleging principally that certain jurors were
improperly disqualified for cause and that his
sentence was determined in accordance with an
unconstitutionally vague statute. The district judge
carefully considered each of Watson's contentions
and rejected them. Watson's petition for writ of
habeas corpus was dismissed by the district court,
and this appeal followed.
A. Exclusion of
Death Qualified Jurors
that the exclusion of jurors from the guilt-innocence
phase of his trial denied him his sixth amendment
right to trial by a fair cross section of the
community. In support of his contention, Watson
refers this Court to Grigsby v. Mabry, 758 F.2d 226
(8th Cir.1985). Grigsby is directly contrary to the
law of this circuit. See, e.g., Knighton v. Maggio,
740 F.2d 1344 (5th Cir.1984), cert. denied, --- U.S.
----, 105 S.Ct. 306, 83 L.Ed.2d 241 (1984); Smith v.
Balkcom, 660 F.2d 573 (5th Cir.1981), cert. denied,
459 U.S. 882, 103 S.Ct. 181, 74 L.Ed.2d 148 (1982);
Spinkellink v. Wainwright, 578 F.2d 582 (5th
Cir.1978), cert. denied, 440 U.S. 976, 99 S.Ct.
1548, 59 L.Ed.2d 796 (1979); Sonnier v. Maggio, 720
F.2d 401 (5th Cir.1983), cert. denied, --- U.S.
----, 104 S.Ct. 1331, 79 L.Ed.2d 726 (1984). See
also Williams v. Maggio, 679 F.2d 381 (5th Cir.1982)
(en banc), aff'd, 464 U.S. 46, 104 S.Ct. 311, 78
L.Ed.2d 43 (1983). Moreover, Watson is not entitled
to an evidentiary hearing on this claim. Williams v.
Maggio, 464 U.S. 46, 104 S.Ct. 311, 78 L.Ed.2d 43
(1983). For the reasons stated in these opinions,
Watson's claim of error must fail.
Crim.Proc.Ann. art. 905.4
contends that he was sentenced pursuant to an
unconstitutional statute in that La.Code
Crim.Proc.Ann. art. 905.4(c) is void for vagueness.
Under Louisiana law, the death penalty may not be
imposed unless an aggravating circumstance is found
to exist beyond a reasonable doubt. La.Code
Crim.Proc.Ann. art. 905.3.
Among the three
aggravating circumstances found by the jury in
reaching its decision to recommend imposition of the
death sentence in the instant case was the fact that
Watson had "a significant prior history of criminal
activity." See La.Code Crim.Proc.Ann. art. 905.4(c).
Recently, in State
v. David, No. 82-KA-0150 (La.S.Ct. Nov. 26, 1984),
the Louisiana Supreme Court held that the portion of
article 905.4(c) which permits imposition of the
death penalty when the accused has a significant
prior history of criminal activity is
unconstitutionally vague. In so holding, the court
reversed David's death sentence.
David, however, is
readily distinguishable from the instant case. In
David, "a significant prior history of criminal
activity" was the sole aggravating circumstance
found by the jury. Here, the jury found two other
aggravating circumstances supporting their
recommendation of the death sentence. It is now
settled law that "a death sentence supported by at
least one valid aggravating circumstance need not be
set aside ... simply because another aggravating
circumstance is 'invalid' in the sense that it is
insufficient by itself to support the death
penalty." Zant v. Stephens, 462 U.S. 862, 103 S.Ct.
2733, 2746, 77 L.Ed.2d 235 (1983); accord Knighton
v. Maggio, 740 F.2d at 1351-52; Moore v. Maggio, 740
F.2d 308, 321 (5th Cir.1984). Williams v. Maggio,
679 F.2d at 388-90. Watson does not contend that the
other aggravating circumstances found by the jury
are not supported by the facts. We must therefore
reject his contentions.
We have reviewed
each of the defendant's remaining contentions and we
find each to be without merit.
motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis is
GRANTED. Application for stay of execution is DENIED.
Application for a certificate of probable cause is
DENIED. The judgment of the district court is