THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF TEXAS
Ken Paxton

Monday, February 23, 2009

Media Advisory: Willie Pondexter scheduled for execution

AUSTIN -- Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott offers the following information about Willie Earl Pondexter, who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 3, 2009. Pondexter was convicted and sentenced to die for the murder of Martha Lennox. The evidence presented at trial is as follows.

FACTS OF THE CRIME

On Oct. 28, 1993, Pondexter and four other men discussed robbing Martha Lennox, an elderly woman. All five men went to Lennox’s Clarksville home. One of the men left the group, and the other four others proceeded, with Pondexter kicking in the front door to Lennox’s home.

The four men entered Lennox’s bedroom, where the 85-year-old Lennox was sitting on the bed. After taking Lennox’s money, James Henderson, one of the men, shot the woman in the head, then handed the gun to Pondexter, who also shot Lennox in the head.

Henderson and Pondexter were tried separately, and both men were sentenced to death for the robbery and slaying of Lennox.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

A Red River County grand jury indicted Pondexter on Dec. 14, 1993, for the capital murder of Martha Lennox. The venue for the case was shifted from Red River County to Bowie County. On July 19, 1994, a jury found Pondexter guilty of capital murder. After a separate punishment hearing, the trial court sentenced Pondexter to death.

On Oct. 16, 1996, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Pondexter’s conviction and sentence and denied rehearing on Jan. 29, 1997. The U.S. Supreme Court denied Pondexter’s petition for a writ of certiorari on Oct. 6, 1997.

On Oct, 31, 1997, Pondexter filed a state application for a writ of habeas corpus, which he later amended. The trial court held an evidentiary hearing on Pondexter’s claims. After a hearing, the court entered findings of fact and conclusions of law recommending that relief be denied. On Jan. 17, 1999, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals adopted the trial court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law in an order denying Pondexter’s habeas application.

On Nov. 30, 1999, Pondexter filed a federal petition for writ of habeas corpus in U.S. district court, raising 20 claims for relief. On Sept. 26, 2002, the federal district court granted relief on Pondexter’s first claim, concluding that trial counsel’s decision not to consult with and offer the testimony of a pathologist deprived Pondexter of the effective assistance of counsel. Because the district court granted relief on Pondexter’s first claim, it did not address his remaining nineteen claims and dismissed them as moot. However, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later vacated the district court’s judgment on Sept. 16, 2003, and remanded for further proceedings.

After Pondexter’s appeal was denied by the Supreme Court, the case was remanded back to the district court, which issued a second memorandum opinion on Sept. 27, 2006, rejecting all of Pondexter’s claims and granting the state’s motion for summary judgment. Thereafter, the Fifth Circuit Court affirmed the district court’s decision and denied habeas relief on July 29, 2008. On Dec. 9, 2008, Pondexter filed a writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court. The petition is pending. On Feb. 13, 2009, Pondexter filed a civil rights suit in a U.S. district court. On Feb. 18, 2009, Pondexter asked the U.S. district court for a stay of execution. The court denied the request for a stay.

EVIDENCE OF FUTURE DANGEROUSNESS

In August 1991, Pondexter was seventeen-years old when the State of Oklahoma adjudicated him a juvenile delinquent and made him a ward of the court based on his stipulation to having committed assault and battery, trespassing, and two counts of disturbing the peace in Oklahoma.

In November 1992, a Clarksville, Texas, policeman arrested Pondexter for unlawfully carrying a weapon. Pondexter had in his possession a 9MM pistol and a plastic bag of bullets. In May 1993, Pondexter committed assault and battery with a dangerous weapon in Oklahoma. He pled no contest to the charges that followed, and was sentenced to 12-years probation, which Oklahoma revoked in October 1993 when Pondexter failed to report and failed to pay supervision fees and court costs in accordance with his probation terms.

Pondexter later bragged to a former girlfriend that he committed an assault and battery with a dangerous weapon offense by shooting a man during an argument. In October 1993, Pondexter also told the ex-girlfriend that he got away with shooting another man because his attorney successfully suppressed his confession to that crime.

The former girlfriend once witnessed Pondexter wield a gun while chasing someone, but by the time a police officer arrived on the scene, Pondexter had hidden the weapon.

In June 1993, Pondexter attacked and robbed a man in Oklahoma.

On October 10, 1993, Pondexter was in Oklahoma when he robbed a woman of her coat and stabbed her in the head, lungs, and stomach with a pair of scissors while participating in a gang assault of her.

On October 29, 1993, the day after he killed Lennox in Clarksville, Pondexter and his companions spent Lennox’s money on gasoline and drove her car to Dallas, where Pondexter suggested robbing a convenience store. They robbed nearby pedestrians instead.

MISCELLANEOUS

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