offender declined to make a last statement.
Texas Attorney General
Monday, November 15, 1999
DESMOND JENNINGS SCHEDULED TO BE EXECUTED
AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn offers
the following information on Desmond Jennings who is scheduled to be
executed after 6 p.m., Tuesday,
FACTS OF THE CRIME
On December 27, 1993, Eric Gardner was standing
outside the Ambassador Apartments in the "Stop Six" area of Fort Worth,
Texas. Gardner saw Jennings and John Freeman driving along in
Freeman's white Honda Accord sometime after midnight, and, wanting a
ride home, Gardner flagged them down. Freeman and Jennings agreed to
drive him home; however, after driving some distance, Freeman said he
wanted to get some heroin before taking Gardner home. Freeman
mentioned a drug house on Langston Street, and Jennings suggested, "Let's
jack the house." Freeman was amenable, but Gardner objected, to which
Jennings responded, "Well, ain't nothing but two dope fiends in the
Freeman drove up to the Langston Street house and
then traveled further along the street before stopping. Jennings and
Freeman exited the car and approached the house. Jennings pulled his
hood over his head and had both his hands inside his jacket pockets.
Freeman's hands were free of objects. Gardner remained in the car,
turned on the car's radio, and watched through the rear window.
Jennings and Freeman went inside the house. At one point, when Gardner
turned the radio volume down, he heard two shots and then saw Jennings
and Freeman walk calmly out of the house. The men had been inside the
house for two or three minutes.
Once back inside the car, Jennings and Freeman sat
quietly as they drove away. Jennings eventually pulled out a pouch
which he had obtained in the drug house, checked the contents --
thirteen cents and empty capsules -- and then threw it out the window,
saying, "There ain't nothin'up in here." Instead of taking Gardner
home, they drove him back to the Americana Apartments, situated in
close proximity to the Ambassador Apartments where they had picked him
At the Americana Apartments, Derrick Price and his
friend, Victor Walker, joined the group. When Jennings climbed out of
the car in front of Price's apartment, he called Gardner a derogatory
term which translated to a "coward." Next, Jennings excitedly told
Gardner, "I dropped that [person] in the front room."
He continued by explaining that as they approached
the house, a man inside stood up and asked what he wanted. Jennings
responded by shooting the man in the face. Jennings related that he
advanced into the house and, on seeing a woman raising herself on the
bed, he shot her in the head too. Next, he returned to the male victim,
shot him again, rifled through his pockets, and stole his pouch. As
Jennings and Freeman were leaving the house, Jennings heard the woman
moaning so he returned and shot her a second time.
After recounting the killings, Jennings observed,
"I messed my Chucks up. I got blood all over my Chucks and my khakis."
Gardner noticed blood on Jennings' "Chuck Taylor" All-Star tennis
shoes. Jennings did not appear scared, and he showed no remorse.
Jennings spent that night with Robert Anderson, who lived at the
nearby Ambassador Apartments. When Anderson observed that Jennings had
blood on his tennis shoes, Jennings said he had messed them up killing
people for nothing. Gardner did not tell the police about the killings
because he thought either Jennings or Freeman would have shot him.
Price testified that, in that area of town, if a person is labeled a "snitch,"
his life is in danger.
Willie Charles Washington, his wife Tosha, Floyd
Roberts, and Dietrich Irvin drove to the Langston Street house to
obtain heroin on December 27, 1993. Washington and Irvin approached
the house and noticed the screen door was closed but the main door was
ajar. Washington saw a man lying on the floor gurgling and coughing.
The men left the house, drove to a nearby fire department building,
and alerted the staff.
Firefighters and medical personnel reported to the
scene, followed shortly by Fort Worth police. There they discovered
the body of a black male lying on the floor just inside the door of
the residence and the body of a black female lying on a bed. The house
appeared unkept inside and contained a great deal of drug
paraphernalia. Police recovered a spent bullet from inside a pillow on
the female victim's bed and several fired bullet casings from on and
around the bed. The male victim's pants pockets had been turned inside
The autopsy of the male victim, Sylvester Walton,
revealed that he had sustained a gunshot wound to the head. The bullet
entered through his left nostril, traveled through his brain, and
lodged in his left occipital scalp. The bullet was recovered from
Walton's body and turned over to police. Tremendous brain swelling due
to the wound track caused Walton's death.
