Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive
Wednesday, April 17, 2002
Gerald Dwight Casey Scheduled to be Executed
AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn offers the following information on Gerald Dwight Casey, who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 18, 2002.
On Nov. 13, 1991, Gerald Dwight Casey was sentenced to death for the capital murder of Sonya Howell, which occurred during the course of his committing robbery in Montgomery County, Texas, on July 10, 1989. A summary of the evidence presented at trial follows.
FACTS OF THE CRIME
On July 7, 1989, Casey and his accomplice, Carla Smith, visited Daryl Pennington at his home and attempted to sell him furniture and a television set in an effort to raise the money they needed to move from Texas to Florida. When Pennington refused the sale, Casey and Smith formulated a plan to steal Pennington's gun collection and sell it for cash. The gun collection, which included one .22-caliber semiautomatic Ruger, one 30.06 Browning rifle with a scope, one 300 Browning rifle with a scope, two semiautomatic assault rifles, one HK-91 assault rifle, one 8200 Browning double barrel shotgun, and one Mossbery pump, was kept at Pennington's residence that he shared with the victim, Sonya Howell. In one of three prior visits to the Pennington/Howell residence, Casey had an opportunity to observe and fire several of the guns in Pennington's collection.
Smith testified at trial that, as part of their plan, she was going to call Howell the morning of July 10, 1989, after Pennington had gone to work to make sure that Howell was home alone. Then, she and Casey would go to the Pennington/Howell residence, subdue, bind and gag Howell, and steal the guns. They decided that after the robbery they would leave Howell in the woods so Pennington would believe that Howell was the one who had taken the guns. Finally, they would sell the guns for cash and flee to Florida.
In the early morning hours of July 10, 1989, Smith called Howell as planned to confirm that Pennington was not at home. After concluding that Howell was alone, Smith told her that she and Casey were coming over to do some "partying." Before going to the Pennington/Howell residence, Casey and Smith stopped at Coleman's, a local convenience store, where Casey wrote down the number for the store's pay phone. Smith then dropped Casey off at the Pennington/Howell residence and returned to Coleman's to wait for Casey's call. A short time later, Casey phoned Smith on the pay phone and told her to come pick him up. Smith drove by the residence but did not see Casey. After driving by a second time, Smith noticed Casey emerging from a wooded area near the residence. She also noticed that he was wearing a different shirt and was carrying the shirt he had worn earlier. The shirt was covered in blood that was later determined to be consistent with that of Sonya Howell. Casey also had with him several guns, two imitation Rolexes, a gold nugget ring, a class ring, other assorted jewelry, and an "Ozarka" water jug containing loose change. Once the stolen items were placed in the back seat of Casey's car, they left the area. Shortly thereafter, they stopped in an unpopulated subdivision to move the guns, jewelry and bloody shirt to the trunk of the car.
Casey and Smith returned to their motel room and began removing the change from the water jug. They went to the bank to obtain coin wrappers, then began rolling coins. After a short time, Casey and Smith went to Kehoe's, a local bar, where Casey made several attempts to sell the stolen guns. While at the bar, Casey made several phone calls and asked the employees and patrons of Kehoe's if they were interested in purchasing weapons. Eventually, Smith and Casey moved the guns to William's Gully, a remote area of Harris County, where they also left the bloodstained shirt, a white towel and green washrag, each soiled with blood, various unused rounds of ammunition, and a can of WD-40, used to remove the fingerprints from the stolen weapons. Later, when police searched the motel room they found several of the stolen items, including the gold ring, two imitation Rolex watches, and assorted rolled coins. Pennington identified these items as those that were stolen from his home on July 10, 1989.
Sonya Howell's body was discovered by police on the evening of July 10, 1989. It was determined that she had been hit on the head with a telephone receiver and that she died as a result of 10 wounds inflicted by nine bullets. It was also determined that hair samples taken from Casey matched the unknown hair samples found on the victim's body, and that blood stains on the washrag and shirt found at William's Gully matched the blood type of the victim.
In addition to this evidence, there was testimony from several witnesses who encountered Casey on the day of the offense and the week following. Daniel Nee, a daytime bartender at Kehoe's Bar, testified that around 11:00 a.m. or 12:00 p.m. on Monday, July 10, 1989, Casey approached him several times about purchasing some guns. Ricky Taylor testified that he purchased a Ruger from Casey while in the parking lot at Kehoe's later that afternoon. Robert Lindy Lane stated that he purchased an HK-91 assault rifle and semiautomatic assault rifles from Casey shortly after July 10, 1989. When purchasing these weapons, Lane noticed several other guns and a Rolex watch, all of which resembled the items stolen from Pennington. Gomercindo Santana testified that he bought a .22-caliber Ruger pistol from Casey. The guns sold to Santana and Taylor were recovered and identified by Pennington as weapons stolen from his collection. Ballistics experts testified that at least five, if not all of the bullets were probably fired from the Ruger recovered from Santana.
On July 26, 1989, a grand jury indicted Casey in the District Court of Montgomery County, Texas, for the capital offense of murdering Sonya Howell in the course of committing the offense of robbery. After Casey pleaded not guilty, a jury found him guilty of the capital offense on Oct. 28, 1991. Following a separate punishment hearing, on Nov. 12, 1991, the court assessed Casey's punishment at death.
Casey's conviction and sentence were automatically appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas, which affirmed in an unpublished opinion on June 22, 1994. Casey filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, which was denied on March 20, 1995.
Casey filed a preliminary application for writ of habeas corpus in the trial court on April 28, 1997. He filed an amended application on Aug. 20, 1995. The trial court subsequently entered findings of fact and conclusion of law recommending that Casey's application be denied. The Court of Criminal Appeals then adopted the trial court's findings and denied the application in an unpublished order on March 4, 1998.
Following the Texas court's denial of his state writ, Casey filed a skeletal federal habeas petition in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, on July 13, 1998. An amended petition was filed on March 8, 1999. The federal district court denied habeas relief on March 8, 2000. Casey applied to the Fifth Circuit for a certificate of appealability, but was denied when the court of appeals affirmed the district court's judgment. Thereafter, Casey filed a petition for certiorari in the United State Supreme Court. That petition is currently pending.
PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY
During the trial, the State proved that Casey had several prior convictions for which he served time in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice - Institutional Division. On March 29, 1976, he entered a guilty plea to the charge of burglary to a building and was placed on six years probation. His probation was revoked on Nov. 8, 1976 when he pleaded true to several alleged probation violations. In pleading true to these allegations, Casey admitted committing the following offenses: possession of heroin; possession of marijuana; burglary of a building; theft; and assault on a police officer. That same day, Casey entered a guilty plea to the charge of burglary of a habitation and received a five year sentence. Several years later, on Jan. 21, 1980, he pleaded guilty to burglary of a habitation and was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. Finally, on Feb. 9, 1989, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor possession of marijuana and received a 15 year sentence.
For additional information and statistics, please log on to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice website, www.tdcj.state.tx.us.
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