"Innocent." Recently incarcerated capital punishment inmate on appeal
Johnny Winfield - Missouri DR
Executed - Michael Rodriguez - Texas Death Row - Scheduled Execution
Start : Thursday 14 August 2008, 22:00
End : Thursday 14 August 2008, 22:00
Michael Rodriguez - Texas Death Row - Scheduled Execution for August 14, 2008
Victims: Police Officer Aubrey Hawkins
The Crime: Rodriguez is one the Texas 7 that escaped from TDCJ and murdered a police officer while committing a robbery of a sporting goods store. He had requested to forego all appeals and to be executed. It was approved. Below is the result:
Texas death row inmate found competent to waive federal habeas review.
On September 27, 2007, Chief Judge Fish of the Northern District of Texas issued an order granting Michael Rodriguez’s pro se request to dismiss his federal habeas petition. Rodriguez v. Quarterman, 2007 WL 2809914 (N.D. Tex. Sept. 27, 2007). Judge Fish adopted the Magistrate Judge’s findings that Rodriguez is competent to waive his right to federal habeas review and that his decision is knowing and voluntary.
News: LIVINGSTON — Michael Rodriguez remembers the exhilaration of newfound freedom as he rode in the back of a stolen truck, knowing he and six of his fellow convicts had staged an improbably successful escape from a maximum security Texas prison.
Then he recalls seeing his photo on national TV and grasping the reality that their grandiose Hollywood-style plan to rob a Nevada casino had gone terribly awry. He and his fellow fugitives were being hunted everywhere as the killers of a suburban Dallas police officer, Aubrey Hawkins.
This week, Rodriguez, a participant in one of Texas' most notorious prison breaks, is set to become the first of the six surviving members of the infamous "Texas 7" — all of them now on death row — to go to the death chamber.
"I'm glad we got caught, so no one else would get hurt," Rodriguez said, discussing with a reporter for the first time his involvement in the crime spree eight years ago.
"It was so thrilling that we actually got away with it," he said of the December 2000 break from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Connally Unit in South Texas. "But after Mr. Hawkins got killed, and I saw Peter Jennings on the TV news with our pictures, I thought: 'Oh my God, Oh my God. Am I in trouble!' "
After some six weeks on the lam, the gang finally was captured in Colorado. One of the seven escapees killed himself as authorities closed in.
"We started to believe in the delusion," Rodriguez said of their continuing success evading an intense manhunt and their plans to knock off a casino. "I'm glad it ended when it did. It would have been a mess."
This week's execution, set for Thursday, is a punishment Rodriguez, 45, said he's been seeking and is welcoming.
"I have a lot of people here telling me how unfair the system is," he told The Associated Press. "At some point in our lives, you have to have some sort of accountability. I can't see how people in my situation deny that."
So Rodriguez, who first went to prison with a life sentence for arranging the 1992 slaying of his wife in San Antonio, worked for more than a year to convince the courts he was competent to drop his appeals and volunteer for execution.
Sentence goes forward
A judge finally signed off on his decision to die last year, two days after the U.S. Supreme Court imposed a de facto nationwide moratorium on the death penalty while it considered whether lethal injection was unconstitutionally cruel.
When the justices upheld in April the method as proper, a judge in Dallas County reset the execution date for this week.
"I'm just moving forward," he said from a small visiting cell at the Polunsky Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, home to the state's death row. "Look. I'm guilty of what they said — everything."
And he said he wants the family of his former wife, Theresa, and the relatives of Hawkins, the slain Irving police officer, "to know how truly sorry I am, and I am willing to pay."
"I think it's a fair sentence," he added. "I need to pay back. I can't pay back monetarily. This is the way."
Lori Hawkins, whose husband was killed, calls Rodriguez's apologies "a little too late."
It wouldn't be appropriate to characterize his voluntary execution as a joyful occurrence, she said, but "he's the first one to really admit guilt so far as to be where they're at."
"This didn't start with Aubrey," she said. "It started with his wife. I'm glad he won't be wasting our money, taxpayer money" with prolonged appeals and extended prison time, she said.
"But this didn't have to happen," Hawkins said. "Aubrey didn't need to die."