The autopsy of the female victim, Wonda Matthews,
indicated that she had been shot three times. One bullet, fired from
less than six feet away, entered on the right side of her nose and
exited through her jaw in front of her left ear. Although the bullet
passed underneath the base of her skull, it did not cause her death. A
second bullet entered the left side of her head and traveled down and
to the right before lodging in her left nostril. This bullet caused
massive brain damage and was the cause of death. A third bullet
entered near her left eye, traveled down and to the rear causing
damage underneath her brain, and lodged in her left neck muscle. Two
bullets were recovered from Matthews's body and turned over to police.
On January 3, 1994, Fort Worth police officers
stopped a white Honda Accord traveling with only one functioning
headlight. Earlier the same day, a robbery victim had reported the
same vehicle to the officers. Freeman was driving the vehicle, and
there were four passengers. Freeman was wearing a Dallas Cowboys
Starter jacket that was similar to one stolen during the robbery five
hours earlier. The officers arrested Freeman and one of the passengers
for possession of a controlled substance. When the car was inventoried,
a loaded nickel-plated .32-caliber handgun was discovered in the trunk
of the car. Ballistics comparisons subsequently conducted on the
handgun revealed that the bullet recovered from the crime scene and
the bullets recovered from the victims' bodies were all fired from
Jennings was indicted on March 10, 1994, in the
213th Judicial District Court of Tarrant County, Texas, for the
capital offense of murdering Sylvester Walton and Wonda Matthews
during the same criminal transaction, which occurred on or about
December 27, 1993. Jennings was tried before a jury following his plea
of not guilty, and on July 19, 1995, the jury found him guilty. On
July 26, 1995, following a separate punishment hearing, the jury
answered the three statutory special issues submitted pursuant to
Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 37.071 "yes", "yes", and
"no", respectively. In accordance with state law, the trial court
assessed Jennings's punishment at death.
Jennings appealed his conviction and sentence to
the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which affirmed on April 2, 1997.
The court denied Jennings's motion for rehearing on June 11, 1997, and
the United States Supreme Court denied Jennings's petition for writ of
certiorari on December 8, 1997.
Pursuant to amended Article 11.071 of the Texas
Code of Criminal Procedure, which provides for state post-conviction
proceedings to proceed simultaneously with the direct appeal, Jennings
filed his initial state application for writ of habeas corpus in the
state trial court on February 24, 1997. By order dated May 8, 1997,
the trial court entered findings of fact and conclusions of law
recommending that the relief sought be denied. On June 11, 1997, the
Court of Criminal Appeals denied Jennings's application for writ of
habeas corpus on the basis of the trial court's findings and
conclusions. On January 8, 1998, the state trial court scheduled
Jennings's execution for April 28, 1998.
Jennings proceeded into federal court by filing
motions for appointment of counsel and for stay of execution in the
United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Fort
Worth Division, on March 10 and 11, 1998, respectively. On March 11,
1998, the federal district court appointed counsel, and the court
granted Jennings's request for a stay of execution on March 12.
Jennings filed his petition on April 24, 1998. On June 12, 1998, the
district court entered final judgment denying Jennings's petition for
writ of habeas corpus and vacating the previously issued stay of
execution. The district court denied Jennings permission to appeal on
July 16, 1998. Similarly, the United States Court of Appeals for the
Fifth Circuit denied Jennings permission to appeal on January 21,
1999, and denied rehearing on March 10, 1999. The United States
Supreme Court denied Jennings's petition for writ of certiorari on
October 4, 1999.
PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY
At the punishment phase of trial, the State
introduced evidence demonstrating Jennings's participation in three
additional murders. As outlined below, this evidence showed that
Jennings was the triggerman in a small band of men who shot to death
five people (including the two victims of the instant offense) at
three different Fort Worth crack houses (including the instant offense)
in October and December of 1993.
