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James Vernon ALLRIDGE III

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robberies
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: February 3, 1985
Date of arrest: March 25, 1985
Date of birth: November 14, 1962
Victim profile: Brian Clenbennen, 21 (convenience store clerk)
Method of murder: Shooting (Raven .25 caliber pistol)
Location: Tarrant County, Texas, USA
Status: Executed by lethal injection in Texas on August 26, 2004
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Summary:

On February 3, 1985, James Vernon Allridge and his older brother, Ronald Allridge, left their apartment to rob a convenience store in East Fort Worth.

Armed with his chrome Raven .25 caliber pistol, James Allridge and his brother drove to the Circle K store on Sycamore School Road because James Allridge used to be an employee of the store. Ronald dropped his younger brother off at the store and drove around the corner to wait for him.

Store clerk Brian Clendennen had locked the doors to the convenience store since it was closed for the night.

Allridge approached the front door and requested change to make a telephone call. Because Clendennen had worked with Allridge at the store, he made change for Allridge, who left the store after pretending to use the telephone.

After getting back to the car around the corner from the store, Ronald accused his younger brother of “chickening out.” James Allridge decided to go back to the store. Clendennen again opened the doors for Allridge. When he did, Allridge pointed his pistol at the attendant and forced his way into the store.

Once inside, Allridge took Clendennen to the storeroom, tied his hands behind his back, and proceeded to empty the cash register and safe. He went back to the storeroom, and finding that Clendennen had moved, forced him to his knees and shot him twice in the back of the head, execution style.

Allridge committed seven other aggravated robberies after the robbery and murder of Clenbennen. He was involved in the robbery-murder at a Whataburger in Fort Worth, wherein his older brother Ronald received the death penalty. (Executed in 1995)

Citations:

Allridge v. State, 850 S.W.2d 471 (Tex.Crim.App. 1991) (Direct Appeal).
Allridge v. Cockrell, 92 Fed.Appx. 60 (5th Cir. 2003) (Habeas).

Final Meal:

For his final meal, Allridge requested a double-meat bacon cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato and salad dressing. He also asked for shoestring or crinkle-cut French fries with ketchup and banana pudding or banana pudding ice cream and watermelon or white seedless grapes.

Final Words:

Allridge thanked his family and friends for loving him and expressed remorse. ""I am sorry. I really am. You, Brian's sister, thanks for your love. It meant a lot. Shane, I hope he finds peace. I am sorry I destroyed you all's life. Thank you for forgiving me. To the moon and back. I love you all. I leave you all as I came - in love." Nine minutes later, at 6:22 p.m. CDT, he was pronounced dead.

ClarkProsecutor.org

 
 

Texas Attorney General

Media Advisory

Thursday, August 19, 2004

James Vernon Allridge Scheduled For Execution.

AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott offers the following information on James Vernon Allridge, who is scheduled for execution after 6 p.m. Thursday, August 26, 2004. In 1987, Allridge was sentenced to die for the Feb. 3, 1985, capital murder of Brian Clendennen in Fort Worth.

FACTS OF THE CRIME

On February 3, 1985, James Vernon Allridge and his older brother, Ronald Allridge, left their apartment to rob a convenience store in East Fort Worth. Armed with his chrome Raven .25 caliber pistol, James Allridge and his brother drove to the Circle K store on Sycamore School Road because James Allridge used to be an employee of the store and knew where the combination to the safe was kept. Ronald dropped his younger brother off at the store and drove around the corner to wait for him.

Store clerk Brian Clendennen had locked the doors to the convenience store since it was closed for the night. Allridge approached the front door and requested change to make a telephone call. Because Clendennen had worked with Allridge at the store, he made change for Allridge, who left the store after pretending to use the telephone.

After getting back to the car around the corner from the store, Ronald accused his younger brother of “chickening out.” James Allridge decided to go back to the store. Clendennen again opened the doors for Allridge. When he did, Allridge pointed his pistol at the attendant and forced his way into the store.

Once inside, Allridge took Clendennen to the storeroom, tied his hands behind his back, and proceeded to empty the cash register and safe. After some of the change from the register hit the floor, Allridge heard movement from the back room. He went back to check on the noise, and after finding that Clendennen had moved, Allridge forced him to his knees and shot him twice in the back of the head, execution style.

Allridge returned to the car but then decided to be sure that Clendennen was dead and returned to the store. However, a woman was in the store parking lot when Allridge arrived, so he fled the scene. The woman, who was Clendennen’s mother, entered the store and discovered the loose change on the floor. She immediately went to the nearby Whataburger restaurant to call for help. The police were dispatched to the store where officers found Brian Clendennen in the back storeroom, barely breathing, but still alive. Clendennen was transported to the hospital, but died the next day.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

In March 1987, Allridge was found guilty of capital murder and sentenced to death. Allridge’s judgment and sentence were affirmed on direct appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on November 13, 1991. After his petition for a writ of certiorari from the Appeals Court was denied, Allridge filed a state habeas application raising five claims. Upon recommendations of the state trial court, the Court of Criminal Appeals denied relief to Allridge.

Allridge then filed a federal petition for writ of habeas corpus raising four claims of constitutional error. A federal magistrate recommended that Allridge’s petition be denied. A U.S. district judge issued a memorandum opinion adopting the magistrate’s report, except for an issue regarding the standard of review, and denied relief on all of Allridge’s claims. However, the district court granted Allridge’s request for a certificate of appealability.

On appeal, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s denial of habeas corpus relief on July 15, 2003. After the appellate court denied his motion for rehearing, Allridge filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court on November 20, 2003. The Supreme Court denied Allridge’s petition for certiorari review on March 22, 2004.

CRIMINAL HISTORY/PUNISHMENT PHASE EVIDENCE

The Court of Criminal Appeals summarized the evidence introduced during the punishment phase as including facts showing that Allridge committed seven other aggravated robberies after robbing and killing the Circle K clerk.

In four of the offenses, Allridge entered the store or restaurant armed and alone to carry out the robberies. In two of the robberies, he was one of several robbers in the restaurant. Finally, the Court noted that Allridge was involved in the robbery-murder at a Whataburger in Fort Worth, wherein his older brother Ronald received the death penalty.

 
 

ProDeathPenalty.com

On the night of February 3, 1985, James Allridge and his older brother, Ronald, left their Fort Worth apartment with the intention of robbing a Circle K convenience store. Allridge was carrying a semi-automatic pistol, and Ronald drove Allridge’s car. Allridge had previously worked at the Circle K, was familiar with the store’s procedures, and knew where the combination to the safe was kept. He also knew the clerk on duty, Brian Clendennen, having worked with him before.

At about midnight, Ronald dropped Allridge off around the corner from the targeted store. Clendennen had already closed the store, but admitted Allridge when he asked for change to use the phone. Clendennen made change, and Allridge “pretended to use the phone and left to rejoin Ronald.” Ronald accused Allridge of “chickening out” and dropped Allridge off at the store again. Clendennen again let Allridge into the store, but this time Allridge pulled his gun and forced Clendennen into the storeroom.

After tying Clendennen’s hands behind his back, Allridge emptied the safe. Allridge heard sounds coming from the storeroom and discovered that Clendennen had moved. He made Clendennen “get back on his knees,” then shot him twice in the back of the head. Allridge and Ronald left, and Clendennen died from the gunshot wounds the next day.

UPDATE: For 17 years, Shane Clendennen has waited for justice after his brother's killer was sent to death row. But now that James Vernon Allridge III has finally been assigned an execution date on Aug. 26, Clendennen cannot understand why Academy Award-winning actress Susan Sarandon made a special trip to death row to visit Allridge. Death penalty opponents say she wants his sentence commuted to life. "How would she feel if someone tied up her child and shot him in the back of the head, then she had to watch him on life support for three days until he died?" asked Clendennen, 34, a machinist from Fort Worth. "She should not have a voice in this unless she has gone through that kind of pain and loss."

Clendennen's brother, Brian, was 21 and working in a convenience store in Fort Worth when he was shot in 1985. Allridge knew the clerk could recognize him, because they had taken a management training course together, prosecutors said. After briefly scoping out the store, he returned to rob it of $300 and shoot the clerk, prosecutors said. Wednesday, Sarandon visited with Allridge for two hours. She would not comment except to say she was trying to maintain "a low profile."

