Monday, April 9, 2007

Printer Friendly

Media Advisory: James Clark scheduled for execution

AUSTIN Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott offers the following information about James Lee Clark, who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 11, 2007. Clark was sentenced to death for the 1993 Denton County rape, robbery and murder of 17-year-old high school student Shari Catherine Crews.

FACTS OF THE CRIME

On June 7, 1993, the bodies of Shari Crews and 16-year-old Jesus Gilberto Garza, a classmate and acquaintance, were found in Clear Creek north of Denton. Both had been robbed and shot in the head the night of June 7, 1993.

Denton County law enforcement officers pulled Crews’ nude body from the water. Crews had a pair of shorts around her neck and her bra tied around her wrist. Marks on her other wrist indicated that she had been bound. The medical examiner later verified that Crews had been sexually assaulted and died from a shotgun blast to the back of the head. Further evidence revealed that rings Crews normally wore were missing along with keys she usually carried with her, as well as keys that she kept in the glove compartment of her car.

Earlier that same morning, paramedics and police officers were dispatched to a service station in response to a gunshot victim. Officers arrived to find James Lee Clark and James Brown, who was suffering from a gunshot wound to the leg. Both Clark and Brown told the officers that they had been fishing at the Three Rivers Bridge in Denton County when Brown was accosted by a robber and shot in the leg. However, when Clark led the police to the area where this shooting allegedly took place, there was no sign that the men had been there fishing or that someone had been shot. After Clark gave the police several conflicting statements, and the police further talked with Brown and other witnesses, the police returned to the creek to look for a second body and two weapons.

Later that day, the body of 16-year-old Jesus Garza, who had apparently been at the creek with Crews, was pulled from the water. Garza also died from a shotgun blast to the head which had been fired from fairly close range. The police also recovered a .22 rifle with the stock sawed off from the water, and a .12 gauge shotgun, which was later determined to be the murder weapon.

DNA evidence taken from Crews’ body was compared with a sample provided by Clark and proved Clark sexually assaulted Crews. Blood found on Clark’s tennis shoes was shown to be consistent with a mixture of Crews’ and Garza’s blood.

Additionally, a search of Clark’s trailer yielded the sawed-off rifle stock, which was found to match the .22 rifle found in the creek, and ammunition for the rifle. Evidence was also presented that, a day or two prior to the murders, Clark, accompanied by Brown, bought ammunition for the .12 gauge shotgun.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On April 29, 1994 a Denton County jury found James Clark guilty of capital murder in the death of Shari Crews, and on May 3, 1994, the trial court sentenced Clark to death.

On Oct. 2, 1996, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Clark’s conviction and sentence . On Oct. 6, 1997, Clark filed a post-conviction application for writ of habeas corpus, presenting eleven challenges to the validity of his conviction and sentencing. On April 8, 1998, the trial judge adopted the State’s findings of fact and conclusions of law and recommended that relief be denied. On July 8, 1998, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals adopted these findings and denied relief.

On September 30, 1998, Clark filed a federal petition for writ of habeas corpus. On November 10, 1999, the magistrate court entered findings recommending that the petition for writ of habeas corpus be denied. On Dec. 13, 1999, the district court adopted these findings, and denied Clark’s petition for federal writ of habeas corpus. On Jan. 28, 2000, the district court denied Clark’s request for a certificate of appealability (COA), and on March 3, 2000, the district court denied Clark’s motion for reconsideration.

On Sept. 12, 2000, Clark’s application for COA in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals was denied. On Feb. 20, 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Clark’s petition for writ of certiorari. The trial court set an execution date for November 21, 2002. However, on November 11, 2002, Clark filed a subsequent application for writ of habeas corpus in the state court, raising seven allegations for relief. On November 18, 2002, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals concluded that Clark’s allegation of mental retardation pursuant to Atkins v. Virginia deserved consideration. The court issued a stay of execution and remanded the case to the trial court for consideration of the claim.

An evidentiary hearing was held in the trial court, after which (and based on findings of the trial court) the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals concluded that Clark failed to show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that he was mentally retarded and thus exempt from the death penalty under Atkins. Ex parte Clark. The trial court reset Clark’s execution date for April 27, 2004. However, on April 23, 2004, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted Clark’s motion to file a successive habeas petition in federal district court and stayed his execution.

On January 20, 2005, the district court rendered final judgment denying the successive habeas corpus petition. On March 16, 2005, the district court granted Clark’s application for a certificate of appealability.

On July 20, 2006, the 5th Circuit Court affirmed the judgment of the district court and denied habeas relief. On Aug. 29, 2006, the court denied Clark’s petition for rehearing. On Feb. 26, 2007, the Supreme Court denied Clark’s petition for writ of certiorari. The trial court reset his execution date for April 11, 2007.

PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY

On June 28, 1991, Clark pled guilty to theft by a check and was confined to the county jail for 20 days, fined, and ordered to pay restitution.

On Oct. 18, 1989, Clark was convicted and incarcerated in state prison for the felony offense of burglary of a building.

On July 12, 1987, Clark was arrested for auto theft. It does not appear from the record that Clark was ever convicted of this offense.

The State presented evidence of two burglaries of motor vehicles committed in the days prior to the capital murder of Shari Crews.

MISCELLANEOUS

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