Rodriguez and six other inmates overpowered workers at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Connally Unit near Kenedy in South Texas on Dec. 13, 2000. They took the workers' clothes, then grabbed guns from the prison armory and fled in a stolen prison truck.
He was hiding under some trash in the back of the truck on the bitterly cold day, believing officers would be reluctant to vigilantly check IDs and the truck contents.
"No one wanted to go outside," he said of their ease in getting out. "It was an experience. It's real strange to think on that and how I got here.
"You don't forget it. Sadly, a lot of people got hurt."
They drove to a nearby Wal-Mart, where Rodriguez's father had parked another truck to help his son and the other inmates. Raul Rodriguez eventually would plead guilty to being involved in the escape plan.
He said George Rivas, a convicted robber serving 18 life terms, became the group's ringleader after befriending them with outrageous stories of his exploits.
"Delusions of grandeur," he said. "We all bought into that."
When Rodriguez made it known he had access to a truck outside and was hoping to escape, the plans accelerated.
He said Rivas concocted a plan to rob a suburban Dallas sporting goods store by posing as employees of its security service. It's a ruse Rivas had used before in his native El Paso. They got uniforms from a used clothing store in Houston and radios from an electronics store holdup.
"George Rivas thought he planned everything," Rodriguez said.
They'd brought a dozen plastic ties to bind store employees but were surprised to find 17 workers inside the store, he said.
"We didn't expect that many. We only had enough for 12," Rodriguez said.
While some gang members scrambled to find materials to restrain the remaining workers and others gathered weapons, a woman waiting outside noticed the activity inside the store, grew suspicious and called police.
It was Christmas Eve.
Hawkins caught the call. He'd been having dinner with his wife and son a few blocks away.
Rodriguez said radios they were using to communicate with each other "didn't pick up real well" and impeded urgings from Patrick Murphy, a convicted rapist who was posted as a lookout, that a police officer was driving in the parking lot.
The stolen guns and money were tossed in sleeping bags. They tried to set off a smoke bomb, but it didn't work. Larry James Harper, another convicted rapist, tripped as he opened the door to leave the store.
"I saw the police car," said Rodriguez, who said his reaction was: "Oh my God!"
He said he ducked and hid under the sleeping bags filled with loot.
"I just heard shots — pop, pop, pop. I thought it was the police. But no, it was us," he said.
He said he learned a couple of his cohorts had been wounded in the gunfire and went to the police car, where the officer appeared to already be dead.
"I removed his pistol and put it in the back of my waistband," Rodriguez said. "I tried to remove him from the car."
Fleeing the scene
The car lurched forward and ran into the back of an SUV they planned to use as their escape vehicle. He said Joseph Garcia, a convicted murderer serving 50 years, jumped into the police car as he and the officer were on the ground.
He said Rivas was behind the wheel of the SUV, and he saw the backup lights go on and the truck start going in reverse.
"I rolled and left the officer there," he said, sighing. "That's how he got run over."
They then fled to a motel.
"It was just chaos," Rodriguez said.
The gang headed west and north, winding up in Colorado.
They had IDs taken from employees during the store robbery. Rivas, who Rodriguez said could charm anyone, hoodwinked a former police chief in Pueblo, Colo., purchasing a big RV from him with cash taken in the store robbery. He said Rivas even went to a police supply store, posing as a lawman, and successfully ordered body armor to be used in the Nevada casino heist.
On Jan. 22, 2001, a day after authorities were tipped by a trailer park resident outside Colorado Springs, Colo., Rivas, Rodriguez, Garcia and Randy Halprin were arrested. Harper committed suicide.
"I'd never seen anything like that in my life," Rodriguez said, marveling at the firepower SWAT team officers showed. But he said officers never abused him.
The last two fugitives, Murphy and Donald Newbury, a convicted robber, surrendered two days later in Colorado Springs.
At his capital murder trial, defense lawyers argued Rodriguez should be spared because of sexual abuse he suffered while attending Central Catholic High School in San Antonio.
It was all a lie, he said.
Rodriguez said the clergyman, a Catholic teaching brother, "didn't do a thing to me."