But in response to the reaction of the victim's family to her visit, she released a written statement Thursday. "My heart and prayers go out to the Clendennen family. They have suffered a terrible loss, one that I would not presume to know. I hope they have found a way towards healing from the senseless murder of Brian Clendennen. My friendship with James Allridge in no way diminishes my feelings of sympathy for the Clendennen family. It merely reflects the fact that James Allridge is a human being and is more than the worst act that he has ever committed," the statement said.

Dave Atwood, who founded the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and accompanied Sarandon to the prison, said the actress and inmate had been pen pals for several years. He said she had bought some of the inmate's drawings. Atwood said the actress had gone there to encourage Allridge. He said she discussed the possibility of doing something on his behalf but that would be "left up to the attorneys."

Atwood and Sarandon think Allridge's sentence should be commuted because, they say, he has been rehabilitated. His drawings have been exhibited at several colleges, and he has maintained a 4.0 GPA taking college business courses while on death row, Atwood noted. But Shane, the victim's brother, is upset that Allridge has been able to earn college credits and "sell stuff (his art) over the Internet" from his 6-foot cell.

On the Web site where Allridge sells his art, he writes about his past and does not deny the killing. "I'm not making excuses," Allridge wrote. "But there was a lot of pressure from my older brother ... who was a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic." He also expressed regret anyone had to "lose their life for me to become the person I am today." Allridge declined to be interviewed. Shane Clendennen said he does not think his brother's killer has been rehabilitated. "If (Allridge) was born again, I could maybe forgive him. But I still think he should die for what he did," he said.

UPDATE: This has not been reported in any of the coverage since Allridge's execution was scheduled, but apparently this murder occurred during a crime spree where at least two other people were murdered. This is a Houston Chronicle article from March 30, 1985:

Two brothers accused of shooting down a woman during a restaurant robbery because she had no money also face charges stemming from a series of robberies in which two others died, police say. Charged on Thursday in the March 25 slaying of Carla McMillen were two sets of brothers - Ronald Allridge, 24; his brother James Vernon Allridge, 22; Milton Jarmon, 18, and his brother Clarence Jarmon, 19. Police said the robbery was one in a series of robberies committed Sunday night and Monday morning.

Ronald Allridge, who was ordered held in lieu of $1.55 million bond, also was charged with capital murder in the shooting death of Buddy Webster Jr., 19, the manager of a pizza restaurant. James Allridge, jailed in lieu of $1.1 million bond, also was charged with capital murder in the Feb. 3 slaying of Brian Clendennen, 21, of Everman. The Allridge brothers also were charged with two counts of aggravated robbery. The Jarmon brothers also were charged with two counts of robbery.

From 6/8/95: More than 10 years have passed, but Sharen Wilson still is troubled by images of a young woman who took a shotgun blast at close range while eating a late-night meal at a Fort Worth fast-food restaurant. "They were horrific photographs, the victim laying in a puddle of blood with a half-eaten sandwich," says Wilson, a criminal court judge in Tarrant County. "I don't think I'll ever forget them."

Wilson was an assistant district attorney in 1985 who worked to send the gunman, Ronald Allridge, to death row for killing 19-year-old Carla McMillen. Ron Allridge, 34, was set for lethal injection early today for the murder, one of three killings authorities blame on him. "Truthfully, he should have been executed a long time ago," Wilson said.

Allridge, an unemployed 10th-grade dropout, exhausted his appeals, the last one rejected May 15 when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review his case. "We touched all the bases, and we couldn't get an expression of interest from the Supreme Court and that's what it was going to take," said Allridge's attorney, Steven Schneebaum. Schneebaum asked Gov. George W. Bush for a 30-day reprieve or that Bush commute his sentence to 1,000 years in prison. "Ronnie never denied that he fired the shot that cost the life of a young woman," Schneebaum said in a petition to the governor. Bush, however, turned down the request Wednesday. The request also struck a hollow note with the victim's mother, Carole McMillen. "This is just an example of the judicial system in need of repair," she said. "It's taken so long to carry out the jury's verdict. This is not even a question of whether he's guilty or not."

A Tarrant County jury took less than four hours to give Allridge the death penalty. McMillen was with two friends at a Fort Worth Whataburger restaurant the night of March 25, 1985, when Allridge and two companions burst into the place and announced a holdup. When Allridge pointed his shotgun at the woman's chest at close range and she threw up her hands, he fired. "His whole appeal was: "Gosh, it was an accident,' " Wilson said. "But it was no accident that he had it pointed directly at the center of her chest. We're not talking about some guy who maybe didn't do it."

Authorities said it was the latest in a string of similar robberies where Allridge and his companions, including a brother, would storm into crowded restaurants and demand patrons surrender their money and valuables. During the punishment phase of his trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Allridge confessed to at least 20 such holdups. Allridge served less than six years of a 10-year term for killing a high school student in 1976. He also was accused of the fatal shooting of a pizza shop manager two months before the McMillen slaying. One accomplice received a 20-year term. A second was sentenced to 30 years.

 
 

James Vernon Allridge III

Txexecutions.org

James Vernon Allridge III, 41, was executed by lethal injection on 26 August 2004 in Huntsville, Texas for the murder and robbery of a convenience store clerk.

On 4 April 1985, Allridge, then 22, and his brother, Ronald, 24, drove to a convenience store in Fort Worth. James Allridge used to be an employee of the store and knew where the combination to the safe was kept. Ronald dropped James off at the store and drove around the corner to wait for him. The store was closed. Through the locked doors, James asked the clerk, Brian Clendennen, for change to make a telephone call. Clendennen recognized Allridge, opened the doors for him, and gave him change. After Allridge pretended to use the phone, he left, and Clendennen locked the doors again.

After getting back into the car, Ronald accused James of "chickening out." James decided to go back to the store. Clendennen again opened the doors for him. When he did, Allridge pointed a .25-caliber pistol at him and forced his way into the store. Allridge then took Clendennen into the storeroom and tied his hands behind his back. While he was emptying the cash register and safe, Allridge heard a noise from the storeroom. He went back and saw that Clendennen had moved. Allridge then forced Clendennen to his knees and shot him twice in the back of the head.

After returning to the car, Allridge decided to go back into the store to make sure Clendennen was dead. However, a woman was in the store parking lot when Allridge arrived, so he fled. The woman, who was Clendennen's mother, entered the store, saw some loose change on the floor, and immediately left and called the police from a nearby restaurant. The police found Clendennen in the storeroom, still alive. He died the next day in the hospital.

At his punishment hearing, the state introduced evidence that after murdering Clendennen, James Allridge committed or participated in seven other aggravated robberies of stores or restaurants in Fort Worth. In one of those robberies, a Whataburger customer, Carla McMillen, was killed.

A jury convicted James Allridge of capital murder in March 1987 and sentenced him to death. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction and sentence in November 1991. All of his subsequent appeals in state and federal court were denied.

Ronald Keith Allridge was convicted of the capital murder of Carla McMillen and was sentenced to death. He was executed on 8 June 1995.

While on death row, James Allridge made art prints and greeting cards. He sold the items, many of which depicted flowers, on an internet web site set up and operated by sympathizers. According to the web site, proceeds went into Allridge's legal defense fund.

In 2001, the state legislature passed a "murderabilia" law, which was intended to prohibit convicts from profiting from the sale of items in connection with their inmate status. In July 2003, Allridge's web site received international media attention when actress Susan Sarandon, who had been pen pals with Allridge for 8 years, visited him on death row. Andy Kahan, a crime victims' advocate who was a driving force behind the 2001 law, filed a formal complaint with TDCJ and with the Polk county district attorney's office, asking them to shut down Allridge's site. At the time of Allridge's execution, the request was still under investigation.

While pursuing his final appeals, Allridge sent a clemency petition to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. In the petition, Allridge requested that his sentence be commuted to life, on the basis that he had become completely rehabilitated on death row and was no longer a danger to society. Saying that he accepted full responsibility for his crime and that he felt deep remorse, Allridge claimed that he had been a model prisoner during his 17 years on death row, and that he spent his spare time writing, drawing and painting, and teaching other inmates to read and write. The parole board rejected his petition. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected his last appeal late in the afternoon of his execution.

