Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive


Tuesday, September 18, 2001

MEDIA ADVISORY:

James Roy Knox Scheduled to be Executed

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn offers the following information on James Roy Knox, who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m. on Tuesday, September 18, 2001. On June 22, 1994, Knox was convicted of murdering Joe Sanchez in Galveston, Texas, during the course of a robbery. A summary of the evidence presented at trial follows.

FACTS OF THE CRIME

At approximately 5:30 p.m. on November 10, 1982, Joe Sanchez, a pharmacist, and his assistant, Ronald Dale Dyda, were preparing to close Joe's Pharmacy Center in Galveston when a man appeared at the counter. He pointed a semiautomatic pistol at them and demanded money and drugs. He told them to "get down on the floor." Dyda complied, but Sanchez did not. Sanchez told the man that there were no drugs, and that he would not get away with this crime.

The robber gave Dyda medical tape and told him to tie Sanchez's hands, but he kept pulling his hands apart and Dyda could not bind them. The robber began to get angry.

The robber again told Dyda to tie Sanchez's hands, but he again successfully resisted. The robber got angrier, told them to get behind the counter, and threatened to kill them both. When Dyda turned to go behind the counter, he heard a gun shot. He turned and saw that Sanchez had fallen. Dyda testified that Sanchez never acted aggressively or resisted the man physically.

The robber pointed the gun at Dyda and demanded the money and "class A" drugs. Dyda gave the robber four small, brown bottles of Demerol and money from the cash register. The robber asked if there were more drugs. Dyda said yes, but by the time he had gotten them, the robber had fled. Sanchez died later of a gunshot wound to the heart that severed his spine. The bullet came from either a .38-caliber or 9mm gun.

Three people, Kathleen Austin, Gene Austin, and Robert Clarac, were next door to the pharmacy at a catering shop when they heard what was the gunshot. All three went outside believing the noise may have resulted from a car being hit in the parking lot behind the stores.

Kathleen Austin and Clarac walked outside and down the alley between the pharmacy and the catering shop toward the parking lot. Kathleen noticed a car in the lot with its motor running. The car was old, dark brown, and had a light-colored top. Having seen no damage to her car, she began to walk back to the catering store when a man came running around the corner from the direction of Joe's Pharmacy Center. She described the man as about six feet tall with a thin build, unshaven and scraggly-looking with medium brown hair. After almost running into Kathleen, the man said "Have a nice day." and continued on. Kathleen testified that the man was holding perhaps three brown bottles in his right hand. She said she thought it was unusual that the pharmacist neglected to put a prescription in a bag, so she went to check on the pharmacist, and found he had been shot. Clarac testified that he observed the same events.

Gene Austin, who went out the back door of the catering shop, also described the man and the car in the same manner as Kathleen and Clarac. Gene testified he saw a driver behind the wheel of the car and the unshaven man get into the passenger seat of the car, which drove off in a westerly direction. After learning that the victim had been shot, Gene attempted to follow the brown car, but was unable to keep up.

George Holland, the driver of the getaway car, testified that in October 1982 Knox discussed with him, and two others, Gary Morgan, and Robert Clark, the possibility of robbing employees of a drug store in Galveston, where Knox had lived in 1981. The four were in Alabama at the time. He testified that Knox said the robbery would be a "piece of cake" because there were no cameras in the store, and that they could obtain drugs and money. Holland also testified that he had seen Knox with a small, dark gray semiautomatic .38-caliber pistol.

Not long after this discussion, Gary Morgan went to Houston with Ed Duke to work installing carpet in a department store. A few days later, in November 1982, Knox and Holland followed. Holland testified that they were driving his brother-in-law's 1972 dark brown Chevrolet with a cream-colored top. Upon arriving in Houston, they went to stay at Ed Duke's, where Morgan was also staying.

Knox, Holland, Morgan, and Morgan's girlfriend, Sandra, drove to Joe's Pharmacy in Galveston. Gary and Sandra went inside and ascertained that no cameras were in operation. Knox and Holland waited in the car. After learning about the lack of security, the foursome went to drink beer, and Knox discussed his plan to rob the store employees while Holland drove the car.

The next day, November 10, 1982, Knox and Holland again went to Galveston. They sat around drinking beer until the sun began to go down, then went to the pharmacy. Holland waited out in the back parking lot of the store, and Knox went inside where he shot Sanchez and stole the cash and drugs. Holland testified that Knox took longer than he expected. As they were leaving, Holland stated he saw people coming around the side of the building. Knox then got on the floorboard of the car and directed Holland on how to get out of Galveston. Holland noticed Knox had possession of about three brown pill bottles.

As they were leaving Galveston, Holland testified that Knox said, "The man got ignorant with me. I had to shoot him." When Holland asked him "how bad," Knox replied, "I killed the (expletive deleted)." Shortly thereafter, Holland left for Alabama.

About a week later in Alabama, Knox told a friend, Walter Robert Clark, that he had robbed a pharmacist in Galveston for some Demerol and had to shoot a man, and that the Demerol was in little brown bottles. Clark testified that he knew Knox owned a small, dark .38-caliber automatic pistol, and Knox told him that he buried the gun. Clark also said Knox said Holland drove the car during the robbery.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Knox was first convicted of capital murder on December 5, 1985. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction on September 30, 1987, and the Supreme Court denied his petition for writ of certiorari on June 13, 1988. Knox then filed a state habeas petition, which the Court of Criminal Appeals denied on October 25, 1988.

Knox next filed a federal habeas petition, which the district court denied. On March 28, 1991, the Fifth Circuit reversed the district court and remanded the case with directions to grant the writ, which the district court subsequently did.

Knox was retried and convicted on June 22, 1994, and again assessed the death penalty pursuant to the jury's answers to the special issues. On November 20, 1996, the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed. Knox then filed a state habeas application in the trial court, which conducted an evidentiary hearing and entered findings of fact and conclusions of law and recommended that relief be denied. On October 14, 1998, the Court of Criminal Appeals denied the writ based on the state habeas court's findings and conclusions.

On February 8, 1999, Knox filed a habeas petition in federal district court. On August 23, 1999, that court entered judgment denying the writ, and Knox appealed. On August 21, 2000, the Fifth Circuit affirmed, and on April 16, 2001, the Supreme Court denied Knox's petition for writ of certiorari.

On June 25, Knox filed another state writ application in the trial court; on July 11, the Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed it for abuse of the writ. Knox then filed two motions for leave to file a mandamus petition in the Court of Criminal Appeals on July 13 and August 20; these motions were denied without written order on August 1 and August 22, respectively.

On September 13th, Knox--represented by new counsel--filed another state habeas petition and a motion for a stay of execution. On September 17th, the Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed the petition for abuse of the writ and denied the motion for a stay of execution. On September 17, 2001, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied the motion for stay pending in their court and dismissed the petition for abuse of the writ.

PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY

On December 10, 1973, Knox pled guilty to the felony offense of robbery in state court in Alabama and was sentenced to imprisonment for twelve years. This robbery also involved a pharmacy, where Knox and an accomplice sought "strong drugs," and the use of handguns. During the robbery, Knox seized a customer who was deaf. When he told her a robbery was in progress, she didn't understand what he said, and he hit her and knocked her down, and dragged her to the back of the pharmacy. The pharmacy proprietor and his assistant were subdued with adhesive tape before Knox and his partner fled with drugs and money.

The State presented several witnesses who testified that Knox had bragged to them about having committed other robberies, having shot a couple of people, and having lynched a man in Vidor, Texas.

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