Milton Mathis executed for Houston double slaying
MICHAEL GRACZYK, Associated Press
Updated 08:22 p.m., Tuesday, June 21, 2011
HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — Convicted killer Milton Mathis was executed Tuesday evening for fatally shooting two people inside a Houston crack house in 1998, becoming the sixth death row inmate executed in Texas this year.
The lethal injection was carried out after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected appeals that contended Mathis was mentally impaired and therefore ineligible for the death penalty. The execution was delayed about a half hour after defense attorneys made a last-ditch appeal for a say from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, but the state's top criminal appeals court denied the request.
Mathis, 32, was pronounced dead at 6:53 p.m. in the death chamber at the Huntsville Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. He was among at least nine Texas inmates with execution dates in the coming weeks.
Mathis was condemned for a shooting spree that killed Travis Brown III, 24, and Daniel Hibbard, 31, less than two weeks before Christmas in 1998. A 15-year-old girl also was shot and paralyzed. At the time of the shooting, Mathis was on probation for aggravated robbery.
His lawyers told the Supreme Court in an appeal filed Monday that his claims of mental impairment hadn't been reviewed by any federal court because of a "procedural quagmire" and "freakish coincidence" of state and federal legal issues involving the timing of his appeals. Attorney Lee Kovarsky also argued that if Mathis was executed, he likely would have the lowest IQ of any Texas inmate put to death since the Supreme Court nine years ago barred execution of the mentally impaired.
One test cited in Mathis' appeals put his IQ as low as 62, below the threshold of 70 considered by the courts to be the level for deciding mental impairment. Other tests showed Mathis' IQ considerably higher.
State attorneys cited a federal appeals court ruling declaring it was a "mystery how Mathis could have scored 10-20 points higher on his IQ test before trial as compared to after his conviction." The low test results could be the result of his heavy drug use, including PCP and "Fry," a marijuana cigarette soaked in embalming fluid laced with PCP, alcohol and codeine cough syrup, state attorneys said.
State lawyers who opposed the reprieve argued Mathis was not mentally impaired and that his claims were thoroughly litigated in a state court proceeding which included an evidentiary hearing with expert defense witnesses and legal assistance for Mathis.
"Mathis has already been afforded the requested relief in state court — review of his mental retardation claim — he fails to demonstrate that his right to further review is clear and indisputable," Laura Grant Turbin, an assistant Texas attorney general, told the Supreme Court.
Mathis testified at his 1999 trial he wasn't at the scene of the shooting, even though his lawyers had told jurors he was there. After meeting with his attorneys, he changed his testimony to acknowledge he was present, explaining he was afraid when he didn't initially tell the truth.
He said he shot Brown in self-defense because Brown had threatened to shoot him. And he said he panicked and opened fire on Hibbard and the now-paralyzed girl, Melanie Almaguer. Testimony from the girl's mother showed he also tried to shoot her but his gun was out of bullets.
Evidence showed before he fled, Mathis set fire to Brown's room and then stole Brown's Cadillac.
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