"I'm sorry, I really am," Allridge said in his final statement. Speaking slowly and quietly, Allridge said, "I am sorry I destroyed y'all's life. Thank you for forgiving me. To the moon and back, I love you all. I leave you all as I came - in love." The lethal injection was started at 6:13 p.m. Allridge was pronounced dead at 6:22 p.m.

 
 

Killer of FW Clerk Executed

Dallas Morning News

AP August 26, 2004

HUNSTVILLE, Texas -- An apologetic James Allridge, whose case attracted attention of celebrity capital punishment opponents, was executed Thursday evening for killing a Fort Worth convenience store clerk 19 years ago.

Speaking slowly and quietly with his voice halting at times, Allridge thanked his family and friends for loving him and expressed remorse. "I am sorry, I really am," he said in a brief final statement. "I am sorry I destroyed y'all's life," he said looking at the family of his victim. "Thank you for forgiving me. To the moon and back, I love you all." "I leave you all as I came - in love," he said. Nine minutes later, at 6:22 p.m. CDT, he was pronounced dead.

Allridge, 41, was the 12th Texas inmate executed this year and the second in as many nights.

Allridge was visited last month by actress Susan Sarandon, who purchased some of his prison-made artwork and for years corresponded with him. Sarandon, 57, won an Academy Award in 1996 for her portrayal of death penalty opponent Helen Prejean in the movie version of the New Orleans-based nun's book "Dead Man Walking." Prejean was among the people who witnessed the execution. She whispered a brief prayer after Allridge slipped into unconsciousness and comforted Allridge's relatives. "Two priceless lives are lost," Allridge's supporters said in a statement released after his death. "We wish and hope for healing and peace for both families as time goes by."

Allridge's attorneys asked the U.S. Supreme Court in a last-day appeal to halt the punishment and review the case, contending he'd been a model prisoner for years and his rehabilitation disproved his trial jury's finding that he'd be a continuing threat to society, one of the criteria for the death penalty in Texas. The court rejected the request about two hours before Allridge's lethal injection. They also unsuccessfully argued jurors were not allowed to consider evidence that a violent and abusive older brother bullied Allridge into participating in the fatal shooting of store clerk Brian Clendennen, 21, who was robbed of $300.

Allridge's brother, Ronald, was put to death in 1995 for killing a woman during the robbery of a Fort Worth fast-food restaurant, part of a two-month crime spree that targeted convenience stores and fast-food places.

"Nineteen-and-a-half years," Doris Clendennen, whose son was gunned down, said after watching Allridge die. "It took too long." "I wouldn't forgive him for nothing," said Donna Ryals, the murder victim's sister. "He got what he deserved... At least he gets to meet his brother now." "Our parents have lost their second son by lethal injection to the state of Texas," two of Allridge's brothers, who also witnessed the execution, said in a statement. "Their pain is incomprehensible. Our fractured, but thriving family will endure."

Unlike his brother, who also had served time for killing a classmate at age 15, the crime wave appeared to be out of character for James Allridge, who had no previous criminal record. He was described as a good student and hard worker but someone who fell under the control and demands of an older violent brother who intimidated him. "I am deeply regretful any of this has happened," Allridge told The Associated Press last week from death row, adding that he would like to express his sentiments to Clendennen's relatives. "This should never have happened."

Allridge, however, said he believed his nearly two decades on death row was beneficial to others. "I know I've done a lot of good," he said. "A lot of young guys here never had positive role models. A lot of times they just want someone to listen to them. I listen."

Two other sets of brothers have received lethal injection in Texas, which by far leads the nation in carrying out the death penalty. Prison records show four pairs of brothers were put to death in the 1920s and 1930s, when the electric chair was the method of punishment.

 
 

Killer of FW Clerk Executed

Denton Record-Chronicle

Thursday, August 26, 2004

HUNTSVILLE, Texas – Condemned prisoner James Allridge, whose case attracted the attention of celebrity capital punishment opponents, was executed Thursday evening for killing a Fort Worth convenience store clerk 19 years ago. Allridge, 41, was the 12th Texas inmate executed this year and the second in as many nights.

Allridge was visited last month by actress Susan Sarandon, who purchased some of his prison-made artwork and for years corresponded with him. Sarandon, 57, won an Academy Award in 1996 for her portrayal of death penalty opponent Helen Prejean in the movie version of the New Orleans-based nun's book "Dead Man Walking." Prejean was among the people Allridge selected to watch him die.

Allridge's attorneys asked the U.S. Supreme Court in a last-day appeal to halt the punishment and review the case, contending he'd been a model prisoner for years and his rehabilitation disproved his trial jury's finding that he'd be a continuing threat to society, one of the criteria for the death penalty in Texas. The appeal was denied.

"When our criminal justice system is on the verge of executing a prisoner who is innocent of the aggravating factor on which his death sentence is predicated – future dangerousness – the Texas system provides no remedy," their petition to the high court Thursday said. "The primary premise for executing Mr. Allridge, by virtue of his rehabilitation during his lengthy incarceration, has evaporated." They also argued jurors were not allowed to consider evidence that a violent and abusive older brother bullied Allridge into participating in the fatal shooting of store clerk Brian Clendennen, 21, who was robbed of $300.

Allridge's brother, Ronald, was put to death in 1995 for killing a woman during the robbery of a Fort Worth fast-food restaurant, part of a two-month crime spree that targeted convenience stores and fast-food places.

Unlike his brother, who also had served time for killing a classmate at age 15, the crime wave appeared to be out of character for James Allridge, who had no previous criminal record. He was described as a good student and hard worker but someone who fell under the control and demands of an older violent brother who intimidated him. "My brother didn't even have a chance at life," the victim's brother, Shane Clendennen, who also was to witness the execution, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "People who say the death penalty is wrong haven't gone through this... All I have is a picture and a grave site."

"I am deeply regretful any of this has happened," Allridge told The Associated Press last week from death row, adding that he would like to express his sentiments to Clendennen's relatives. "This should never have happened." Allridge, however, said he believed his nearly two decades on death row was beneficial to others. "I know I've done a lot of good," he said. "A lot of young guys here never had positive role models. A lot of times they just want someone to listen to them. I listen."

Two other sets of brothers have received lethal injection in Texas, which by far leads the nation in carrying out the death penalty. Prison records show four pairs of brothers were put to death in the 1920s and 1930s, when the electric chair was the method of punishment.

 
 

Texas Executes Actress's Pen Pal for 1985 Murder

Reuters News

Aug 26, 2004

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (Reuters) - A Texas man, who became pen pals with actress Susan Sarandon while on death row, was put to death by lethal injection on Thursday for murdering a convenience store clerk during a 1985 robbery.

James Allridge III, 41, was condemned for killing Brian Clendennen, 21, in a Feb. 4, 1985, robbery of a Fort Worth, Texas, convenience store. Allridge's brother, Ronald, was executed in 1995 for his part in the crime. During 17 years on death row, Allridge earned a college degree and became known for artwork he sold via the Internet. Allridge unsuccessfully sought clemency based on the argument he had rehabilitated himself.

In a final statement while strapped to a gurney in the death chamber, Allridge thanked his family and friends and spoke to Clendennen's sister and brother. "I am sorry. I really am," he said. "You, Brian's sister, thanks for your love. It meant a lot. Shane, I hope he finds peace. I am sorry I destroyed you all's life. Thank you for forgiving me. To the moon and back. I love you all."

Allridge was the 12th person executed in Texas this year and the 325th since the state resumed capital punishment in 1982, six years after the U.S. Supreme Court lifted a national death penalty ban. Both totals lead the nation.

Sarandon visited Allridge on death row in July. After the meeting, the actress said little about their two-hour conversation. Sarandon, who won an Academy Award in 1996 for her performance in "Dead Man Walking" as Catholic nun Helen Prejean who advises death row inmates, is a death penalty opponent. Prejean was Allridge's spiritual adviser.

For his final meal, Allridge requested a double-meat bacon cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato and salad dressing. He also asked for shoestring or crinkle-cut French fries with ketchup and banana pudding or banana pudding ice cream and watermelon or white seedless grapes.

