Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive

Tuesday, May 14, 2002

MEDIA ADVISORY

Ronford Lee Styron Scheduled to be Executed

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn offers the following information on Ronford Lee Styron, who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 16, 2002.

On Oct. 27, 1994, Ronford Lee Styron was sentenced to death for the capital murder of Lee Hollace Styron in Liberty County, Texas, on Oct. 23, 1993. A summary of the evidence presented at trial follows.

FACTS OF THE CRIME

On Oct. 23, 1993, Ronford Lee Styron punched his 11-month-old son, Lee Hollace Styron, at least three times in the head and face, causing him to black out and act abnormally thereafter. Styron did not take the infant to the hospital until the child's condition worsened three days later. The infant died as a result of subdural hemorrhaging due to trauma to the head. Any one of the three blows could have caused the death.

The fatal injuries were the culmination of a long pattern of abusive behavior directed at the 11-month-old victim, including punching him in the face, dunking him in ice water, squeezing him hard enough to break his ribs, and shaking him hard enough to cause retinal hemorrhages. The victim's older injuries included at least 10 broken bones. Styron also stuffed tape into the child's mouth to quiet him and palmed the child's head like a basketball, thus dangling the child like a puppet.

Styron demonstrated little concern for the condition of the infant either before or during his final hospitalization. When advised by police that Lee Hollace was not expected to live, Styron showed no remorse or sign of being upset.

Styron was the child's primary caregiver. Living conditions in his home were filthy and Styron's other baby was not in good condition at the time of the victim's death. Styron's abusive treatment of the victim was motivated by Styron's anger at his wife for allegedly having an affair and Styron's expressed opinion that the victim was not his biological child.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Styron was indicted on Dec. 1, 1993, in the 253rd Judicial District Court of Liberty County, Texas, for the capital offense of murdering Lee Hollace Styron, an individual less than six years of age, on Oct. 23, 1993. Styron was tried before a jury upon a plea of not guilty, and on Oct. 24, 1994, the jury found him guilty of the capital offense. On Oct. 27, 1994, following a separate punishment hearing, the jury answered affirmatively the first special sentencing issue, and negatively the second special issue. In accordance with state law, the trial court assessed Styron's punishment at death.

Styron's conviction and sentence were automatically appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which affirmed in an unpublished opinion. On April 29, 1997, that court appointed James F. Keegan to represent Styron on state habeas corpus review. Styron filed his original application for writ of habeas corpus in the state trial court on Sept. 17, 1997, raising 43 grounds for relief. On Feb. 24, 1998, the state trial court issued findings of fact and conclusions of law recommending that relief be denied on Styron's original application. In an unpublished order issued on April 29, 1998, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals adopted the trial court's findings and conclusions and denied habeas corpus relief.

On June 11, 1998, Styron filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Tyler Division. On March 5, 1999, the district court granted the Director's motion for summary judgment and denied Styron's request for federal habeas relief. An addendum to the memorandum opinion and order, also denying relief, was issued on April 14, 1999. On May 20, 1999, the district court granted in part Styron's application for a certificate of appealability.

In May 1999 Styron filed a notice of appeal and requested expansion of the certificate of appealability. On Dec. 28, 2000, the Fifth Circuit entered an order carrying Styron's motion for COA with the case. On Aug. 15, 2001, the Fifth Circuit denied Styron's request for COA, and affirmed the district court's denial of habeas corpus relief in a published opinion. On Aug. 8, 2001, Styron filed a motion for rehearing which the Fifth Circuit denied on Sept.10, 2001.

On Nov. 30, 2001, Styron filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court. On Feb. 25, 2002, the United States Supreme Court denied certiorari.

On March 17, 2002, Styron filed a pro se original petition for federal habeas corpus relief in the United States Supreme Court. The petition was docketed by the Court clerk as an extraordinary writ. The Director filed a brief opposing the grant of habeas relief on grounds the issues raised in the pro se petition had already been raised before and rejected by the Supreme Court. Styron's pro se petition is still pending.

CRIMINAL HISTORY

Styron's documented criminal history reflects that he had been in trouble with the law several times prior to the 1993 capital murder of Lee Hollace Styron that ended in his sentence of death.

  • On April 18, 1991, Styron was convicted and sentenced to one year of probation for carrying a weapon by the County Criminal Court at Law of Harris County, Texas.
  • On June 8, 1999, Styron was convicted and sentenced to one year of probation for assault by the County Criminal Court at Law of Harris County, Texas.

In addition, the jury learned that:

  • Styron had a reputation for being a schoolyard bully and for provoking fights with classmates beginning in the seventh grade. At least one of his victims required medical attention and at least one of his attacks resulted in his expulsion from school.
  • Styron was discharged from the military for punching his sergeant. He had problems with authority figures in his civilian employment and physically threatened several people while on the job.
  • Styron had a reputation in his neighborhood for being overly aggressive. Neighbors reported that Styron participated in a violent street riot, that he had been observed taking out his anger on his car, firing a gun at it, kicking it, etc., and that he had made an unprovoked physical attack upon one of his neighbors which broke the man's jaw.
  • Styron had been arrested for an incident on the freeway in Houston in which he pointed a pistol at the passengers in another vehicle, and later started a fist fight with the driver on the side of the freeway.

MISCELLANEOUS

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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