On October 23, 1993, Jennings, Freeman, James
Edward Donald Jr., Joseph L. Griffin, and Robert Anderson drove to a
drug house on Eastland Street in Fort Worth intending to rob the
occupants. Griffin remained in the car and Anderson stood watch on the
street, while Jennings (armed with a twelve-gauge shotgun), Freeman,
and Donald approached the house. Freeman knocked on the door, and, on
hearing an invitation to enter, Jennings burst in and commanded, "Drop
out." One of the two men inside appeared to comply, but Jennings shot
him anyway, and both men fell to the ground. When Freeman walked into
a back bedroom, a woman there began screaming, leapt through the
bedroom window, and ran away down the street. Jennings ordered Donald
to search the couch for money and then search the dying victim who was
lying on the floor moaning. When Donald refused to search the man,
Jennings himself went through the victim's pockets. The men then left
the house. The victim, Larry Wilson, died as a result of blood loss
twenty to forty-five minutes after being shot.
Traveling back to the Ambassador Apartments,
Jennings advised the others, "The trigger man gets the most, gets the
most money." The men had obtained approximately $100 cash and $30
worth of marijuana. Jennings warned the others that if they said
anything he would kill them. Later that night, Jennings told Donald
and Anderson, "If anybody snitches, I am killing both of y'all."
In the early morning hours of Christmas Eve 1993,
Jennings and Freeman were seen fleeing a residence on Sunshine Street
in Fort Worth. Jennings was carrying a gun. Inside the residence, Dino
Beasley had sustained multiple gunshot wounds; he lost consciousness
and died almost immediately. Charlotte Dickerson had sustained a
gunshot wound to the top of her head and lacerations to the left side
of her brain, but she remained conscious long enough to call 911.
However, she died Christmas morning as a result of her injuries. While
only Jennings was seen carrying a weapon, police recovered both .32-caliber
and .25-caliber cartridge cases from the crime scene. The .32-caliber
bullets recovered at the Sunshine Street crime scene were positively
identified as having been fired from the weapon used in the instant
DRUGS AND/OR ALCOHOL
There was evidence of drug use related to the
Desmond Jennings was
sentenced to be executed for the shooting deaths of 44-year-old
Sylvester Walton and 27-year-old Wonda Matthews. Both victims were
shot in the head in a Ft. Worth home, two days after Christmas, in
Walton was killed
by a bullet that hit him in the nose and traveled through his brain.
Matthews was shot twice in the face and once in the back of the head.
Jennings took a
pouch containing a small amount of drugs and money from Walton's
pocket before he and his companion left the house, records show.
Jennings was 22
years old at the time of the murders. Jennings was tied to a spree
of crack house robberies and killings but was sentenced to death for
the double murder that netted him 13 cents and some empty drug
Jennings, 28, was
described by prosecutors as a drug-using thrill killer and may be
responsible for as many as 20 murders at Fort Worth drug houses.
they have positively linked him to 5 slayings, including the two in
1993 that sent him to death row.
The victims in the
other cases were Dino Beasley, 29, and Charlotte Dickerson, 31,
found fatally shot Christmas Eve 1993 inside a drug house on
Sunshine Drive; and Larry Eugene Wilson, killed by a shotgun blast
Oct. 23, 1993, at a marijuana house.
that Dickerson nearly survived the Sunshine Drive bloodbath when she
hid under the bed as Jennings riddled Beasley with bullets. But
witnesses said Jennings, after leaving, went back into the house and
shot Dickerson when he learned of her presence.
These other murders
remain on the books as unsolved. All occurred in drug houses and
nearly all the victims were prostitutes or junkies.
Jennings tossed the 13 cents and capsules out the window of a car as
he drove away from where Sylvester Walton, 44, and Wonda Matthews,
27, both had been fatally shot in the head Dec. 27, 1993.
Jennings is a
former nurse's aide who dropped out of school after the 9th grade.
Evidence at Jennings' trial showed he was the triggerman in a small
gang of men who robbed Fort Worth crack houses. "They would
literally bust down the doors, rob the house and kill everyone there,"
Joetta Keene, a former Tarrant County assistant district attorney
who prosecuted Jennings said.
"We proved the
double homicide for grounds for capital (murder). What we proved is
3 more bodies in the punishment (phase) with no question of the
feeling there were more out there. We knew there were up to 20 but
we figured 5 would be enough and we proved 5 bodies." A 2nd man was
convicted of murder and is serving a 30-year prison term.
A friend testified
Jennings was unfazed by the killings but was most upset that blood
had splattered on his Chuck Taylor All-Star basketball shoes and his
pants. "I messed my Chucks up," Jennings told him. "I got blood all
over my Chucks and my khakis."