 
 

Remorseful store clerk killer executed in Huntsville

Houston Chronicle

Aug. 26, 2004

HUNTSVILLE - A Texas man, who became pen pals with actress Susan Sarandon while on death row, was put to death by lethal injection today for murdering a convenience store clerk during a 1985 robbery. James Allridge III, 41, was condemned for killing Brian Clendennen, 21, in a Feb. 4, 1985, robbery of a Fort Worth convenience store. Allridge's brother, Ronald, was executed in 1995 for his part in the crime.

During 17 years on death row, Allridge earned a college degree and became known for artwork he sold via the Internet. Allridge unsuccessfully sought clemency based on the argument he had rehabilitated himself.

In a final statement while strapped to a gurney in the death chamber, Allridge thanked his family and friends and spoke to Clendennen's sister and brother. "I am sorry. I really am," he said. "You, Brian's sister, thanks for your love. It meant a lot. Shane, I hope he finds peace. I am sorry I destroyed you all's life. Thank you for forgiving me. To the moon and back. I love you all."

Allridge was the 12th person executed in Texas this year and the 325th since the state resumed capital punishment in 1982, six years after the U.S. Supreme Court lifted a national death penalty ban. Both totals lead the nation.

Sarandon visited Allridge on death row in July. After the meeting, the actress said little about their two-hour conversation. Sarandon, who won an Academy Award in 1996 for her performance in "Dead Man Walking" as Catholic nun Helen Prejean who advises death row inmates, is a death penalty opponent. Prejean was Allridge's spiritual adviser.

For his final meal, Allridge requested a double-meat bacon cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato and salad dressing. He also asked for shoestring or crinkle-cut French fries with ketchup and banana pudding or banana pudding ice cream and watermelon or white seedless grapes.

 
 

National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

James Allridge, III - TX

EXECUTED -- OUR THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS GO OUT TO THOSE WHO SURVIVE HIM

Associated Press, Huntsville, Texas (Aug. 26): An apologetic James Allridge, whose case attracted attention of celebrity capital punishment opponents, was executed Thursday evening for killing a Fort Worth convenience store clerk 19 years ago.

Speaking slowly and quietly with his voice halting at times, Allridge thanked his family and friends for loving him and expressed remorse. "I am sorry, I really am," he said in a brief final statement. "I am sorry I destroyed y'all's life," he said looking at the family of his victim. "Thank you for forgiving me. To the moon and back, I love you all." "I leave you all as I came -- in love," he said. Nine minutes later, at 6:22 p.m. CDT, he was pronounced dead.

The full text of the original alert follows.

August 26, 2004 - 6 p.m. CST

The state of Texas is scheduled to execute James Allridge III, a black man, August 26 for the 1985 murder of Brian Clendennen during a robbery in Tarrant County.

James Allridge is an example of something that is rarely talked about in death-penalty debates: rehabilitation. Rehabilitation is granted no place in the system. Men and women can grow up, become educated, develop job skills, get off drugs or alcohol, or find religion, and still there is no mercy. They, too, will be strapped to a gurney and injected full of poison.

In prison, Mr. Allridge has become an accomplished artist and poet. Those who have seen his art say that it is vibrant, moving, and full of life… considering that it was produced in a place where death is eminent and steel bars a constant reminder.

Mr. Allridge writes that “I concede that there is nothing with which I, or anyone else, could ever do to replace the life that was taken. However, my art allows me to contribute to the entire picture – the whole of humanity. My art allows me to give back something purposeful, productive, constructive, and meaningful. By giving back a small part of me with each piece of art I create, I am giving back to society.”

Mr. Allridge’s case is reminiscent of that of Karla Faye Tucker’s. She was also a woman who had been able to use prison as a source of positive change. In her clemency appeal to Governor George W Bush she said: “I do want to live and be able to continue being a part of the solution now to the problems we have in our world…I am helping save lives now instead of taking lives and hurting others.”

In an interview, Mr. Allridge quotes author Anne Rice who wrote, “there is no such thing as a soul who loves nothing.” Mr. Allridge serves as a symbol of the human spirit in death row. The death row population is so easily dehumanized, so easily are their names taken away and replaced by the label of “killer,” “monster,” and “murderer.” Because they are seen as the other, it is easier for many to rationalize their death.

However, as Mr. Allridge wrote in 2000, “We all have purpose and worth. We all have our own unique voice in the choir of humanity. Even a mute can sing.”

Mr. Allridge is scheduled to receive a lethal injection at 6 p.m. CST. Please keep him, his family, and the family of Brian Clendennen in your thoughts. Please take a moment and contact Gov. Perry, urging him to stop the execution of James Allridge, III.

 
 

James Allridge Homepage

Canadian Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

Tackling the question of restitution is akin to tackling the question of pro- or anti-death penalty sentiments. I don't wish to make restitution as a means to atone for past sins, to seek redemption or to gain forgiveness. These are issues that must be, and which I already have, taken up with God.

Humanity as a whole can be seen as a puzzle. We all are a small part of the whole. When a life is taken, one piece of that puzzle is taken away and cannot be replaced because it is individual and unique onto itself. This is why I concede that there is nothing with which I, or anyone else, could ever do to replace the life that was taken. However, my art allows me to contribute to the entire picture-the whole of humanity. My art allows me to give back something purposeful, productive, constructive and meaningful. By giving back a small part of me with each piece of art I create, I am giving back to society.

I don't ask for forgiveness or recognition from anyone for what I do. I do it simply because I believe it is the right thing to do and for no other reason. I would hope that anyone who has lost a loved one to a senseless act of violence would only want the world to be a better place as a result of their loved one's death.

It is my belief that society would be better served by seeing a changed individual because of what he has learned from the experience than by adding to the cycle of violence by taking yet, another life.

James V. Allridge, III
Death Row, Terrell Unit
Livingston, Texas

James V. Allridge III donates his share of the art show proceeds to the Texas Association Of X-Offenders (TAX). TAX is a faith-based criminal recovery and relapse prevention program that targets adult inmates, inmate families, parolees, probationers, and x-offenders. Its programs are structure- and curriculum based. The idea of TAX is to provide a positive identity group for those impacted by the criminal justice system that will help them achieve a crime-free, drug/alcohol-free, prison-free prosocial lifestyle.

The TAX program is not only preventive, but redemptive. Its primary goal is developing human potential through personal empowerment. To rescue a person from a life wasted on crime, drugs, violence, and abuse, you must--so to speak--take that person to the other side of the mountain and show them what is there. TAX does that through role modeling, curriculum-based self-help programs, and peer support groups.

James Vernon Allridge III was born on November 14, 1962 in Colorado Springs, Colorado, while his father was stationed there in the Army. He remained there until he was 5 years of age, when his father was forced to retire due to a heart condition (he now has a pacemaker). Upon his father' s retirement the family moved to Fort Worth, Texas, where his parents and three younger brothers still live.

James attended school in Fort Worth. He attended Green B. Trimble Technical High School where he was an honor student, a three-year letterman on the Tennis Team and was offered a scholarship at Weatherford College, which he declined to work at his vocation in Mill & Cabinetmaking. He later went into management in the Fast Food Industry where he later co-owned and operated his own business, all before the age of twenty-two.

On March 25, 1985, James was arrested along with his brother Ronald K. Allridge, for the robbery/slaying of a Circle K Convenience Store clerk. Ronald was executed by the State of Texas on June 8, 1995.

During his trial, James' court appointed attorneys did very little to defend him and even less on his appeal. His court appointed attorneys dropped off his case when it was affirmed at the State level. James has had 3 execution dates set since being on Death Row. He came within 5 days of being executed on his last date.

Fortunately, with the help of friends and supporters in the U.S. and Switzerland, money was raised through the Fund for Life (FFL) - a legal fund for James - and an attorney by the name of Steven C. Losch was hired to continue his appeal. The court appointed attorney did a very poor job when he filed his State Writ of Habeas Corpus. Mr. Losch subsequently filed his Writ of Habeas Corpus in Federal Court which the federal magistrate ruled against. The ruling was based on the Anti Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. The Supreme Court later ruled that this law could not be applied retroactively. Mr. Losch filed a motion contesting the ruling and they are currently awaiting a ruling.

