- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 10, 2000

DALLAS Texas executed two murderers last night in Huntsville, including one man many activists claimed was retarded and should have received clemency.

Unlike several recent death-row cases here where felons' lawyers used potential DNA evidence, newly found testimony and religious advocacy as reasons for delays or clemency these two executions went off without a hitch, and without Gov. George W. Bush getting involved.

Under Texas law, the governor can commute a death sentence only if the state Board of Pardons and Paroles recommends that he do so. In both cases here, that board ruled 18-0 not to intercede.

Yesterday morning, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the appeals of both men.

By 6-3, the high court denied an emergency application for a reprieve for Oliver D. Cruz, 33, who had been convicted for the 1988 rape and murder of a 24-year-old San Antonio Air Force officer.

The same body voted 7-2 to deny intervention for Brian Keith Roberson, 36, convicted of killing an elderly couple in Dallas in 1986.

The first man to receive a lethal injection last night was a defiant-to-the-end Roberson.

He berated law-enforcement officers and those who testified against him at his trial. He then used an obscene parting greeting and said, "I'm ready. Let's go. I'll see you when you get there."

"You ain't got what you want," he added, smiling broadly.

He was pronounced dead at 6:17 p.m. Central Daylight Time.

Cruz was then strapped to the gurney.

"I want to apologize to the family of Kelly Elizabeth Donovan," a sobbing Cruz said from the death chamber. "I'm sorry for what I did to her 12 years ago. I wish they could forgive me for what I did."

He was pronounced dead at 6:50 p.m. CDT, while several protesters marched outside the downtown Huntsville prison unit.

Death-penalty opponents criticized the state for putting Cruz to death because by some standards the killer was mentally retarded.

During his trial and 10 years of appeals, Cruz's IQ was figured at from 64 to 76. But earlier this week, the San Antonio district attorney's office introduced an IQ test in which Cruz scored 83.

Jeff Pokorak, a lawyer who has worked for Cruz in recent months, criticized the release of the result.

"This demonstrates just how political this has become," said Mr. Pokorak, a professor at St. Mary's University Law School in San Antonio. "The whole system is broken and we've got to close it down."

In 1992, Gov. Bill Clinton raced home from the presidential campaign trail to preside over the execution of Rickey Ray Rector, a brain-damaged Arkansas inmate and the first black man to be executed in Arkansas since 1960.

At the time, liberals accused Mr. Clinton of hastily executing a lobotomized convict in order to portray himself as tough on crime.

Rector's lawyers said that even though he could speak, his mental capacities were so impaired that he did not know what death was or understand that the people he shot were not still alive. Just as he walked to the death chamber, Rector set aside for later a slice of pecan pie from his last meal.

Asked if he wished to make a final statement, Rector said, "Yes. I got baptized and saved."

In the Texas case, Bexar County District Attorney Susan D. Reed said Cruz understood what he was doing when he raped and stabbed Kelly Donovan, a linguist at Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio.

"It was a horrific crime," Mrs. Reed said. "This young lady was out for a walk, was abducted from the street, brutally sexually assaulted and then stabbed 20 times, for no other purpose than to eliminate her as a witness."

Mrs. Reed said Cruz confessed to the murder and added that he did it because he did not want to go to prison for rape.

Another man present, Jerry Darin Kemplin, testified against Cruz and got a 65-year sentence in return.

In an interview with the Associated Press last week, Cruz said he didn't expect anybody to pity him for what he did.

"I made a mistake. I don't blame nobody. I take full responsibility," the AP quoted him as saying. "There's nothing I could do or say to bring the person back. There's nothing I could do or say to her family about how sorry I am."

He said he and Kemplin had taken LSD and drunk "a couple bottles of liquor."

Mr. Pokorak said his client's lifelong mental disability had never been explained properly in any legal setting. An IQ under 70, he said, was considered retardation.

Reporters inquired about the recently presented IQ test on which prosecutors claimed Cruz scored an 83, but the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said such tests were not public information and spokespeople refused to offer details.

Last night's deaths were the third time since executions resumed in Texas in 1982 that a multiple execution was carried out the most recent in June 1997.

The two men were the 27th and 28th Texas inmates executed this year. Four more are scheduled later this month.

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