2 scheduled to die this week One convicted of killing a woman; the other of murdering a girl, 12 By MIKE TOLSON HOUSTON CHRONICLE June 27, 2010
Texas is set to send two men to the execution chamber on consecutive nights this week for murders committed in Montgomery County a decade ago.
Barring successful last-minute appeals, Jonathan Green will be executed on Wednesday and Michael Perry will be executed on Thursday. Perry, 28, claims the confession he gave authorities was beaten out of him or otherwise coerced while he was in a drugged-out stupor. He said he could not have had a role in the death of a woman he was accused of shooting in October 2001 for a simple reason: He was in jail at the time.
"The whole case is a joke and I'm about to be murdered because of it," Perry said in a recent death row interview. "I did not cause the death of anyone. I know that I'm innocent. If the people helping me can see it, why can't the DA and courts see it?"
Green, who did not agree to an interview, was found guilty of abducting, raping and strangling a 12-year-old girl in June 2000. Those working to save him insist he is borderline mentally retarded and also suffers from schizophrenia. They claim his mental illness has become so severe that he is not competent to be executed.
"There have been signs of mental illness since he's been on death row," said appellate attorney James Rytting, who will present evidence to halt the execution at a court hearing today in Conroe. "He hears voices, and he has shoved wads of toilet paper in his ear to stop them."
Mental health experts for the defense and prosecution have differing opinions on Green's competence. Prosecutors also point to a recent letter Green sent to Mongomery DA Brett Ligon outlining his complaints about his trial and the case against him as evidence of his rational state. The law requires that an inmate have a rational understanding of why he is being executed in order for it to take place. The question of whether Green does is the lone remaining legal issue, Rytting said. Mental illness per se is not a bar to execution.
Mother: 'He needs to die'
Green was convicted in the death of Christina LeAnn Neal, who disappeared while walking home in the rural community of Dobbin on June 21, 2000. A onetime star running back for Montgomery High School, Green was accused of grabbing the girl shortly after she left a friend's house that was about 100 yards away from his residence.
Authorities looking into the disappearance learned that Green had burned a pile of trash on his property after the girl's abduction. When investigators began to probe the area around the burned trash, Green ordered them off his property.
They returned shortly with a search warrant, saw a freshly dug hole near the old trash pile and began a thorough search of the premises. Neal's body was found in a gray blanket stuffed into a laundry bag behind a chair in his home.
"Justice needs to be served and he needs to die," said Laurie Neal, Christina's mother. "He knew what he was doing. He went across the highway and grabbed Christina. She wasn't more than 200 yards from home. For somebody to do all that — to grab her, bury her behind his house, then burn trash on top of it and almost get away with the perfect murder - that's not a crazy person."
Neal described her slain daughter as a typical 12-year-old, a "sweet child" who would never hurt anyone.
"She liked the simple things," her mother said. "She liked playing basketball, she liked horses and animals, she liked cooking with me on holidays. We just had a memorial service for her. It's been 10 long years since she died. It was just like somebody ripped our heart out. Our family is not complete. It will never be complete."
Perry confessed to authorities that he killed 50-year-old Sandra Stotler in her home in the Bentwater subdivision near Conroe on Oct. 24, 2001, then later recanted. He claims he was in jail on an unrelated traffic charge at the time that the state's medical examiner pinpointed the time of death - Oct. 26 - and thus could not be the killer. He blames his former friend and co-defendant, Jason Aaron Burkett, for the shotgun shooting of Stotler and later Stotler's son, Adam, and Adam's friend, Jeremy Richardson.
'Slip of the tongue'
The issue is a red herring, said Bill Delmore, an appellate specialist with the Montgomery County District Attorney's office. He said the forensic evidence did not place an upper limit on how long Sandra Stotler, whose body was found in a nearby lake on Oct. 27, had been dead.
"He started off testifying she had been dead at least 24-36 hours," Delmore said. "He dropped the 'at least.' It was an inadvertent slip of the tongue. They took that and ran with it, but their argument was completely rejected by the courts. There is a ton of evidence corrorborating the timeline set out in Perry's confession."
Delmore said neither Perry nor his lawyers have a credible explanation for why he was seen driving her car on Oct. 24, why she did not show up for work the next day or was ever heard from again, or why he bonded out of jail on the traffic charges by using Adam Stotler's identity. "I remain absolutely convinced of Perry's guilt," Delmore said. "He was seen driving her car that night, Wednesday the 24th. The following day he showed the car to a fellow that ran a tattoo shop and said that he had killed somebody."
Perry's lawyers claim Burkett, convicted of capital murder in the boys' deaths and sentenced to life in prison, was also behind the woman's murder and brought the car to Perry. They produced an affidavit from a jail inmate who claimed Burkett had bragged to him that he had killed all three. Perry and Burkett were arrested following a car chase and shootout on Oct. 30.
"There's no doubt he was making bad decisions at the time," said appeals lawyer Jessica Mederson. "It does not mean he was guilty of murdering someone."
Mederson and her co-counsel, David Woodcock, said Perry's confession, which they claim is false, has colored his trial and appeals to the point that none of the evidence or conflicts they have raised have been taken seriously.
For his part, Perry acknowledges that his life was "out of control" at the time. He admits years of erratic behavior and rampant substance abuse that inflicted misery on his parents, and claims that an undiagnosed bipolar disorder may have been behind it. Prison was the best thing that happened to him, he said, except that it will end with what he insists is an unjustified execution.
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