"I felt so horrible, the depth of evil I fell into," he said. "That whole thing, then going gay, that was a lie. It's not true. We just had to come up with something. It was a big fabrication.
"It really bothers me."
He blamed the original crime that landed him in prison for life, the murder-for-hire slaying of his wife in 1992, on "the lust of a coed" he met while taking classes at what then was Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos.
"I can't explain it," he said. "I don't want to hurt my in-laws. My wife was a wonderful person and didn't deserve this. I fell for a coed. It was stupid. I sit in my cell and think: How the heck did I get here?
"But I was a willing participant. You can call it lust ... I really thought I would get off, like a lot of people who are deluded."
Rodriguez insisted he is determined to carry through with the execution.
source: chron.com/Associate Press/Michael Graczyk
Last Meal: fried chicken breast(spicey), Grilled pork steak with unions, bacon cheeseburger with everything,fresh garden salad with french dressing,french fries with ketchup
Final Statement: Yes I do, I know this no way makes up for all the pain and suffering I gave you. I am so so sorry. My punishment is nothing compared to the pain and sorrow I have caused. I hope that someday you can find peace. I am not strong enough to ask for forgiveness because I don't if I am worth. I realize what I've done to you and the pain I've given. Please Lord forgive me. I have done some horrible things. I ask the Lord to please forgive me. I have gained nothing, but just brought sorrow and pain to these wonderful people. I am sorry. So so sorry. To the Sanchez family who showed me love. To the Hawkings family, I am sorry. I know I have affected them for so long. Please forgive me. Irene, I want to thank you and thank your husband Jack. I'll be waiting for you. I am so sorry. To these families I ask forgiveness. Father God I ask you too for forgiveness. I ask you for forgiveness Lord. I am ready to go Lord. Thank you. I am ready to go. My Jesus my Savior there is none like you. All of my days I want to praise, let every breath. Shout to the Lord let us sing.
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Posted: 2008/8/14 22:27 Updated: 2008/8/16 1:46
"Texas Seven" member Michael Anthony Rodriguez executed!!!
"Texas Seven" member Michael Anthony Rodriguez executed
08:44 PM CDT on Thursday, August 14, 2008
By STEVE THOMPSON / The Dallas Morning Newsstevethompson@dallasnews.com
HUNTSVILLE, Texas – They gathered Thursday by the high and foreboding red-brick facade of the Huntsville prison, known as "The Walls." Some had come to witness, some to protest and some to support what was about to happen.
A large white clock set in the bricks struck 5:50 p.m. State prison guards dressed in gray watched the commotion from watchtowers above. One snapped a photo.
Within minutes, officials would give a lethal injection to Michael Rodriguez, the first of the Texas Seven to be executed for their infamous killing of an Irving police officer on Christmas Eve 2000.
"We are here protesting the execution of Michael Rodriguez," shouted 62-year-old Gloria Rubac, holding a yellow banner that said, "Texas Death Penalty: Racist and Anti-poor."
"Because we don't believe the state of Texas has the right to murder people who murder people just to show that murdering is wrong," she yelled.
But at the other end of the wall, wearing blue ribbons, were police officers in uniform and members of the Patriot Guard Riders, a motorcycle gang dressed in leather and denim. Dozens of officers from across the state had come at the request of the dead officer's widow.
Seymour Police Chief Tommy Duncan was one of them.
"I just thought it might be something that I need to do, maybe for myself," he said.
Chief Duncan was shot by a burglar while on duty in 1975.
"Shot me right straight in the face," the chief said. He lost his left eye.
Chief Duncan said he believes in the death penalty – an eye for an eye. "In my case, pretty much literally."
"That could be me," the chief said of Officer Aubrey Hawkins, the 29-year-old husband and father that Mr. Rodriguez helped kill seven years ago.
"We've got to show these people if you assault one of us, you assault all of us," Chief Duncan said.
Ms. Rubac sees it differently. As a member of Houston's Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, she said she can't remember how many executions she's come to protest.
"Maybe 200, maybe more. I've lost count," she said.
