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Texas Should Not Have Executed Robert Pruett

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Update: Robert Pruett was executed by lethal injection on Thursday.
Robert Pruett is scheduled to be executed by the State of Texas Thursday. He has never had a chance to live outside a prison as an adult. Taking his life is a senseless wrong that shows how badly the justice system fails juveniles.
Mr. Pruett was 15 years old when he last saw the outside world, after being arrested as an accomplice to a murder committed by his own father. Now 38, having been convicted of a murder while incarcerated, he will be put to death. At a time when the Supreme Court has begun to recognize excessive punishments for juveniles as unjust, Mr. Pruett’s case shows how young lives can be destroyed by a justice system that refuses to give second chances.
Mr. Pruett’s father, Sam Pruett, spent much of Mr. Pruett’s early childhood in prison. Mr. Pruett and his three siblings were raised in various trailer parks by his mother, who he has said used drugs heavily and often struggled to feed the children. Wh…

Texas Set to Execute Man Who Pleaded Guilty to Killing 2

Barney Fuller Jr.
Barney Fuller Jr.
Summoned to court to answer charges that he made a threatening phone call to his neighbor's home in a rural East Texas county more than 2 years earlier, Barney Fuller Jr.'s anger smoldered as he began drinking.

2 nights later, Fuller left his home with a 12-gauge shotgun, a military-style semi-automatic carbine and a .40-caliber pistol and carried the weapons about 200 yards to the home of neighbors Nathan and Annette Copeland. He fired 59 shots into their house, kicked in the back door and walked inside, opening fire again. 

Nathan Copeland, 43, was killed in his bedroom, shot four times. His wife, 39, was gunned down in a bathroom while calling 911. 1 of their 2 children was shot but survived.

On Wednesday, Fuller, 58, is set for lethal injection for the May 2003 rampage outside Lovelady, about 100 miles north of Houston.

He'd be the 7th convicted killer executed this year in Texas and the 1st in 6 months. His execution would be only the 16th this year nationally, a downturn fueled by fewer death sentences overall, courts halting scheduled executions for additional reviews, and death penalty states encountering difficulties obtaining drugs for lethal injections.

Hours after the shooting frenzy, Fuller called Houston County authorities and told them he would surrender peacefully at his home.

He pleaded guilty to capital murder, declined to be in the courtroom after individual questioning of prospective jurors began at his July 2004 trial, and asked that the trial's punishment phase go on without his presence. He didn't return to the courtroom until jurors returned with their death verdict.

"He was very adamant not wanting to be there," William House, one of his trial lawyers, recalled. "From the very start, he just really didn't care."

Last year Fuller asked his lawyer to stop filing appeals.

"I do not want to go on living in this hell-hole," he wrote attorney Jason Cassel. "Do not do anything for me which will prolong my appeals and time here on Texas death row."

A federal judge in June ruled Fuller was competent to make that decision. Fuller had testified at a hearing he was satisfied with his legal help, no one had coerced him and he was "ready to move on."

His threatening phone call to Annette Copeland came after Fuller, who drew the ire of neighbors like her for shooting his weapons on the rural property, shot out an electrical transformer that provided power to the Copelands' home. "Happy New Year," he told her in the Jan. 1, 2001, call. "I'm going to kill you."

A sheriff's department dispatcher who took Annette Copeland's 911 call about 1:30 a.m. on May 14, 2003, heard a man say: "Party's over, bitch," followed by a popping sound. Annette Copeland was found with 3 bullet wounds to her head.

The couple's 14-year-old son, Cody, was hit twice and survived, and their 10-year-old daughter, Courtney, avoided gunshots because Fuller couldn't find the light in her dark bedroom. Cody found his mother's cellphone and called police.

Cindy Garner, the former Houston County district attorney who prosecuted Fuller, described him as mean and without remorse.

"A lot of times in the country folks argue about chickens and dogs," Garner said. "He was shooting his mouth off, but no one had any idea that something like this was going to happen, where he was just going to march down the road like Rambo and tear up an entire family."

Source: Associated Press, October 4, 2016

Texas man who killed 2 neighbors wants execution to proceed


An East Texas man who pleaded guilty to killing a neighbor couple during a shooting rampage 13 years ago and who has said he wants to be put to death for the crime appeared headed for execution Wednesday.

Barney Fuller Jr. has asked that all his appeals be dropped to expedite his death sentence.

Fuller, 58, would be the 7th convicted killer executed this year in Texas and the 1st in 6 months in the nation's most active capital punishment state.

Fuller surrendered peacefully at his home outside Lovelady, about 100 miles north of Houston, after a middle-of-the-night shooting frenzy in May 2003 that left his neighbors, Nathan Copeland, 43, and Copeland's wife, Annette, 39, dead inside their rural home. The couple's 14-year-old son survived 2 gunshot wounds, and their 10-year-old daughter escaped injury because Fuller couldn't turn the light on in her bedroom.

Court records show Fuller, armed with a shotgun, semi-automatic carbine and a pistol, fired 59 shots before barging into the Copeland home and opening fire again. Fuller had been charged with making a threatening phone call to Annette Copeland, and the neighbors had been engaged in a 2-year dispute over that.

Fuller pleaded guilty to capital murder. He declined to appear in court at his July 2004 trial and asked that the trial's punishment phase go on without his presence. He only entered the courtroom when jurors returned with his sentence.

Last year, Fuller asked that nothing be done to prolong his time on death row.

"I do not want to go on living in this hellhole," he wrote to attorney Jason Cassel.

Fuller had no late change of heart, Cassel said Tuesday.

A federal judge in June ruled Fuller competent to drop his appeals. He had testified at a hearing that he was "ready to move on."

Fuller had irritated neighbors with his frequent gunfire and was summoned to court in 2003 to address a charge that he made a threatening phone call 2 years earlier after complaints he shot out an electrical transformer providing power to the Copelands' home.

"Happy New Year," he told Annette Copeland in the Jan. 1, 2001, call. "I'm going to kill you."

William House, 1 of Fuller's trial lawyers, said Fuller thought when he got a court notice "that they were stirring up some more stuff and he just kind of twisted off."

Court records showed he seethed over the court appearance and began drinking. 2 nights later, he grabbed his guns and extra ammunition clips and went to the Copelands' home about 200 yards away.

House described Fuller as "just a strange bird" who was "very adamant" about not attending his own murder trial.

"I think we did everything we were supposed to and did the best we could but didn't have a whole lot to work with," House said.

A sheriff's department dispatcher who took Annette Copeland's 911 call about 1:30 a.m. on May 14, 2003, heard a man say: "Party's over, bitch," followed by a popping sound. Annette Copeland was found with three bullet wounds to her head.

Cindy Garner, the former Houston County district attorney who prosecuted Fuller, described him as mean and without remorse.

"It's not a cheerful situation," she said of the execution. "I just regret that this little, plain, country, nice, sweet family - bless their heart - moved in next door."

Fuller's execution would be only the 16th in the U.S. this year, a downturn fueled by fewer death sentences overall, courts halting scheduled executions for additional reviews, and some death penalty states encountering difficulties obtaining drugs for lethal injections.

Source: Associated Press, October 5, 2016

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