- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 20, 2003

HOUSTON (AP) — When convicted killer Larry Allen Hayes voluntarily went to the death chamber earlier this month, it marked the first time in memory that Texas executed a white person for killing a black person.

Texas has accounted for more than one-third of the 875 executions in the United States since the Supreme Court brought back capital punishment in 1976, but Hayes, put to death for killing two persons, one of whom was black, was the only white person executed by the state for killing a black person during that time. Texas resumed capital punishment in 1982.

Death penalty opponents say it underscores a nationwide problem.

Since the Supreme Court allowed the death penalty to resume, there have been only a dozen cases nationally in which a white convict was executed in a case where the victim was black, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said.

“It’s about four times more likely you’ll get the death penalty if you kill a white person,” said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a District-based organization opposed to capital punishment. “And that puts a value on lives, but the courts have not embraced this as a constitutional problem yet.”

Josh Marquis, an Oregon prosecutor and death penalty supporter, disputed that notion.

“I don’t believe it is a function of race,” Mr. Marquis said. “If you really look statistically, people convicted of capital murder who are white are twice as likely to be actually executed than if they’re black.”

The NAACP says 53 percent of the nation’s executions involve white victims and white defendants. Just over 20 percent involve black defendants killing blacks. And blacks executed for killing whites account for about 21 percent of the total. A small percentage involve victims of multiple races.

Texas figures nearly duplicate the national percentages, although less than 10 percent of those executed for crimes against blacks have been black.

The last time Texas executed a white person for killing a black person may have been more than a century ago.

State records go back to 1924, when the state took over executions from individual counties. They show no white inmate executed for killing a black person, although there are three instances where the victims are listed as race unknown, said Mike Viesca, spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

The last time Texas executed a white person for killing a black person may have been 1854, when James Wilson was executed in Tyler County for the death of another white man’s favorite slave, meaning the punishment at the time essentially was for a property crime, said Bill Hayes, no relation to Larry Allen Hayes, a capital punishment historian based in Florida.

Larry Hayes was convicted of fatally shooting his wife, Mary, 46, at their Montgomery County home the night of July 15, 1999, then a few minutes later gunning down store clerk Rosalyn Robinson, 18, and taking her car. Mary Hayes was white; Ms. Robinson was black.

He had requested the death penalty as his punishment, and he was executed by injection on Sept. 10. He was the 310th inmate executed in Texas since 1982.

At least three white men are on death row now in Texas for killing a black person.

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