Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive


Wednesday, January 26, 2000

MEDIA ADVISORY:

JAMES WALTER MORELAND SCHEDULED TO BE EXECUTED

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn offers the following information on James Walter Moreland who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m., Thursday, January 27th.

FACTS OF THE CRIME

On October 9, 1982, at approximately 11p.m., the bodies of Clinton Abbott and John Cravey were discovered in Cravey's trailer home in Eustace, Texas, by Cravey's ex-wife Charlotte, his son and a neighbor. The victims had been stabbed in the back numerous times. Cravey's body was on the floor by a blood-stained couch in the front room. Abbott's body was in the back bedroom on the floor next to a bed.

Investigators from the Henderson County Sheriff's Department arrived at the scene where they found two bloody knives on top of a dresser in a hallway a few feet from Abbott's body. In addition, Cravey's empty wallet was discovered lying on a small table in the front room and $16 was found in the front pocket of Cravey's pants. Investigators also found Abbott's keys in the grass beside his Pinto. The trailer showed no signs of a struggle. Cravey's ex-wife, who lived across the street, told authorities and later testified that she last saw the victims alive about noon on the day they were murdered and that they had been drinking. She stated that Abbott's brown Pinto arrived in front of the trailer home around 8:00 p.m. Shortly before she discovered the victims, she saw a man trying to leave in Abbott's car. When the car became disabled on a steel rod in a neighbor's yard, the man got out and fled.

On October 12, 1982, authorities obtained two arrest warrants for James Walter Moreland in Henderson County based on their investigation of information they received the day before from Moreland's cousin, David Osborne. On October 13, 1982, local authorities arrested Moreland in Bedford, Indiana. Authorities in Bedford then searched the apartment of Barbara Brown, Moreland's sister, recovering cut-up remnants of Cravey's boots from a trash can. Moreland's father also gave them a medicine bottle with the name "Cravey, Jo" on the label.

After verbally confessing, Moreland gave a written confession to Bedford police. His confession revealed that on the day of the murders he was at home, drinking with his brother, when he decided to go into town for some more drinking. He claimed that he had "probably drank six to eight beers" by that time, which was between 5 and 6 p.m. He started hitchhiking into town when two men, Cravey and Abbott, driving an old car stopped to pick him up. According to Moreland, both of them had been drinking, and continued to drink from a 12-pack of Old Milwaukee beer. He then began to drink again as the three men were driving into town. Moreland stated that "he thought both of these guys were okay and were just having a good time," so he accepted their invitation to return to the driver's trailer home.

Moreland said that upon arrival at the trailer home, all three men entered the living room and continued to drink more beer for another hour and a half. He claimed Abbott left the room at some point, leaving himself and Cravey alone in the living room. Moreland claimed that Cravey began to behave amorously and started putting his hand on Moreland's leg and rubbing it. Moreland said that as he got up off the couch to leave, Cravey grabbed the back of his pants, pulling them about halfway down and causing him to fall to the floor. As he stood up and pulled his pants back up, Cravey followed him into the kitchen. Moreland stated that the man continued to pursue him, so he picked up a knife from the kitchen table and stabbed him. He said he did not remember how many times he stabbed him, but that he did remember that before he picked up the knife, Cravey struck him on top of the head with something. According to Moreland, it was when the man raised his arm to strike him a second time that he picked up the knife. Moreland stated that he thought "it was either him or me," and that the man was going to rape or hurt him. He also said that he didn't know if he had killed Cravey, but just wanted to get out of there. He claimed that when he started for the doorway, Abbott came out of the bedroom and yelled at him. Moreland stated that he panicked, and ran up to Abbott and stabbed him in the doorway of the bedroom. He then went to where Cravey was lying and took the money out of his billfold, in order to "get out of the area." Moreland also related that he took the car keys from the floor of the trailer, but was unable to drive because he was too scared. He revealed that after staying in the woods all night, he entered Dallas the next morning and bought a bus ticket to Bedford, Indiana. Upon his arrival, Moreland's father told him that both men were dead. Until that time, Moreland said he didn't know if he had killed them. He claimed that he was leaving to go back to Texas to turn himself in when police arrested him.

At trial, the state presented medical testimony through the Dallas County Chief Medical Examiner who testified Abbott had a blood-alcohol level of .24 and Cravey had a blood-alcohol level of .19 at the time of their deaths. The medical examiner testified the results of various tests he performed were consistent with his theory that Cravey and Abbott had stopped drinking and probably fallen asleep from one and one-half to two and one-half hours before their deaths. He determined Abbott and Cravey each had seven stab wounds in a small area in the upper middle portion of their backs in a pattern so similar that the two victims were almost confusing in their similarity. Evidence showed the pattern and direction of the back wounds indicated neither victim struggled with his attacker and both victims were under the attacker's control and that the weapon used had punctured their lungs, causing their deaths. The back wounds on Cravey and Abbott were consistent with a sleeping person lying on his stomach on a bed or a couch repeatedly being stabbed by someone standing over him. The medical examiner also discovered shallow, defensive-type wounds on the back of the victims' right hands. Cravey had suffered a superficial stab wound to his front left shoulder, which the medical examiner stated could have been inflicted in a face-to-face confrontation. He said someone receiving the type of back wounds Cravey and Abbott had would be able to move around for a brief period of time before dying.