During his incarceration, James has become a self taught artist and writer. With no formal art training, he now has over 360 works in private collections. He has been recognized for his works in colored pencil at the Annual Prison Art Show & Exhibit held in Huntsville, Texas, and his works have been on display in Washington, D.C.. His pen & ink illustrations have appeared on numerous newsletters throughout the U.S. and Switzerland. Two of his fine art drawings have appeared on the cover of the Journal for Prisoners on Prisons In April of 1996, James had his first one man art exhibit in Switzerland to help raise money for the FFL.

C.U.R.E. (Citizens United for the Rehabilitation for Errants) purchased several of his illustrations for their line of all occasion note cards. Continuing in this fashion, James decided to produce his own line of handmade Christmas and all occasion greeting cards. Since 1993 they have sold throughout the U.S., Switzerland, Ireland, France, Holland and the United Kingdom. They have been purchased by such notables as Gloria Steinem, Susan Sarandon and Sting. He has gotten letters of support and encouragement from Maya Angelou, Robert Redford, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Ted Turner and Elizabeth Taylor.

James also has a scattering of essays, articles, letters and poems that have been published in various publications. He has self published a collection of poetry and prose entitled Deadly Executioner. It is dedicated to the men, and now one woman who have been executed by the State of Texas since the reinstatement of the death penalty.

In addition to those things, he's also gone to college at Sam Houston State University through their Correspondence Program where he majored in Business Administration and maintained a 4.0 G.P.A.

He also served on the Board of Directors of the Lamp of Hope Project (LHP), a Death Row based organization to help educate the public on the common misconceptions surrounding the death penalty and to provide services for those here on Texas' S Death Row.

James has made all of these accomplishments in a never ending struggle to disprove the prosecution's5 contention that he is a "continuing threat to society". It is his hope that all of these accomplishments will receive a favorable ruling from the Board of Pardons and Paroles and work towards having his sentence commuted to life. James' primary concern has always been to have his sentence commuted to life.

James believes that he has made many valuable contributions to society through his art and writing and wishes to continue making those contributions, even if from a prison cell.

With your help and support he can. Will you help to save his life?

 
 

Letter From Death Row

By James V. Allridge

Austin Chronicle

August 11, 2004

Jordan Smith
Investigative Reporter
Austin Chronicle
Austin, Texas 77002

Dear Jordan:

I spoke with Jim Marcus, Monday and he informed me that you would be writing an article about my bid for clemency. I wanted to provide for you, in my own words, some additional information that you may find useful in the formulation of your piece.

First and foremost, let me say that I have never tried to escape punishment and have always, always felt deep sorrow for my actions. The only words I uttered during my entire trial were to the victim's mother when I said I was sorry. I have spent the last 17 years of my incarceration to make sure two lives were not wasted out of this tragedy.

That is one reason we are focusing on the rehabilitative aspects of my case. Not everyone has an actual claim of innocence, DNA evidence to offer, mental retardation issues to consider or were a juvenile at the time of the crime. Unquestionably, some people here are actually guilty of the crime they were convicted of.

However, our criminal justice system, just as our government, is set up with a system of checks and balances. Death row prisoners go through a lengthy appeals process because our system of jurisprudence recognizes that men are fallible. It recognizes that sometimes the rule of law can and will be misinterpreted. We want the Parole Board members to be receptive to a message about positive change.

For too long, the Board has used the clemency process as a stopgap for the legal system. The Parole Board and Governor have only wanted to grant clemency if the person didn't have full access to the court system or if there are actual claims of innocence. I would submit that that's not what the clemency process was designed for.

The clemency process was designed because our legislature recognized that in some instances, our government would have to make exceptions for those who were punished too severely at the trial level. The legislators also had the foresight to anticipate that some, such as myself, would experience mature growth in spite of my surroundings. Rather than being influenced by hardened criminals in any way, I have actually influenced some in a positive manner.

I believe that clemency is about mercy when all legal avenues have been exhausted. Our campaign is about redemption, rehabilitation, reconciliation and forgiveness. We hope to restore faith and humanity to our Texas clemency process.

There are only two sentencing options in a capital case – life or death. Clemency isn't about escaping punishment but about reducing punishment and removing the threat of immediate death. A life sentence would continue punishment.

Another fallacy with the clemency process is there is no criteria or standard to meet in order to receive clemency. In the legal process, there are standards or bars that must be met before one can obtain relief on a legal issue. It should be the same for clemency. If we are to have a death penalty, and we do, then each and every aspect of the system should be operable. If we are to have a clemency process, and we do, it should be attainable.

What I am suggesting is this. If everything that I have achieved during the past 17 years (I invite you to visit my website at www.fund-for-life.org ), through my self-rehabilitative process doesn't meet the standard or criteria for clemency, then how likely is it that others who now have less time because of the shortened appeal process will ever be able to meet this invisible bar?

Clemency is about mercy. I am not demanding anything. I am asking that I be given the opportunity to continue contributing to society, even if it means from a prison cell.

I hope you find this additional information useful. Thank you for your time and consideration to this matter.

Sincerely, James V. Allridge III

 
 

Name: James Vernon Allridge III
DOC: 000870
Facility: Allan B. Polunsky Unit
Location (bunk, unit, etc) : Building 12 BA 08
Address: 12002 E.M. 350 South
City; State, Zip: Livingston. Texas 77351-9630
Age: 39
DOB: 11-14-62
SEX: Male

Physical Description: 6’3, 225lbs, Black hair, Brown eyes, light complexion.

Hobbies: puzzles and word games.

Interests: art, writing, reading.

Likes: sense of humor, not taking life too seriously and helping other’s people willing to learn and open-mindedness.

Dislikes: lack of understanding, gossip and people playing games that hurt others.

Education: Some college in Business Administration, vocational training.

Trade: Mill & Cabinet making and Custom Furniture Building.

Religious or Spiritual Preference: No organized religions

Wants and needs: My wants change daily; my need to be freed from death row remains constant

Type of Pen Pal wanted: Each friend is unique and has their own individuality to offer but someone willing to help me.

Date Incarcerated: 3-25-85

Expected Release date: Who knows?

Charges (in for?) Capital Murder

Additional Information: For those who have the ability, you can see the true me in my art. Please log on to my website at: http://www.freebox.com/jamesaliridgeiii/ My writing also offer a personal glimpse into my thoughts on some topics. But if that’s not enough you can always as me yourself.

1.) Are you interested in personal development? Yes
2.) Do you consider yourself a caring person? Yes
3.) Do you see a need for change in your prison environment? Yes
4.) Are you presently working toward such change, by yourself, or in a program offered by the prison? Yes, by myself and with others.
5.) If yes, is it effective? Still in the development stages.
6.) What are the programs you attend/participate? All self-developed.
7.) Are you interested in having such a program? Yes
8.) Are you interested in working toward bigger changes, with children at risk, with families outside-the wall? Not at the present time.
9) Do you have friends and family on the street? Yes
10) If yes, would they be interested in involvement in STS? Have informed them about it.
11.) Do you know other prisoners who would be interested in STS? Working on it.
12.) If, yes, would you be able to sponsor them in membership, explaining the concepts and services of STS? Yes, by relaying any information I receive.
13.) Would you consider leading a group of members, helping them, and representing the core to them? No
14.) Has your contact with Surviving the System been a positive experience? Not yet
15.) Would you like your own role to be a more active one? No
16.) Would you like to see more communication and more understanding between the prisoners in your community? Yes
17.) Is there any formal group in your institution that teaches or celebrates writing? No
18.) If no, would you be interested in founding one of these groups? No
19.) Do you feel that the drug laws are achieving betterment to society? No
20.) Do you feel that there are injustices in the prison administration? Yes
21.) Do you feel that the court system is an effective tool of social justice? No
22.) Would you be interested in seeing social change in our world, prison or otherwise? Yes
23.) Would you and/or your family members be interested in participating in our upcoming documentary series? I would.
24.) Have you ever considered putting your entire life story on paper, and if so, would you be interested in sharing it with the world at large? Yes, am currently working on it.

