Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive


Monday, August 9, 1999

MEDIA ADVISORY

AUSTIN - Texas Atorney General John Cornyn offers the following information on Kenneth Dunn who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m., Tuesday, August 10th.

FACTS OF THE CRIME

On March 17, 1980, at approximately 11:00 a.m., Dunn, armed with a handgun, entered Alameda Bank in Harris County, Texas, and approached Ray Valenta, an off duty Houston police officer working as a security guard for the bank. At the time of Dunn's approach, Valenta was engaged in conversation with the receptionist and was unaware of Dunn's presence. Dunn disarmed Valenta and ordered him face down on the floor. Valenta, now relieved of his weapon and staring at Dunn's cocked .45 pistol, obeyed the command.

Greg Putman, a vice president of the bank, testified that he was in the note department giving the department a payment for one of his customers when he noticed Dunn coming towards him wielding two revolvers. When Dunn reached Putman, who was directly behind the teller cages, Dunn had one gun in his hand pointing straight in Putman's face. Putman related that Dunn had a cloth bag in his hand which he dropped on the counter and told him to fill it up and put all the money in the bag.

Dunn, accompanied by Putnam, approached the first teller where Dunn directed the teller to put the money in the bag. After that transaction, Dunn and Putman moved to the next teller window, where the teller was on a lunch break so Putman retrieved the money and they then proceeded to the teller window operated by Madeline Peters. When they arrived at Madeline Peters' window, she was on the computer telephone. Dunn told her to "put all the money in the bag," and simultaneously, with his finger on the trigger and the hammer cocked, placed the gun in the teller cutout. Ms. Peters responded, "what?" With the gun aimed at her, Dunn shot her in the head, killing her.

Dunn was later apprehended in St. Louis, Missouri, where he gave an agent of the F.B.I. a written statement implicating himself in this robbery and shooting.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On July 31, 1980, Dunn was indicted in Harris County, Texas, in cause no. 318866, for the capital murder of Madeline Peters while in the course of committing or attempting to commit robbery on Greg Putnam. In November 1980, Dunn was convicted of the capital offense and sentenced to death. However, in 1987, the Texas

Court of Criminal Appeals reversed Dunn's conviction and sentence because portions of the court reporter's notes were missing and, therefore, a complete transcription of the proceedings could not be made.

The State retried Dunn before a jury upon his plea of not guilty. Dunn elected to represent himself at trial (counsel were appointed to assist Dunn as stand-by counsel). On July 21, 1988, the jury found Dunn guilty of the capital offense. After hearing additional evidence relating to punishment, the jury, on July 22, 1988, answered affirmatively the two special sentencing issues. In accordance with state law, the trial court, the 263rd District Court of Harris County, Texas, assessed Dunn's punishment at death.

Dunn's conviction and sentence of death were automatically appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeals, which affirmed on May 15, 1991, and denied a motion for rehearing on September 18, 1991. The United States Supreme Court denied a petition for writ of certiorari on October 5, 1992.

In November 1992, Dunn filed an application for state writ of habeas corpus. On December 15, 1992, the trial court entered findings of fact and conclusions of law and recommended the denial of relief. On December 16, 1992, the Court of Criminal Appeals determined that the findings were supported by the record and denied relief on the basis of the trial court's findings.

Dunn proceeded into federal court by filing a federal petition for writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. On June 9, 1997, the district court rejected Dunn's claims. On December 2, 1998, after briefing and oral argument by the parties, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas corpus relief. The United States Supreme Court denied a petition for writ of certiorari on April 26, 1999.

PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY

At the punishment phase of trial, the State presented evidence demonstrating that Dunn had committed numerous other robberies where he had threatened those victims' lives with a large caliber revolver. State prison and county jail employees testified that Dunn engaged in a pattern of bad conduct while incarcerated, including fighting, starting fires in his cells, assaulting other inmates (including one who was handcuffed at the time), and assaulting a deputy jailer which resulted in Dunn breaking the jailer's hand.

DRUGS AND/OR ALCOHOL

There was no evidence of drug or alcohol use connected with the instant offense.

SCHEDULED EXECUTIONS

08/11/99 James Otto Earhart (Lee County)
08/17/99 Larry Keith Robison (Tarrant County)
08/18/99 Joe Mario Trevino (Tarrant County)
09/01/99 Raymond James Jones (Jefferson County)
09/10/99 Willis J. Barnes (Harris County)
09/14/99 William Prince Davis (Harris County)
09/21/99 Rickie Wayne Smith (Harris County)
10/21/99 Pedro Sosa (Atascosa County)
11/17/99 John Michael Lamb (Hunt County)
01/13/00 Johnny Paul Penry (Polk County)

MISCELLANEOUS

If this execution is carried out, it will be the 183rd execution since executions resumed in Texas in December 1982 and the 19th since General Cornyn took office.

This case has been handled by Assistant Attorney General Kristy Bates in the Attorney General's Capital Litigation Division.

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Contact Ted Delisi, Heather Browne, or Andrea Horton at (512) 463-2050