Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive

Friday, Sept. 27, 2002

MEDIA ADVISORY

James Rexford Powell Scheduled to be Executed

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn offers the following information on James Rexford Powell, who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2002.

On June 6, 1991, James Rexford Powell was sentenced to die for the capital murder of Falyssa Van Winkle, which occurred on Oct. 6, 1990. A summary of the evidence presented at trial follows.

FACTS OF THE CRIME

On the morning of Saturday, Oct. 6, 1990, Joe and Elaine Langley were working with their 10-year-old daughter, Falyssa, at a flea market in Beaumont. Joe Langley saw James Rexford Powell, an acquaintance, at 9 a.m. for about 10 to 15 minutes. Langley also saw Powell talk to Falyssa. Around 10 a.m., Falyssa left to buy a bag of peanuts; a little while later, Powell came by and indicated he was leaving. Langley did not see Falyssa or Powell again. A vendor saw Powell near the peanut stand around 10 a.m., and another recalled seeing a motor home identified as Powell's, leaving the market between 10 and 10:30 a.m.

Between noon and 1 p.m., Powell's motor home was seen traveling on a dirt road toward Bon Weir, a town northeast of Beaumont in Newton County, near the Louisiana border. The vehicle was also spotted near a bridge on a dirt road. About 3:15 p.m., Falyssa's body was found under the bridge.

A rope was tied tightly around Falyssa's neck and wrists, and her ankles were determined to have also been tied together with a rope at some point in time. The cause of death was determined to be "mechanical asphyxiation associated with homicidal ligature strangulation." Falyssa had also sustained a head injury and sexual assault. Because Powell's motor home matched the description of the one several witnesses saw near the bridge on the day of the murder, law enforcement investigators obtained a warrant to search the vehicle.

The next day, a neighbor of Powell's observed him washing the inside, outside and underside of his motor home. Despite the cleansing, the search of the vehicle produced white dog hairs that matched a similar hair that was found on Falyssa's body. Law enforcement officers also found six "forcibly removed" hairs that matched Falyssa's head hair. Tire tracks at the crime scene matched the tires on Powell's motor home. DNA test results revealed that sperm found in Falyssa's body matched the DNA of Powell's blood.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On Nov. 8, 1990, the State of Texas indicted Powell for the capital murder of Falyssa Van Winkle while in the course of aggravated sexual assault and kidnapping. Powell pleaded "not guilty" in the First Judicial District Court of Newton County. Trial on the merits began May 6, 1991, and on June 3, 1991, the jury returned a verdict of "guilty." Following a separate punishment hearing, the same jury answered "yes" to the deliberateness and future dangerousness special issues. Consequently, on June 6, 1991, the trial court assessed punishment at death.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Powell's conviction and death sentence in a published 1994 opinion, and denied rehearing in 1995. The Supreme Court denied certiorari review within the year.

In 1998, the Court of Criminal Appeals denied Powell's application for state habeas relief, and the federal district court denied federal habeas relief three years later. In 2002, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's decision. Currently, Powell has a petition for certiorari to the Fifth Circuit pending.

CRIMINAL BACKGROUND

The State of Louisiana previously tried Powell for attempted murder, but a jury acquitted him.

MISCELLANEOUS

For additional information and statistics, please log on the Texas Department of Criminal Justice website, www.tdcj.state.tx.us.

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