Monday, October 29, 2012

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Media Advisory: Donnie L. Roberts scheduled for execution

AUSTIN – Pursuant to a court order by the 411th District Court of Polk County, Donnie Roberts is scheduled for execution after 6 p.m. on October 31, 2012.

In 2004, a Polk County jury found Roberts guilty of murdering Vickie Ann Bowen during the course of a robbery or attempted robbery.

FACTS OF THE CASE

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit described the facts surrounding the murder of Ms. Bowen as follows:

At the time of the murder, Roberts lived with the victim, Vickie Bowen. Roberts was unemployed, often drank alcohol, and used cocaine. Bowen worked as a dental assistant. On October 15, 2003, she went shopping with co-worker Brenda Bland, but she did not show up for work the next day. Because Bowen was a punctual person who always called if she was going to be late, Bland became concerned and went to Bowen's house to check on her. When Bland arrived at the home, she found the front door open. After knocking and receiving no answer, Bland entered the home and found Bowen dead. Bland noticed that Bowen was still in the scrubs she had worn at work the previous day. She was covered by a blanket and was lying face down with her head turned to the side in a pool of blood. Blood spatters were present in the living room on the coffee table, the couch, and the walls. The medical examiner would later determine that Bowen died from two gunshot wounds to the head.

It was immediately apparent from an examination of the scene that Bowen’s television and her son’s truck were missing. That same day, the police found Roberts after tracking down the stolen truck. It was later determined that Roberts had taken the truck, the television, Texans/Titans football tickets, jewelry, a Western Union money order, a .22 rifle, and a .22 pistol. Roberts had sold the football tickets for one hundred dollars. He had bought cocaine from Edwin Gary on October 15 on three different occasions, the last of which involved trading the .22 caliber pistol. Roberts had apparently abandoned the .22 rifle, later determined to be the murder weapon, a few blocks from where he was found. The Western Union money order was found in the residence at which Roberts had parked his truck, but the television and the jewelry were never recovered.

Roberts was interviewed and gave a confession. In that confession, he acknowledged that he had “a crack cocaine problem” and that he would go to bars, get drunk, and then look for drugs. With regard to the victim’s death, Roberts said, “I pointed the gun at her and I told her just give me some money.” Later in the interview, Roberts stated: “I pointed the gun at her and I said, ‘if you’d just give me some money.’ And she said ‘No.’ And then I said, ‘Look, it doesn’t have to be this way.’ That’s all I remember saying to her. And the next thing I know, I shot her.”

At trial, Roberts testified to a different sequence of events. He claimed that he picked up the .22 rifle because it was out of place, near the door. He also claimed that he saw what looked like a .22 pistol in Bowen’s pocket and that she moved her hand to her pocket to reach for it. He then said that he “must have chambered a round into the .22 rifle at that time,” but he did not remember if he pulled the safety off. He also claimed that he did not remember his gun firing but that he knows it did. Roberts further testified that he did not intend to rob Bowen at the time he shot her, but he admitted to taking items of her property later.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On November 24, 2003, a Polk County grand jury indicted Roberts for murdering Bowen.

On October 15, 2004, a Polk County jury convicted Roberts of capital murder. After a separate punishment proceeding, the same jury sentenced Roberts to death on October 27, 2004.

On April 18, 2007, Roberts’s conviction and sentence were affirmed by the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas on direct appeal. Roberts appealed the state court’s decision to the Supreme Court of the United States, but his petition for writ of certiorari was denied on October 1, 2007. While his direct appeal was pending, Roberts filed an application for habeas corpus relief which was denied by the Court of Criminal Appeals on May 13, 2009.

On May 11, 2010, Roberts filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Beaumont Division. The federal court denied Roberts’s petition on November 7, 2011.

On May 15, 2012, the Fifth Circuit rejected Roberts’s appeal and affirmed the denial of habeas corpus relief by the district court.

On July 11, 2012, the 411th state district court scheduled Roberts’s execution for October 31, 2012.

Roberts filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the Supreme Court on August 8, 2012.

On October 29, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Roberts’s petition for writ of certiorari.

PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY

Under Texas law, the rules of evidence prevent certain prior criminal acts from being presented to a jury during the guilt-innocence phase of the trial. However, once a defendant is found guilty, jurors are presented information about the defendant’s prior criminal conduct during the second phase of the trial – which is when they determine the defendant’s punishment.

During the penalty phase of Roberts’s trial, jurors learned that Roberts confessed to murdering Al Crow in Louisiana in 1992. Natchitoches Parish law enforcement personnel testified that physical evidence corroborated Roberts’s confession. Jurors also heard evidence that Roberts robbed a Louisiana convenience store at knife point in 2001; was charged with battery after an altercation with one of his cellmates in a Fulton County, Georgia jail; and beat his brother on one occasion so severely that he was airlifted to a hospital.

Two former probation and parole officers who supervised Roberts testified that he was violent and dangerous, and that he absconded from supervision in June 2003, only months before murdering Ms. Bowen.

MISCELLANEOUS

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