Moreland testified at trial and corroborated most of his confession; admitting to stabbing Abbott and Cravey numerous times in the back and taking some of their property. He also claimed Cravey gave him a pair of boots, and was wearing them when he left the trailer home. Moreland contradicted his confession on the circumstances of Abbott's death. He claimed that after he finished stabbing Cravey, Abbott ran out of the rear bedroom all the way down the hallway to the entrance of the living room, and was yelling something at him. He testified they met each other at the entrance of the living room, and started fighting. Moreland said Abbott had him by the neck in the hallway while Moreland still held the knife. They wrestled down the hallway into the rear bedroom, and fell on top of the bed. He could not remember how many times he stabbed Abbott. He also testified the money he took was laying on the floor, and that he took the car keys out of Cravey's pocket. On cross-examination, he testified he told the truth when he gave the written confession. The state used Moreland's confession to impeach his trial testimony on the circumstances of Abbott's death.

In his defense, Moreland also presented evidence that Cravey was a heavy drinker and had been arrested twice for public intoxication and once for disorderly conduct within 10 months of his death. The Eustace police chief, James Cook, testified Cravey never became violent during his arrests and was easy to handle when he was intoxicated. In rebuttal, the state presented several witnesses who knew Cravey. They testified he never exhibited homosexual tendencies or made homosexual advances. Other evidence showed Cravey was in poor health, and witnesses described him as being a physically weak person.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On December 1, 1982, Moreland was indicted for the capital murder of Clinton Abbott. Moreland was tried in the 173rd District Court of Henderson County, before a jury upon a plea of not guilty. On June 15, 1983, the jury found him guilty of the capital offense. In accordance with Texas law, the trial court sentenced Moreland to death. Moreland's conviction and sentence were automatically appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which affirmed the conviction and sentence on January 13, 1993. Moreland's petition for writ of certiorari was denied by the United States Supreme Court on June 14, 1993. Moreland originally filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in federal district court on August 26, 1993, and that court dismissed the petition without prejudice due to his failure to exhaust state remedies. Thereafter, he filed an application for writ of habeas corpus with the trial court on March 22, 1996. On July 12, 1996, the Court of Criminal Appeals denied habeas relief. Moreland filed his second federal petition for writ of habeas corpus on November 12, 1996. The district court denied the petition December 11, 1997. Moreland filed a notice of appeal which the district court denied permission March 30, 1998. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief May 10, 1999. Moreland's subsequent petition for writ of certiorari in the Supreme Court was denied October 12, 1999, and rehearing was denied November 29, 1999. Moreland's clemency petition is currently pending, and he has requested permission to file a third federal habeas petition from the Fifth Circuit as of January 21, 2000.

PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY

Moreland testified at trial that he had been charged with burglarizing two homes in Texas when he was 17, pled out of one burglary charge and was placed on felony probation for five years in the other charge. Within one week of being placed on probation for the Texas burglary, Moreland burglarized a Texaco station in Florida and stole a truck. He was placed on probation for five years for the Florida incident. Moreland also testified to committing several misdemeanor offenses in Indiana in 1977 and 1978 for illegal consumption and possession of alcohol, public intoxication and resisting arrest.

DRUGS AND/OR ALCOHOL

Moreland testified that the only times he had problems with the law was when he had been drinking. He attended a drug abuse center in Florida but quit after a month. Moreland denied he had a drug or alcohol problem. However, his confession revealed that he had consumed "six to eight beers" before meeting the victims, and that he continued to consume alcohol with the deceased prior to their deaths.

SCHEDULED EXECUTIONS

02/23/2000 Cornelius Alan Goss (Dallas County)
02/24/2000 Betty Lou Beets (Henderson County)
03/01/2000 Odell Barnes, Jr. (Wichita County)
03/15/2000 Timothy Lane Gribble (Galveston County)
03/22/2000 Dennis Bagwell (Atascosa County)
04/12/2000 Orien Cecil Joiner (Lubbock County)
04/26/2000 Robert Earl Carter (Bastrop County)
04/27/2000 Robert J. Neville, Jr. (Tarrant County)
05/03/2000 Caruthers Alexander (Bexar County)

MISCELLANEOUS

If this execution is carried out, it will be the 206th execution since executions resumed in Texas in December 1982 and the 42nd since General Cornyn took office. The federal court litigation in this case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Kristen Bates of the Attorney General's Capital Litigation Division.

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Contact Mark Heckmann, Heather Browne, or Tom Kelley at (512) 463-2050