He was arrested
about a week later when police pulled over his car for having only
one working headlight. A loaded .32-caliber pistol was found in the
car and ballistics tests on the weapon tied it to the killings.
Ms. Keene recalled
this week how Jennings sat at the defense table in court and
whistled "Battle Hymn of the Republic." "It's one of those things
where you can have a hundred trials but don't forget that," she said.
"I'm evaluating the death penalty in my heart and my mind and he's
over there whistling."
Desmond Jennings, 28, 99-11-16, Texas
A defiant condemned inmate fought a 5-member team of guards before
being executed Tuesday night for killing 2 people during a Fort
Worth crack house robbery.
Desmond Jennings, 28, had warned prison officials he would not
cooperate and, "true to his word, he did resist all the way," prison
spokesman Larry Fitzgerald said.
Guards clad in helmets, masks, chest gear and shin guards swooped
into his cell after 6 p.m. when he refused to go on his own volition.
"I won't do this," Jennings told officers.
52 seconds later he was removed from the cell - his fists clenched
and his body rigid - but he threw no punches. As he was carried to
the chamber, he told guards, "Thank you for not using gas."
A few hours earlier, before being taken to the death house, a
similar team used pepper spray to subdue Jennings and pull him from
his prison cell at the Ellis Unit, about 15 miles northeast of
Huntsville, for a van ride to the Huntsville Unit in downtown
Huntsville, where executions take place.
As witnesses filed into the chamber, Jennings was passive and made
no eye contact. When the warden asked whether he had final statement,
Jennings said, "No, I do not."
Jennings took 2 short breaths, stopped moving and was declared dead
at 6:22 p.m., 7 minutes after the flow of lethal drugs began.
It's the 1st time in 193 executions carried out in the state since
capital punishment resumed in 1982 that authorities have needed to
use force to move a condemned inmate to the death house.
Jennings could be responsible for as many as 20 murders at Fort
Worth crack houses although authorities believed they positively
linked him to 5 slayings, including the 2 in 1993 that sent him to
"It's very hard (to seek the death penalty), but then a Desmond
Jennings comes along and even though you may cry at night because
you're involved, ... it just makes sense that you've got to have
this necessary evil," Joetta Keene, a former Tarrant County
assistant district attorney who prosecuted Jennings, said this week.
"To me, he is the definition of the death penalty. He believes so
little in human life that a pair of sneakers is worth more to him
than the life of a human being. You've got to pay more than just sit
in a cell. God can redeem him but with man you have to suffer the
consequences. You can't go blow a bunch of people away and think
The other murders remain on the books as unsolved. All occurred in
drug houses and nearly all the victims were prostitutes or junkies.
Witnesses said Jennings tossed 13 cents and capsules out the window
of a car as he drove from where Sylvester Walton, 44, and Wonda
Matthews, 27, had been fatally shot in the head Dec. 27, 1993.
"It's over and done with," Angela Hamza, Ms. Matthews' sister, said
after watching Jennings die. "I wouldn't use the word `glad.' I do
feel justice has been served."
Evidence at Jennings' trial showed he was the triggerman in a small
gang of men who robbed Fort Worth crack houses.
"They would literally bust down the doors, rob the house and kill
everyone there," Ms. Keene said. "We proved the double homicide for
grounds for capital (murder). What we proved is 3 more bodies in the
punishment (phase) with no question of the feeling there were more
"We knew there were up to 20 but we figured 5 would be enough and we
proved 5 bodies."
A 2nd man was convicted of murder and is serving a 30-year prison
A friend testified the killings did not faze Jennings, who was most
upset that blood had splattered on his Chuck Taylor All-Star
basketball shoes and his pants.
"I messed my Chucks up," Jennings told him. "I got blood all over my
Chucks and my khakis."
He was arrested about a week later when police pulled over his car
for having only one working headlight. Police found a loaded .32-caliber
pistol in the car and ballistics tests on the weapon tied it to the
Ms. Keene recalled this week how Jennings sat at the defense table
in court and whistled "Battle Hymn of the Republic."
"It's one of those things where you can have a hundred trials but
don't forget that," she said. "I'm evaluating the death penalty in
my heart and my mind and he's over there whistling."