In 1993, she said, she witnessed the execution of a friend: "He and another guy robbed one of those money trucks and for some reason the other guy decided to start shooting. So they were both charged with capital murder."
But that's not why she's against the death penalty, she said, explaining it instead this way: "I grew up in the '60s and the civil rights movement."
The condemned man himself, however, disagreed with that point of view. Claiming a religious conversion on death row, he asked for years that his appeals be dropped so that he could face his punishment and stand a better chance at going to heaven.
Before Mr. Rodriguez and six others overpowered workers at a maximum-security prison in South Texas in 2000, he had been serving a life sentence for paying a hit man $2,000 to kill his wife, Theresa Rodriguez, in 1992.
Ms. Rodriguez's sister, Yolanda Dalmolin, and Officer Hawkins' widow, Lori Hawkins-Acosta, were among those who came to witness Mr. Rodriguez's last breath.
At 6:02, Mr. Rodriguez was led to the execution chamber.
"May I speak now?" he asked.
"No, not yet," a prison official answered.
He was strapped to the gurney, and then his executioners pierced his arms with the needles, first the left, then the right.
At 6:10, he began his final words.
"I know this in no way makes up for all the pain and suffering I gave you," he began. "I am so, so sorry."
He looked directly at Ms. Dalmolin and Ms. Hawkins-Acosta.
"My punishment is nothing compared to the pain and sorrow I have caused. ... I am not strong enough to ask for forgiveness because I don't know if I am worthy," he continued.
"I ask the Lord to please forgive me. I have gained nothing, but just brought sorrow and pain to these wonderful people."
He kept apologizing, calling the families by name. He thanked a couple, Irene and Jack, for "helping me find Christ's love." His words turned to song.
"My Jesus, my Savior, there is none like you," he sang softly. "All of my days I want to praise, let every breath. Shout to the Lord, let us sing ...."
His song trailed off and turned to a sound like snoring. It was 6:13, and his lethal dose had begun. He was pronounced dead at 6:20.
They pulled a white sheet over his face.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Posted: 2008/8/7 17:32 Updated: 2008/8/7 17:32
Michael Rodriguez, Member of "Texas 7," Scheduled for Execution
Police Officer's Killer Convicted for Murdering Aubrey Hawkins, Scheduled for Execution
By Pam Brown
Michael Rodriguez, one member of a group of men who escaped from a Texas prison in 2000 known as the "Texas 7" is scheduled for execution on August 14th.
On Christmas eve in December of 2000, Irving police officers responded to a call involving one of their own, Officer Aubrey Hawkins, shot 11 times and killed.
Earlier in the month, on December 13, 2000, seven inmates carried out a plan to overpower corrections workers at the John B. Connally Unit and escaped from the maximum security prison. Rodriguez and the six other inmates took the workers clothes, then grabbed 16 guns from the prison armory and fled the prison in a stolen truck. Eleven days later Officer Hawkins was shot after responding to a call where the escapees were robbing an Irving Oshman's Sporting Goods Store.
Prior to the escape Michael Rodriguez was serving a life sentence for hiring a hit man to kill his wife, Theresa, so he could collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in life insurance money. Michael Rodriguez' brother, Mark, was also convicted for his role in the murder-for-hire plot.
Michael Rodriguez will be the first of the escapees to be executed. Larry James Harper, one of the escapees who had been serving a life sentence for a multiple rapes, committed suicide in Colorado before being captured.
Randy Halprin, George Rivas, Donald Newbury, Patrick Murphy Jr., and Joseph Garcia, the other members of the "Texas 7" all sit on death row awaiting their date with the executioner.
According to the schedule posted on the Death Penalty Resource website, there are 7 executions scheduled nationwide in the month of August, with 6 of those being in the nations busiest death penalty state, Texas. The first inmate scheduled to die this month, Jose Ernesto Medellin, was executed Tuesday night amid international protests. Next up is Heliberto Chi on Thursday August 7th.
Posted: 2008/7/28 7:36 Updated: 2008/7/28 7:36
Tick... Tock... :(
One soon to be down... Five more to go!
Posted: 2008/7/26 0:52 Updated: 2008/7/26 0:52
take your last breath