Pursuant to a court order by the 114th District Court in Smith County, Robert Charles Ladd is scheduled for execution after 6 p.m. on Jan. 29, 2015.
In August 1997, a Smith County jury convicted Robert Charles Ladd for the capital murder of Vicki Ann Garner.
FACTS OF THE CRIME
The Court of Criminal Appeals summarized the facts of the crime as follows:
Early on the evening of Sept. 24, 1996, Vicki Ann Garner entertained a friend at Garner’s residence in Tyler. The friend left around 8:15 p.m. Sometime between 9:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. that same evening, [Ladd] met with John T. Robertson at Robertson’s residence in Tyler. Robertson’s residence was located less than one mile from Garner’s residence. [Ladd] gave Robertson several small household appliances and other items in exchange for […] cocaine. One of the appliances was an RCA-brand television-videocassette recorder (TV–VCR), serial number 619320052.
At around 6:45 a.m. the next morning, the Tyler Fire Department received a telephone call reporting a fire at Garner’s residence. Tyler firemen responded immediately and arrived at the residence a few minutes later. The firemen forced open the front and back doors to the residence, which had been locked, and entered. Once inside, they found much smoke but little fire. They also found Garner’s body in a bedroom. She was positioned face down on the floor, naked below the waist, her head and body battered and partially burned, her hands tied together with a cord. There was also a belt around her neck and ligature marks on her ankles. The residence itself appeared to have been ransacked, and the fire appeared to have been deliberately set.
A subsequent search of the residence by Tyler police revealed, among other things, an instruction manual for an RCA-brand TV-VCR. The serial number of the appliance was noted on the instruction manual as 619320052. The police also found a palm print matching [Ladd’s] on a kitchen cabinet.
An autopsy of Garner’s body revealed that she died from manual strangulation. The autopsy also revealed the presence of spermatozoa […]. Tests on that sperm revealed DNA with characteristics that, in many respects, paralleled the characteristics of [Ladd’s] DNA. Such a DNA “match” could be expected from only one male in 170,000.
PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY
Under Texas law, the rules of evidence prevent certain prior criminal acts from being presented to a jury during the guilt-innocence phase of the trial. However, once a defendant is found guilty, jurors are presented information about the defendant’s prior criminal conduct during the second phase of the trial – which is when they determine the defendant’s punishment.
At the punishment phase of Ladd’s trial, the prosecution introduced evidence that Ladd had been convicted of a triple murder in 1978 involving a young mother and her two children. The mother had been stabbed to death, and a fire had been set between her legs. She had suffered extensive thermal injuries to her body. The fire had originated in her genital area, consistent with an attempt to destroy evidence of a sexual assault. She had suffered a ligature trauma to her neck and 10 stab wounds to the neck, chest, and abdomen. Her two children (18 months old and three years old) died of smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning. Thermal injury was an additional cause of death for the three-year-old.
Evidence was also introduced that in 1974, Ladd was previously convicted of unauthorized use of a vehicle.
Ladd was indicted in the 114th District Court of Smith County, Texas, for the capital offense of murdering Vicki Ann Garner during a burglary, robbery, arson, and sexual assault.
On Aug. 23, 1997, a Smith County jury returned a verdict finding Ladd guilty of the offense of capital murder. On Aug. 26, 1997, following a separate punishment hearing, the same jury retuned answers to the special issues submitted at punishment pursuant to Article 37.071 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, and, in accordance with the jury’s findings, the trial court assessed Ladd’s punishment at death by lethal injection.
On Oct. 6, 1999, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Ladd’s conviction and sentence. The appeals court denied Ladd’s state habeas corpus petition on Dec. 15, 1999.
On April 17, 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Ladd’s petition for writ of certiorari.
Ladd then sought federal habeas corpus relief in the district court in Tyler. That court denied the writ on Oct. 24, 2001. Ladd appealed, and on Oct. 24, 2002, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of habeas relief. The U.S. Supreme Court denied Ladd’s petition for writ of certiorari on March 24, 2003, as untimely.
On April 7, 2003, Ladd filed a successive state habeas petition. The Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed Ladd’s successive state habeas petition for abuse of the writ on April 17, 2003. On April 23, 2003, the day of Ladd’s scheduled execution, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals granted Ladd a stay of execution so that he could file a successive federal habeas petition for writ of habeas corpus. On June 20, 2003, Ladd filed his successive federal habeas petition.
An evidentiary hearing related to Ladd’s subsequent federal habeas petition was held in June 2005. More than seven years later, on Feb. 15, 2013, the district court denied habeas relief. Ladd appealed this denial to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit which affirmed the district court’s denial of relief on April 8, 2014.
Ladd filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court which denied certiorari review on Oct. 6, 2014.
For additional information and statistics, please access the Texas Department of Criminal Justice website, www.tdcj.state.tx.us.