On Wednesday night, convicted murderer John Lamb, 42, a California
man with arrests from coast to coast, was set to die for the 1982
robbery-shooting of a Virginia businessman in a Greenville motel
room. Lamb was released from an Arkansas prison the day before the
fatal shooting and was arrested 5 days later in Florida driving the
Thursday night, Jose Gutierrez, 39, was set for lethal injection for
the fatal shooting and robbery of a jewelry store clerk in College
Station 10 years ago. Gutierrez's brother, Jessie, was executed in
1994 for the same crime.
Jennings becomes the 29th condemned inmate to be put to death this
year in Texas, and the 193rd overall since the state resumed capital
punishment on Dec. 7, 1982.
(sources: Associated Press and Rick Halperin)
Texas Execution Information Center by David Carson -
Domnique Jennings, 28, was executed by lethal injection on 16
November 1999 in Huntsville, Texas, for murdering two people.
On 27 December 1993, Jennings, then 23, was
driving with Eric Gardner and John Freeman in Freeman's car after
midnight in Fort Worth. Freeman parked on the street in front of a
drug house. He and Jennings exited the car and walked toward the
house, while Gardner waited in the car.
As the two men entered the house, Sylvester
Walton, 44, asked them what they wanted. Jennings shot Walton in the
face. They went further into the house, saw Wonda Matthews, 27,
raising herself on the bed, and Jennings shot her in the head. Next,
he returned to Walton and rifled through his pockets, removing a
pouch. As the two men were leaving the house, Jennings heard
Matthews moaning, so he shot her a second time.
Jennings and Freeman then returned to the car and
drove away. Jennings pulled out the pouch he had taken from Walton
and opened it. When he saw that it contained only thirteen cents and
some empty capsules, he threw it out the window. They then drove to
some apartments where they picked up two more friends.
The crime scene was discovered later that day by
four people who went to the house to buy heroin. Emergency personnel
were summoned. They recovered one bullet from Walton's body and two
John Freeman was arrested seven days later while
driving a car that matched the description of a vehicle used in a
robbery. When the car was inventoried, a loaded .32-caliber handgun
was discovered in the trunk. It was matched through ballistics
testing with the bullets that were recovered from Sylvester Walton
and Wonda Matthews' bodies.
At Jennings' trial, Eric Gardner testified that
Freeman and Jennings picked him up and were giving him a ride home
when Freeman said that he wanted some heroin and mentioned a drug
house he knew of. Jennings suggested, "Let's jack the house."
Gardner said that he objected, which is why he stayed in the car. He
testified that after Jennings and Freeman entered the house, he
heard two shots, then saw the two men walk calmly out of the house.
They were inside for only two or three minutes. After they joined
Price and Walker, Gardner said that Jennings called him a coward.
Robert Anderson, another friend of Jennings's,
testified that Jennings spent the night with him. When he observed
that Jennings had blood on his tennis shoes, Jennings said that he
had killed two people.
Jennings had no prior felony convictions, but
prosecutors connected him to three other murders. In October 1993,
Jennings, Freeman, Anderson, and two others robbed a Fort Worth drug
house and killed one person in a robbery that netted them $100 cash
and $30 worth of marijuana. On 24 December 1993, Jennings and
Freeman killed two people at a residence in Fort Worth. One of the
victims was shot with the same .32-caliber handgun that was used to
kill Walton and Matthews. Prosecutors believed that Jennings could
have been responsible for as many as 20 murders in Fort Worth drug
A jury convicted Jennings of capital murder in
July 1995 and sentenced him to death. The Texas Court of Criminal
Appeals affirmed the conviction and sentence in April 1997. All of
his subsequent appeals in state and federal court were denied.
John Freeman was convicted of murder and
sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Jennings warned prison officials that he would
not cooperate with his execution. When a team came to remove him
from his cell on death row, they used pepper spray to subdue him. He
was placed on the van and transported from the Ellis Unit, near
Huntsville, to the execution holding cell in the downtown "Walls"
unit. It was the first time in 193 executions since 1982 that prison
officials had to use force to move a prisoner into the death house.
When the scheduled time came, Jennings resisted
again and had to be forcibly removed from the holding cell adjacent
to the death chamber, although no gas or spray was used. When the
warden asked whether he had last statement, Jennings said, "No, I do
not." He was pronounced dead at 6:22 p.m.