"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

Friday, June 19, 2015

Texas executes Gregory Russeau

Gregory Russeau
Gregory Russeau
Texas on Thursday executed Gregory Russeau, 45, who was convicted of killing a 75-year-old auto mechanic in a 2001 robbery and driving off from the crime scene in the victim's car.

Russeau was put to death by lethal injection at Huntsville's Walls Unit at 6:49 p.m. CDT.

There were no court petitions filed to halt the execution.

Russeau becomes the 527th inmate executed in the state since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, and the 17th in the U.S. this year.

Since 1976, Texas has accounted for 37 percent of all executions in the United States.

Russeau was convicted of bludgeoning James Syvertson to death with a hammer at Syvertson's automobile repair garage in Tyler, about 100 miles (160 km) southeast of Dallas.

Police apprehended Russeau, who was on parole at the time, while he was driving a car that belonged to Syvertson. Investigators found Russeau's fingerprints at the crime scene and DNA evidence that linked him to the murder, the Texas attorney general's office said.

At his trial, witnesses testified seeing Russeau walking in the neighborhood of the auto shop May 30, 2001. Evidence showed Russeau's DNA, palm print and fingerprint were found in the shop.

Witnesses also said Russeau told them he'd been getting high on crack cocaine that day and was looking to buy more, and had asked about renting Syvertson's car to others in exchange for more drugs.

Russeau's attorneys acknowledged he stole the car but argued someone else was responsible for the slaying, and that pieces of hair that produced DNA evidence against Russeau had been planted by a police detective.

Jurors didn't buy it and convicted him of capital murder.

A previous death sentence for Russeau was overturned on appeal in 2005 when a court ruled his right to confront witnesses at trial had been violated. A jury in 2007 resentenced him to death.

Russeau becomes the 9th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas and the 527th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on December 7, 1982; he becomes the 9th condemned inmate to be put to death in Texas since Greg Abbott became governor earlier this year.

Russeau becomes the 17th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1411th overall since the nation resumed executions on Janauary 17, 1977. 

Sources: Reuters, Agencies, Rick Halperin, June 18, 2015


Gregory Russeau: Life on death row

Gregory Russeau is interviewed by Kilie Morris at Polunsky Unit, Texas.
Gregory Russeau is interviewed by Kilie Morris at Polunsky Unit, Texas.
Gregory Russeau says he’s ready. When he enters the cubicle for our interview, a giant of a man, he has to bend backwards to allow the guards to unshackle his hands through a flap in the lower part of the door, so he can sit and talk on the phone through glass to me. He calls me Ma’am.

“To some, it’s life and they want to live it. Me, I’m ready for it to be over with. I’m not ready to die, but the madness, the sadness, the humiliation, you know just life in general, being in this situation, is not good.”

Nothing, he tells me, could be worse than living out his life inside a prison. He says that he is at peace, after thirteen years of waiting.

“I have peace today, so I have no problem laying on that gurney to accept whatever the state’s going to do to me, but it’s not going to change the fact that they strapping an innocent man to a bunk and injecting drugs into them, just to get their satisfaction.”

He talks eagerly throughout our meeting, stopping only to mop sweat from his brow. The tissue paper sticks to his cheeks. He’s never agreed to a media interview before, but says his friends urged him to speak, so people would see the man they call the ‘bear’, not the felon the DA described as “a monster”.

I don’t know whether Gregory Russeau is innocent, as he says he is. His lawyers were ineffectual, he claims, when he was tried 13 years ago and eventually convicted of killing a 75 year old white man, James Syvertson. He accuses police of planting evidence to frame him, because he knew police involved in the illegal drugs trade, as he was. These claims were dismissed on appeal. He was stopped driving Mr Syvertson’s car but says he didn’t know it was stolen.

“I had an all white jury, and this was a 75 year old man and I’m an African American drug user.”

Click here to read the full article (+ 6'37" interview)

Source: Channel 4, Blogs, Kylie Morris, June 17, 2015

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