Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive



Friday, May 26, 2000

MEDIA ADVISORY:

ROBERT EARL CARTER SCHEDULED TO BE EXECUTED

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn offers the following information on Robert Earl Carter who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m., Wednesday, May 31st.

In Feb. of 1994, Robert Earl Carter was found guilty and sentenced to death for the 1992 murders of six people, one of whom was his 4-year-old son.

FACTS OF THE CRIME

In the early morning hours of Aug. 18, 1992, firefighters responded to a house fire in Somerville, Burleson County, Texas. Inside the house, the bodies of Bobbie Davis (age 45), Nicole Davis (age 16), Lea Erin Davis (age 5), Brittany Davis (age 6), Jason Davis (age 4), and Denitra Davis (age 9) were discovered. Autopsies of the victims showed that Bobbie was stabbed at least 29 times in the head and neck, all of which penetrated her brain. Nicole was shot five times in the head and was stabbed in the head and chest. Lea Erin, Brittany, Jason, and Denitra were each stabbed in the head and chest between seven to 13 times The fire, which caused extensive damage to the home and to the bodies of the victims, was determined to have been set by someone pouring gasoline or a similar substance in each bedroom and living room, as well as on each body, and then igniting it.

Robert Earl Carter, who was employed as a state prison guard, was the father of Jason Davis. Denitra was Jason's half-sister, and Bobbie was Jason's maternal grandmother. The other three victims lived with Jason and Denitra in the same home, which was owned by Bobbie. Jason's mother, Lisa Davis, also lived with her mother, Bobbie, but she was at work the time of the murders. On Aug. 6, 1992, Lisa Davis had filed a paternity suit against Carter seeking child support in excess of the $100 per month he had been voluntarily paying for Jason's support. Carter was served with the paternity lawsuit on Aug. 14.

Carter's wife, who went by the nickname Cookie, received news of the fire and six deaths shortly after she reported to work at about 6 a.m. on the morning of the fire. A co-worker called Carter at home to come get Cookie, who was very upset, but Carter hung up without comment. A supervisor subsequently called Carter. The co-worker testified it normally takes 15-20 minutes to drive from Carter's residence to the Brenham State School, where she and Cookie worked, but Carter did not arrive until 30-45 minutes after being called.

The co-worker also testified she saw Carter arrive and that he wore a baseball cap pulled down on his head and a long sleeved- jogging suit. She testified Carter kept his hands in his pockets and had "splotches" on his face. Later that afternoon, Carter was treated for recent second-degree burns to his left palm, both ears, and nose by Dr. Mark English.

The next day, Aug. 19, Carter told Lisa Davis that he had been burned when, while mowing his lawn, he had ignited some gasoline that he had thrown on the grass and the fire blew up in his face. During a follow-up visit to Dr. English's office on Aug. 21, Cookie told one of the attending nurses that she did not want Carter's ears to be bandaged because he would "stand out at the funeral" they planned to attend the next day. The funeral service for the victims was held in the gymnasium of the local high school on the Saturday following the deaths, Aug. 22. Photographs and videotapes of a man identified as Carter with bandages on his face in attendance at the funeral were introduced at trial. Several individuals, including police officers, testified they saw Carter, with bandages on his face, at the funeral.

After the funeral service, Carter, accompanied by Cookie, voluntarily drove to the Brenham DPS office at the request of Texas Rangers. Rangers interviewed Carter concerning his burns. Carter told the Rangers that he had accidentally burned himself on the morning of Aug. 18 while attempting to burn some grass with gasoline. The Rangers then went to Carter's residence to verify his story. The Rangers found a small patch of burned grass, immediately adjacent to the front porch of Carter's house. However, the burned area was six inches wide by three and one-half feet long; nothing of the nature to have caused Carter's burns. When they returned, the Rangers told Carter that they did not believe his story. Carter then agreed to accompany the three Rangers to the DPS regional office in Houston for further questioning. After three hours of questioning, Carter retracted his earlier story about his burns. He then gave a taped statement saying he was with Anthony Graves, who is Cookie's cousin, at the scene of the murders and was burned inside the residence or near the front door of the residence after it was set on fire.

In the taped statement, Carter claimed he and Graves drove to the house and Graves went inside. After he heard a shout, he went in the house and saw Bobbie Davis lying in the living room and heard screams from within the house. He claimed he saw blood everywhere and saw Graves go from room to room. Then it got "all calm" and he observed Graves "pouring gas everywhere" from a gas can. He claimed he then left and reentered the house where he was burned. Upon leaving the scene, the gas can was thrown out the window. Later in his statement, Carter said he burned his clothes and threw the remains in the trash. He admitted he saw blood all over Bobbie Davis, who was slumped over. He also admitted hearing gun shots from the back bedroom and seeing three other dead bodies, one of whom was his son, Jason. He admitted the story about getting burned while using gas to burn grass was an "excuse."