11/12/01

Dear Traci,

Thank you for your recent mailing. I think it was inevitable that we'd be in contact because a friend of mine has passed your information on to me weeks ago and I had intended to write but have been caught up with many things happening with my appeals.

In any event, I have enclosed your questionnaire and I would like to be included on your website. I, too, have a website and would be grateful if you would provide a link to my site. I was also thinking that an article from the last issue of my newsletter would be ideal for your youth orientated site. When Punishment Becomes a Crime: Trying to Find a Balance, I feel, would be well?suited for your site. You do have my permission to use it.

If I did have a message to convey to youths, I believe it would be that even if they should find themselves incarcerated, it’s not the end of the world. They should use that time to prepare for release as opposed to getting caught up in the prison gangs and trying to perfect their criminal ways.

As you will see by some of the enclosed, I have not been idle during my 16 1/2 years of confinement. These are just a small assemblage of my accomplishments. I am not unique or gifted because I didn't know how to draw nor write before being incarcerated. What makes me unique is that I used this time to teach myself these skills and develop them to a point where they will benefit me upon my release. Indeed, I expect these very accomplishments to be the reason behind my release. What I've done, I believe anyone can do if they only put their minds and hearts into it.

I'm enclosing a couple of my cards I do have the color catalog but the images are a bit distorted. I'm working on a new one. A complete list of enclosures will be at the bottom. I really admire what you're doing. If you need any more information, pictures, etc., from me, just let me know but I think you should be able to download everything from my website. By the way, I don't have access to the internet. Someone monitors my e?mail and relays the messages to me.

Your letters would reach me quicker via US Mail. I will be looking forward to hearing from you.

In Creativity, James Allridge

Petition for Plea to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles

"I read a story..."
I read a story not long ago about a young woman working at a wildlife refuge. She made the mistake of reaching her arm into the cage of a newly arrived tiger. She only wanted to pet it. The tiger purred, then began to lick her arm. Involuntarily, she tried to yank her arm from the cage. Instinctively, the tiger clamped down and tore her arm off.

Recently, here at the Terrell Unit, a 78 year-old volunteer chaplain stuck his arm inside the cell of an inmate (maybe to comfort him?) and the inmate grabbed his arm and begun cutting on it. I don't know what could have prompted this action nor do I condone it. Maybe it did it instinctively?

It's 2:52 a.m. and the officer just came by with our sack meals. When asked if I wanted to eat, I replied, 'yeah'. I put my light on and stood there waiting for him to open my food slot and slide my bag in as they normally do. Instead of getting my sack, I was told, 'Okay, now you have to go and sit on your bunk.' I told him to forget about it. He replied that I might as well get used to it because that's the way it's going to be from now on.

Apparently, we're supposed to sit on our bunks until our sacks have been placed on the slot. After the officer has stepped a safe distance away then, and only then, are we allowed to come and retrieve our sacks, retreat to the dark recesses of our cells and hungrily devour our long awaited rations of food.

I can afford to decline a meal for now because I have commissary. I can forgo the suffering through the indignity of being treated like a wild animal or even a pet that has to perform tricks in order to get a meal. If I 'Sit!' and 'Stay!', will they soon ask me to 'Roll over and play dead!'?

I suppose when I run out of food supply, I too will 'do tricks' in order to get the food that they will have for me. I have to eat, right? I have to have food to survive. Survival is a basic animal instinct.

Since we arrived here at Terrell Unit, we have been treated as sub-human. Seldom addressed directly by the guards and totally restricted from any physical interaction with another prisoner. We've been treated like animals at the zoo, corralled and herded from one holding to the next for either recreation, shower or on rare occasion, visits. When you lock men up and treat them like animals it is only inevitable that some will begin to act like animals. As the debate over capital punishment increases, we have more people speaking out on our behalf. It hurts the movement when a prisoner does something as what was done to the chaplain.

But I am reminded of the incident of the young woman and the tiger. Interviewed later, she pleaded for the tiger’s life as the State of Colorado debated on whether to destroy the animal. She said. 'To kill him now would make everything I've done and gone through meaningless.’ Please, continue to fight for us all.

12/16/01

Hi Traci:

You don't have to tell me about delays in answering your mail. I can relate to that cause I stay really busy myself. I just appreciate you taking the time to even respond. I didn't find out about my website's change until after I had written to you. My new URL is: www.deathrow.at/allridqe That's a lot simpler anyway, huh?

Nope, I don't know Melvin. The guy that gave me your letter months ago was Robert Coulson. I suppose he thought it was junk mail and nothing he wanted to be involved in. Myself, I’m always reaching out but not to youths, necessarily. I didn't have a disadvantaged childhood or suffer from abuse nor was I in trouble with the law or things like that. I can't relate to many of the stories I hear here but I do learn from them because many of these young guys have been through things in their young lives that I'm glad and thankful I didn't have to deal with.

Instead, my message is more about what people can do with their time when they become incarcerated. I believe they must realize that life is not over for them but in order to reclaim their lives, they have to begin today in planning for their future. I use the word future because most feel like they will never be released so they don't want to plan for their release but everyone has a future, whether it be in here or out there and you can still be productive within these prison walls. Laws are constantly changing and who knows what the future could bring. Maybe later the politicians will see that they erred in sentencing someone to 40 calendar years.

Sentences can always be commuted and time reductions can always be granted. So that's mainly my message and it can be for any age whether someone is locked up or not, they should always take the best of their lives.

I will close for now so you can get this letter before Christmas. I do hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas. I will be looking forward to your next letter.

Sincerely yours, James V. Allridge III

09/03/02

Dear Traci,

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to write. This year has been full of activities for me.

Please find enclosed the questionnaire that you sent a while back. Sorry for-the delay in getting it back to you but I’m sure you understand. I chose not to answer the essay question on the back. I’m doing so much myself and with my appeals that I couldn’t possibly do more to help you at this time.

What I have done is added a new section to my newsletter for USEFUL RESOURCES. I have added your contact information so anyone reading my newsletter can contact you or log onto your website if they wish to help. The newsletter should be there by now or will be there shortly so be expecting it. I would he pleased if you would let me know what you think about it.

I hate to rush this but let me get this in the mail. You will also receive an announcement card for my new company Light Expressions. If there is anyway you can ad the link to my new site, I would really appreciate that.

Take care and drop me a line or e-mail when you have the chance. My e-mail is: [email protected] Hope to hear from you soon.

In the Struggle, James V, Allridge III

 
 

Actress visits death row inmate

Sarandon meets pen pal, set for execution Aug. 26

By Cindy Horswell - Houston Chronicle

July 15, 2004

LIVINGSTON - With a brisk walk, actress Susan Sarandon made an unannounced trip Wednesday to Texas to visit her pen pal — a convicted murderer on death row. She had corresponded with the inmate, James Vernon Allridge III, for several years after buying some of the detailed drawings of flowers and animals he creates with colored pencils.

Prison officials said she had only recently been put on his visitation list, and she would not tip her hand as to why she had come to see Allridge, who is scheduled for execution Aug. 26. "I'm trying to be as low-profile as possible. It fits the strategy at this time," Sarandon said, declining to comment further. She wore tennis shoes and a loose pants outfit without a belt to avoid setting off the metal detector.

"Susan is just here for a visit. It's just communication between two friends," said David Atwood, founder of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, after escorting Sarandon to the prison near Livingston. "She just told him to stay strong, that she would pray for him and was thinking of him." He said they had discussed the possibility of her doing something on Allridge's behalf but "that will be left up to his attorneys."

Sarandon became more acutely aware of the death penalty when she portrayed a nun who was a spiritual adviser to a death row inmate in Dead Man Walking, for which she earned a best actress Oscar in 1996. After the movie was released, she told the Houston Chronicle, "I've always thought intellectually that (the death penalty) didn't make sense. It's expensive; it's arbitrary and capricious; it's not a deterrent." She said the role crystallized her feelings to the point that she realized: "It's not important who is to die, but who is to kill and what it means to recognize the humanity in everyone. I feel more clearly now that there is no reason to kill."

Wednesday, she did not want to publicly discuss her views. Allridge, who speaks to visitors by telephone through a Plexiglas barrier, had initially agreed to be interviewed by the Chronicle after Sarandon left. He later declined on the advice of his attorney.

