Posted: Apr 15, 2013 11:13 AM
Updated: Apr 15, 2013 11:13 AM
HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) When police in North Texas arrested Ronnie Threadgill for a carjacking and fatal shooting, he was hiding under a semitrailer, clinging to an axle.
Blood on his clothing matched the blood of a 17-year-old shooting victim whose body was pulled from the stolen car and dumped on the ground.
Dexter McDonald had been in the back seat of a friend's car in the parking lot of a club south of Corsicana when a bandana-wearing gunman later identified as Threadgill jumped in an open door, started shooting and drove off. McDonald died of a gunshot wound to the chest.
Threadgill, 40, now faces execution Tuesday evening for the slaying 12 years ago. He'd be the third Texas inmate executed this year.
His attorney asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the scheduled punishment, arguing he had deficient legal help at trial and in earlier stages of his appeals.
Threadgill, 29 at the time of his trial in 2002, had spent much of the previous decade locked up. Court records showed he had felony convictions for cocaine possession and burglary and misdemeanor convictions for assault, resisting arrest, theft, criminal trespass, criminal mischief and marijuana possession. Three months before the fatal carjacking, he was released on mandatory supervision, a form of parole.
"All the extraneous facts in the case made him look so damn culpable, the jury found him guilty," Rob Dunn, one of his trial attorneys, recalled last week. "He'd had a long criminal history."
His criminal past was so well known in the Corsicana area, about 60 miles south of Dallas, the city's mayor and the Navarro County judge were among witnesses who testified against him during the punishment phase of his trial.
A clinical psychologist testifying for the defense showed Threadgill was chemically dependent and came from a family with a history of substance abuse. His mother, testifying at his trial, told jurors she was on parole for drug possession at the time.
Attorney Lydia Brandt argued to the Supreme Court jurors weren't given an accurate picture of an abusive and tumultuous childhood where his mother, male relatives and his three siblings all had criminal records, and that his mother encouraged her children in criminal activity. The appeal also contended lawyers in early stages of his appeals failed to properly document the environment in which grew up.
State attorneys told the justices his legal help throughout had been proper and competent. His appeal with the punishment fast approaching was "nothing more than a meritless attempt to postpone his execution," according to Stephen Hoffman, an assistant Texas attorney general.
Witnesses said McDonald was with two friends leaving a club in Mustang, a tiny town south of Corsicana, in the early morning hours of April 15, 2001. He was in the back seat as driver Christopher Lane stepped out to talk with someone and left his car running. A gunman later identified as Threadgill ran up, a scarf over his face, jumped in the car and opened fire. A passenger in the front seat bailed out and the car sped away on an Interstate 45 access road.
A short distance away, the carjacker pulled the mortally wounded McDonald from the back seat and left him on the ground. Police spotted the stolen vehicle on the freeway and gave chase. The driver skidded into a ditch, then ran on foot toward some semitrailer trucks at a service station.
That's where officers found Threadgill under a truck. A bandana identified as his was stuffed under the truck trailer frame. Besides blood evidence, investigators found Threadgill's fingerprints on a door of the hijacked vehicle.
"The facts are it was closing time at this joint, 30 people in the parking lot see him get into the car, the person in front seat jumps out saying car is being stolen, then they see Threadgill throw a body a block away into the ditch," Dunn said. "And the blood of the deceased was on his blue jeans.
"Until the day the identifying witness said on the stand and pointed him out as the person who was in the parking lot lurking around, he asserted he never was there. You don't have any wiggle room when he asserts he wasn't there."
In earlier unsuccessful appeals, Threadgill's lawyers also raised questions about the competence of his trial attorneys and argued instructions to his jury in 2002 were improper.
At least 10 other Texas prisoners have executions scheduled in the coming months, including two set to die next week.