The next day, Aug. 23, a search of Carter's residence revealed a box of .22 caliber bullets. A fingerprint on the box matched Carter's right thumb print. An FBI agent determined that one of the bullets removed from Nicole's body had the same elemental composition as two of the unfired bullets contained in the box from Carter's residence. The agent stated that the bullet recovered from Nicole's body and the two unfired bullets came from the same box of ammunition or from two different boxes of ammunition that were manufactured by Winchester Western on the same day.

Three days later, Aug. 26, Carter testified before the Burleson County grand jury that was investigating the murders. Although Carter told the grand jurors that he had fabricated the story he had told the Rangers in the tape recorded statement, he added additional details to the alleged fabricated story and, under questioning, would confirm details of his tape recorded statement. Carter also said that he had spoken with Graves in the jail before testifying to the grand jury, and knew that Graves had previously testified before the grand jury. Carter told the grand jurors that he was concerned about the financial burden of increased child support that probably would be the result of Lisa Davis' paternity suit. He also testified he had owned a .22 pistol but it had been stolen six months before the murders. He did not report the theft to his wife or to the police. He did admit he was at the site of the murders that night and he had driven to Houston a day or so later to trade in the Sunbird he drove that night. He conceded that, on Aug. 22, during questioning by the Rangers, he had asked several times to talk to the district attorney in order to "make a deal."

Gregory Burns, confined in the Burleson County jail on a charge of attempted murder, testified that his cell was near the separate cells in which Graves and Carter were confined. Burns testified he heard Carter tell Graves, "We shouldn't have done it," and Graves respond, "Well, why did you put my name in it?"

After he was convicted and sentenced to death for these murders, Carter testified at Graves' trial for capital murder. Carter testified that he and Graves went to the Davis home in the early morning hours of Aug. 18. Carter was armed with a hammer and a .22 pistol. Graves had a knife. Upon entering the residence, Carter hit Bobbie Davis with the hammer then Graves began stabbing her. Nicole suddenly appeared and Carter chased her into a bedroom where he shot her several times. Carter said he then went outside and retrieved a gas can from his car. He reentered the house, pouring gasoline on Bobbie and in the living room where she was located. He then went to the bedroom where he had shot Nicole and poured gasoline on her and another body he found there. He proceeded to the two other bedrooms, pouring gasoline on the bodies he found in each room. Carter said he burned himself while attempting to flee from the fire.

After getting Cookie from her job, Carter said he burned a small patch of grass at his residence and threw himself on the fire to re-burn himself. Observing that his car had dried blood all over it, Carter cleaned the blood off the car with gasoline. Carter then gathered the clothes he had been wearing during the murders and the weapons he and Graves had used and drove to a rural area. Carter burned his clothes at one location, then disposed of the pistol, knife, and hammer at separate locations. A day or two later, Carter traded in the vehicle he drove during the murders for a new car. Prior to testifying before the grand jury, Carter said that Graves physically and verbally threatened him when the two were in jail. As a result, Carter said he told the grand jurors that he had fabricated his statements to the Rangers that Graves was involved. Several people testified at Graves' trial that they had overheard Carter and Graves talking in jail where the two discussed the need to protect Cookie from being implicated in the murders.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

In Sept. 1992, Carter was indicted in the 21st District Court of Burleson County, Texas, for the capital offense of murdering six individuals during the same criminal transaction. The case was tried on a change of venue to Bastrop County, Texas, where Carter entered a plea of not guilty. A jury found Carter guilty of the capital offense on Feb.8, 1994. A separate punishment hearing ensued, and, on Feb.11, 1994, the jury answered affirmatively the first two special punishment issues and answered in the negative the third special punishment issue submitted pursuant to state law. The trial court assessed punishment at death.

Appeal was automatic to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which affirmed the conviction and sentence on May 8, 1996, and denied rehearing on June 26, 1996. The United States Supreme Court denied certiorari review on Feb. 24, 1997. Carter next filed an application for state writ of habeas corpus with the convicting court on Oct. 6, 1997, which was denied by the Court of Criminal Appeals on Nov. 19, 1997. Carter did not petition the Supreme Court for certiorari review. Carter next filed a federal habeas petition in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division, on Aug. 28, 1998.

On Mar. 18, 1999, the district court entered an order denying habeas relief. Carter timely filed notice of appeal, and the district court granted Carter permission to appeal two issues.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court on Nov. 2, 1999, and denied rehearing on Dec. 22, 1999. Carter next filed a petition for writ of certiorari which is pending before the Supreme Court.

PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY

No evidence of prior convictions was presented at trial.

DRUGS AND/OR ALCOHOL

No evidence was presented demonstrating that the instant offense was attributable to drug or alcohol use.

SCHEDULED EXECUTIONS 06/01/2000 Ricky Nolen McGinn (Brown County)
06/12/2000 Thomas Wayne Mason (Smith County)
06/14/2000 Leonard Uresti Rojas (Johnson County)
06/14/2000 John Albert Burks (McLennan County)
06/15/2000 Paul Selso Nuncio (Hale County)
06/28/2000 Joe Lee Guy (Hale County)

MISCELLANEOUS

If this execution is carried out, it will be the 218th execution since executions resumed in Texas in December 1982 and the 54th since General Cornyn took office. This case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Tommy Skaggs of the Capital Litigation Division.

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