"It's not important who is to die, but who is to kill and what it means to recognize the humanity in everyone. I feel more clearly now that there is no reason to kill." (Susan Sarandon, actress) The 41-year-old inmate has spent the past 17 years on death row — much longer than the average inmate, including his older brother, Ronald, who was executed in 1995. James Allridge was sentenced to death for fatally shooting Fort Worth convenience store clerk Brian Clendennen while robbing the store of $300 in 1985.

The same year, during another robbery, his brother fatally shot a 19-year-old diner at a fast-food restaurant. He shot her because she was "penniless," news accounts at the time said. Ronald had spent 3 1/2 years in prison in the late 1970s for killing a high school student and had been accused of killing the store manager of a pizza-delivery business where he worked, authorities said.

"In 1985, the two brothers had gone on a spree of robberies and killings. Each was driving the getaway cars for the other when their capital murders happened," said Mike Parrish, the Tarrant County prosecutor in James Allridge's case. James Allridge knew his victim would recognize him because they had attended a management training school together, Parrish said. "He came out of the store and thought about it, but then went back inside to rob the place and shoot him," he said.

Parrish said other robbery cases, including one in which Allridge allegedly pointed a gun at a 4-year-old, were dropped after the murder conviction.

About Sarandon's visit, Parrish said, "Nothing surprises me anymore. Like all those people from Europe who send (Allridge) money. It's surreal." On a Web site where Allridge sells his art, he writes about his past and does not deny killing the clerk. "I'm not making excuses," he said. "But there was a lot of pressure from my older brother ... who was a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic."

He also expresses regret that anyone had to "lose their life for me to become the person I am today." He writes he has been rehabilitated and is no longer a danger to society. He, along with Atwood and Sarandon, wants his sentence commuted to life. "Susan has written to him for a number of years and sees him as a person who has changed and developed. She is impressed by his accomplishments like his art and intelligence," Atwood said.

"I've never met any death row inmate that is more rehabilitated," he said.

"Victim's brother blasts Sarandon's death-row visit; Actress says her friendship with inmate doesn't lessen sympathy toward the family." Houston Chronicle By Cindy Horswell. (July 16, 2004)

For 17 years, Shane Clendennen has waited for justice after his brother's killer was sent to death row.

But now that James Vernon Allridge III has finally been assigned an execution date on Aug. 26, Clendennen cannot understand why Academy Award-winning actress Susan Sarandon made a special trip to death row to visit Allridge. Death penalty opponents say she wants his sentence commuted to life. "How would she feel if someone tied up her child and shot him in the back of the head, then she had to watch him on life support for three days until he died?" asked Clendennen, 34, a machinist from Fort Worth. "(Sarandon) should not have a voice in this unless she has gone through that kind of pain and loss."

Clendennen's brother, Brian, was 21 and working in a convenience store in Fort Worth when he was shot in 1985. Allridge knew the clerk could recognize him, because they had taken a management training course together, prosecutors said. After briefly scoping out the store, he returned to rob it of $300 and shoot the clerk, prosecutors said.

Wednesday, Sarandon visited with Allridge for two hours. She would not comment except to say she was trying to maintain "a low profile." But in response to the reaction of the victim's family to her visit, she released a written statement Thursday. "My heart and prayers go out to the Clendennen family. They have suffered a terrible loss, one that I would not presume to know. I hope they have found a way towards healing from the senseless murder of Brian Clendennen. "My friendship with James Allridge in no way diminishes my feelings of sympathy for the Clendennen family. It merely reflects the fact that James Allridge is a human being and is more than the worst act that he has ever committed," the statement said.

Dave Atwood, who founded the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and accompanied Sarandon to the prison, said the actress and inmate had been pen pals for several years. He said she had bought some of the inmate's drawings. Atwood said the actress had gone there to encourage Allridge. He said she discussed the possibility of doing something on his behalf but that would be "left up to the attorneys."

Sarandon earned a best actress Oscar in 1996 for portraying a nun who was a spiritual adviser to a death row inmate in Dead Man Walking. Atwood and Sarandon think Allridge's sentence should be commuted because, they say, he has been rehabilitated.

His drawings have been exhibited at several colleges, and he has maintained a 4.0 GPA taking college business courses while on death row, Atwood noted.

But Shane, the victim's brother, is upset that Allridge has been able to earn college credits and "sell stuff (his art) over the Internet" from his 6-foot cell. On the Web site where Allridge sells his art, he writes about his past and does not deny the killing. "I'm not making excuses," Allridge wrote. "But there was a lot of pressure from my older brother ... who was a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic." He also expressed regret anyone had to "lose their life for me to become the person I am today." Allridge declined to be interviewed.

Shane Clendennen said he does not think his brother's killer has been rehabilitated. "If (Allridge) was born again, I could maybe forgive him. But I still think he should die for what he did," he said.

 
 

Victims advocate sees a test case in inmate's artwork

He says a law confiscating profits of 'murderabilia' should be enforced

By Cindy Horswell - Houston Chronicle

August 2, 2004

With intricate strokes in colored pencil, he creates photograph-like drawings of flowers and animals from his 8-foot-square cell on Texas' death row.

The vivid shades of the drawings directly contrast with the stark cell where James Vernon Allridge III has been confined for the last 17 years. But despite his isolation, he has a Web site that sells his art and a greeting card line in the United States and Europe — where a large print sells for $465 and a box of cards for $10.

Allridge, convicted of the robbery and murder of a young convenience store clerk in Fort Worth, sees his art as a sign of rehabilitation. As such, he says his sentence should be commuted to life. But crime victim advocate Andy Kahan of Houston wants Allridge's art sales to serve a much different purpose. He wants to use the sales as the first test case of a state law against criminals profiteering from the marketing of personal artifacts, which range from artwork to hair strands. He refers to it such memorabilia as "murderabilia."

The law — which calls for confiscation of any profits from items that are inflated by a criminal's notoriety — has never been enforced since its adoption three years ago. "It's time to see if this law is more than lip service," said Kahan, the director of Houston's victims assistance office since 1992. "It's obvious that Allridge is using his ill-gotten notoriety to make a buck."

Kahan says peddling "murderabilia" is widespread on the Internet. But prison officials say they often are not aware of such Internet transactions because inmates have people on the outside establishing Web sites. Allridge's art sales came to prison authorities' attention only after actress Susan Sarandon, who had bought his art, made a special trip to death row two weeks ago to visit Allridge. The inmate has not revealed how much he has earned from the sales.

Kahan says the influx of Hollywood types, like Sarandon, who won an Academy Award for her portrayal as a spiritual adviser to a death-row inmate in Dead Man Walking, only helps increase the celebrity status of Allridge's art. On advice of his attorney, Allridge has declined to talk to the Houston Chronicle. His attorney, Jim Marcus of Houston, said neither he nor his client was aware of the art controversy.

On Allridge's Web site, he writes, "My art allows me to give back something purposeful, productive, constructive and meaningful. By giving back a small part of me with each piece of art I create, I am giving back to society." His execution is set for Aug. 26.

When the family of Allridge's victim recently learned about the art sales, as well as the Hollywood patronage, they were outraged. "I don't think it's right. I'm sorry," said the victim's 64-year-old mother, Doris Clendennen, apologizing for emotionally breaking down as she talked. "My 21-year-old son, Brian, was also an artist and a writer who got up and preached in church. But he never got to fulfill his dreams."

Since her son's death, she has treasured his art and even retrieved a bird drawing that he did in middle school that was hanging in a Tarrant County mayor's office. She recently refused a request from Allridge's attorney to talk to the inmate. Her son died from a gunshot to the back of the head after his store was robbed of $300 in 1985. Tarrant County prosecutor Mike Parrish said the killing was one of three that occurred while Allridge and his older brother, Ronald, were on a robbery spree in which they took turns driving the getaway car.

James Allridge had recognized Clendennen from a management training school they both attended, but after thinking about it, still entered the convenience store to rob and shoot him, Parrish said. Allridge's brother, Ronald, was executed nine years ago for the fatal shooting of a 19-year-old during the crime spree . Clendennen's brother, Shane, a 34-year-old machinist, said he cannot understand why celebrities would glorify Allridge. Allridge's Web site lists others besides Sarandon who have bought his art, including activist and author Gloria Steinem and entertainer Sting, and states he has received letters of support from actor Robert Redford, businessman Ted Turner and actress Elizabeth Taylor.

So far Texas is one of only a few states that has expanded the so-called "Son of Sam" law to include "murderabilila." The original version was only designed to prevent criminals from assisting in the retelling of their crimes in book, video or audio formats. It was first adopted in New York in 1977 after a publishing company offered to pay serial killer David Berkowitz to tell his story.

In 1991, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the "Son of Sam" law violated free speech. Several states have since revised the statute to allow criminals to tell their story but then confiscates any money earned from it. While the issue has remained ambiguous in the courts, Kahan has been conducting lectures on the "marketing of crime" and pushed for control of "murderabilia."

He has bought a collection of strange items from Web site dealers that he uses to make his point. His collection includes a brown wisp of Charles Manson's hair twisted into the shape of a swastika; fingernail clippings of serial killer Roy Norris who liked to record his victim's screams; a letter from John King, sentenced to death for the Jasper dragging-death of James Byrd; and hair strands belonging Angel Maturino Resendiz, who has admitted to killing 12 people in Texas and four other states.

He has declined to purchase any criminal's artwork, such as John Wayne Gacy's clown paintings, because it costs more than other items. Angel Resendiz, the so-called "railroad killer," has a drawing of a man with wings and a halo posted for sale on an out-of-state dealer's Internet site. Kahan thinks Allridge's art sales might provide the best avenue for testing the "murderabilia" law. That is because Allridge is not going through third-party dealers who are based outside Texas.

Allridge's Web site lists a Fort Worth address and asks that checks be made payable to him, Kahan notes. Allridge's Web site says he is trying to raise thousands of dollars for his fight to overturn his death sentence. Kahan's complaint about Allridge's art sales has been turned over to Mark Mullin, an attorney with the special prison prosecution unit. "We will look into it," said Mullin. "If the law is being broken, something should be done to stop it. I don't think prisoners should profit form their crimes." Money confiscated under the law is contributed to crime victims.

The American Civil Liberties Union's Texas president, Greg Gladden, is convinced the law violates an inmate's right of free speech because the state cannot show it has an interest in preventing art sales: "How would this prevent future crime?" Plus he said the law is overly broad and does not specify "art." "I also don't see how in the world that you can prove the value of the art and whether it is inflated," he said.

 
 

Allridge v. State, 850 S.W.2d 471 (Tex.Crim.App. 1991) (Direct Appeal).

Defendant was convicted in the Criminal District Court, No. 4, Tarrant County, Joe Drago, III, J., of capital murder. Death penalty was imposed. Defendant appealed. The Court of Criminal Appeals, White, J., held that: (1) it was not abuse of discretion to refuse to allow defendant to inquire of venireperson as to her opinion of court-ordered busing to achieve integration; (2) prospective juror met statutory literacy qualifications; (3) evidence supported jury's decision that there was probability that defendant would commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute continuing threat to society; and (4) defendant's general request of jailers for permission to make phone call did not rise to level of being request for counsel. Affirmed. Baird and Maloney, JJ., concurred in result. Clinton, J., dissented.

WHITE, Judge.

Appellant was convicted of capital murder. See V.T.C.A., Penal Code, § 19.03(a)(2). After the jury made an affirmative finding on both of the special issues submitted under Art. 37.071(b)(1) and (2), V.A.C.C.P., the trial court imposed the penalty of death. This case is before us on direct appeal.

Appellant brought a total of twenty-one points of error to this Court, including an argument that the evidence at trial was insufficient to support the jury's affirmative answer to the second special issue. We will affirm the judgment of the trial court. A review of the evidence admitted at appellant's trial is necessary.

On Sunday night, February 3, 1985, appellant and his brother, Ronald Allridge, left their apartment to rob a Circle K convenience store on Sycamore School Road in Fort Worth. Appellant took his chrome Raven .25 calibre semi-automatic pistol with him. Ronald Allridge was driving appellant's car. Appellant and his brother selected a Circle K store because appellant, due to his past experience as an employee with Circle K, was familiar with the store's procedures and appellant also knew where the combination to the safe was kept at a Circle K store. Ronald dropped appellant off and went around the corner to wait for him.

It was close to midnight, and the attendant, Brian Clendennen, had already closed the store for the evening. Clendennen was working there on that evening as a substitute for another clerk. Appellant and Clendennen knew each other from when appellant had worked for Circle K from December, 1984 through January, 1985. Appellant knew Clendennen by name, and asked for change for a dollar to use the phone. Clendennen unlocked the door and made change for appellant. Appellant pretended to use the phone and left to rejoin his brother.

Appellant's brother accused him of chickening out of the robbery. He dropped appellant off at the store a second time. Appellant went to the door and knocked. Clendennen opened the door and appellant pulled his gun, forcing Clendennen to admit him into the store. Appellant took Clendennen to the back storeroom and tied the clerk's hands behind his back. Appellant then emptied the register and safe of their money, placing it in a sack. Some of the change fell to the floor. Appellant heard movement in the storeroom, went there and found that Clendennen had moved. Appellant made Clendennen get back on his knees and shot him twice in the back of the head. Appellant left with the bills and some of the change taken from the store.

When appellant rejoined his brother, he discovered that his pistol had jammed on the second shot. Appellant decided to return to the store to be certain that Clendennen was dead. When appellant got to the front of the store, he saw a woman waiting in a car in the parking lot. Without entering the store, appellant turned around and ran from the scene and rejoined his brother. Appellant and his brother returned to their apartment and counted the money. They got $336 in the robbery.

The woman waiting in the car was Brian Clendennen's mother. After appellant fled the scene, Mrs. Clendennen opened the door and looked in. She saw a bunch of change laying on the floor, but did not see her son. She ran back to her car and went to the Whataburger on Sycamore School Road to get help. Someone called the police. Other people ran down to the Circle K to try to help. When the police arrived, they found Brian Clendennen in the back storeroom of the Circle K, his hands still tied behind his back. He was barely breathing. He died the next day.

An autopsy confirmed that he died from the gunshot wound to the head he received during the course of the robbery. The police retrieved an intact slug from the victim's head. They had no leads in this robbery-murder for six weeks.

On March 25, 1985, three men pulled a robbery-murder at the Whataburger Restaurant on Sycamore School Road. A witness positively identified appellant's brother, Ronald, as the shooter in the robbery-murder. The police arrested appellant and his brother at their apartment on March 25, 1985. After the arrest, appellant was taken outside the apartment to the parking lot. The police testified that appellant was not threatened, promised, or physically abused. Appellant then signed a consent to search his room in the apartment. During the search, the police recovered the Raven .25 calibre pistol appellant used in the Circle K offense.

On the night of March 25, 1985, appellant was arraigned by Municipal Court Judge Bernal for the Whataburger offense. At trial Bernal testified that she did not recall if appellant requested an attorney to be appointed to represent him. Her bailiff, A.D. Marshall, testified that appellant did not request an attorney at his arraignment. At 10:00 a.m. on March 26, 1985, appellant gave the police a written confession admitting that he killed Brian Clendennen in the course of robbing him at the Circle K store. The detective who took the confession testified that appellant did not invoke any rights or request the assistance of counsel during the interrogation.

Testimony at trial revealed that appellant purchased the Raven .25 calibre pistol at a pawn shop on September 11, 1984. A ballistics expert testified that the bullet retrieved from the head of the victim was fired from the Raven .25 calibre pistol.

* * * *

The judgment is affirmed.

 
 

Allridge v. Cockrell, 92 Fed.Appx. 60 (5th Cir. 2003) (Habeas).

Background: Petitioner, convicted in state court of capital murder and sentenced to death, 850 S.W.2d 471, sought federal habeas relief. The United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas denied petition. Petitioner appealed.

Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Wiener, Circuit Judge, held that: (1) trial court did not err in sustaining prosecution's challenge for cause to venireperson; (2) claim that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance at penalty phase of capital murder trial was procedurally defaulted; and (3) counsel did not render ineffective assistance. Affirmed.

 
 


 

 

 

James Vernon Allridge III

 

 

 
 
 
 
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