Killer-rapist is executed in Texas after
Supreme Court refuses stay
New York Times
May 29, 1987
Anthony Charles Williams jumped on
a gurney with a smile before being executed by injection today for
abducting a teen-age girl and then bludgeoning her to death and
''Mother, I'm sorry for causing you all the pain,''
the 27-year-old killersaid in a final statement. ''I want to thank
all those who helped me. I thank you all.''
In 1978 a jury took six minutes to convict him
and nine minutes to sentence him for the slaying of 13-year-old
Vickie Lynn Wright of Houston that year. She was beaten with a
2-by-4 board and strangled and was raped after she died.
Mr. Williams, who was pronounced dead 10 minutes
after the injection began at 12:12 A.M., went to his death after the
United States Supreme Court, by a 7-to-2 vote, refused an emergency
request Wednesday for a fourth stay of his execution.
''Ernest and Otis, watch over mother,'' Mr.
Williams said, addressing his brothers. ''Watch over the family. I
want to thank all those who helped me. I thank you all.'' No one
represented his family at the execution. Tally of Executions
The execution was the nation's fifth this year
and the state's third. Twenty-three people have been put to death in
Texas since it resumed executions in 1982.
Miss Wright's mother, Beth, waiting outside the
prison, received word of the execution from prison officials and
''We've gone through hell,'' she said. ''I don't
believe he's dead. I'm going to have to have an autopsy. I want to
see him in his coffin.''
Mrs. Wright, accompanied by two daughters,
complained that prison officials would not allow her in the death
chamber or permit a videotape to be made of the execution.
''There's no provision for the victims,'' her
daughter, Tina, said.
Mr. Williams was calm Wednesday as he awaited
execution, playing dominoes with guards, said a spokesman for the
Texas Department of Corrections. He also visited with a sister and
brother, each for about an hour, and read a newspaper. Late in the
evening he talked with his mother for nearly 30 minutes by telephone.
He ate a piece of fish as his last meal.
State and Federal courts rejected requests for
Mr. Williams's final appeal alleged that an
injury he suffered as a child had not been properly investigated by
his lawyers and that he had not been properly evaluated by a doctor
who examined him. At the trial, defense attorneys characterized him
as a slow learner who had suffered difficulties since he was run
over by a car.
Miss Wright was abducted outside a Houston
bowling alley, and her battered body was found the next day. Mr.
Williams, a carpenter, denied killing the girl but told the police
he had abducted her and hit her with a board in a field.
809 F.2d 1063
James A. Lynaugh, Interim Director, Texas Department of Corrections,
Docket number: 86-2190
Federal Circuits, 5th Cir.
January 28, 1987
Appeal from the United States District Court for
the Southern District of Texas.
Before POLITZ, GARWOOD and JOLLY, Circuit Judges.
E. GRADY JOLLY, Circuit Judge:
Anthony Charles Williams was convicted in a Texas
court of capital murder. In the separate punishment phase of the trial,
the court sentenced Williams to death based on the jury's responses to
the two special issue questions.
Williams sought federal habeas relief based on claims of improper
juror selection, ineffective assistance of counsel, and violations of
his fifth and sixth amendment rights resulting from the state's use of
psychiatric evidence in rebutal at the trial's punishment phase. The
district court dismissed his application but granted a certificate of
probable cause. We affirm the judgment denying him relief.
On the evening of June 12, 1978, at approximately
8:45 p.m., thirteen-year-old Vicky Lynn Wright went with her sister to
the Big Texas Bowling Alley in Houston, Texas. Shortly after their
arrival, Vicky went outside to get some change left in a friend's car,
a 1977 El Camino. When she did not return, her sister and friends went
to the parking lot to look for her. They discovered that the El Camino
was gone. They called Vicky's parents and the police. The police
arrived at approximately 11:00 p.m.
Between 9 and 10 p.m. that evening, a few of
Williams' friends saw him driving an El Camino recklessly. He stopped
the car to talk to them, and told them the car belonged to his girl
friend. Williams had blood on his shirt that he claimed to have
received in a fight.
At 1 a.m. on June 13, 1978, A.L. Anderson noticed
the El Camino, with its flashers on, in front of her house. She awoke
at 4 a.m. and noticed that the car was still there. She reported it to
the police. After day break, Anderson went outside and saw blood
stains inside the El Camino. She called the police a second time, and
they arrived at approximately 7:30 a.m. A tire, hub cap and part of
the jack were missing from the vehicle. The spare tire had been put on
Vicky's body was discovered in a wooded area near
Williams' neighborhood at approximately 4:40 p.m. on June 13, 1978.
The police discovered skid marks, a package of Kool cigarettes,
matches and a blood-stained board near her body. An autopsy showed
that Vicky died from a skull fracture and intercranial hemorrhage from
a blunt trauma to the head. The evidence showed that the skull
fracture could have been caused by the board found at the scene of the
homicide. Bloody material was found in her vagina; seminal fluid was
found in her mouth and rectum.
Detective Zeringue arrived at the scene of the
homicide about 6:30 p.m. He showed people gathering at the site a
picture of the El Camino. Two of Williams' friends recognized the
vehicle and told the detective that they had seen Williams driving it
the night before. The police went to Williams' home. Williams ran out
the back gate to a nearby abandoned house. The police found him hiding
in the attic. Williams was arrested at 7:55 p.m. The police read
Williams his Miranda warnings and took him to the police station.
At the station, Williams gave a written confession,
admitting that he accosted Vicky at the bowling alley, took her to a
dark place by the bayou, and hit her in the face with his fist and
with a board. He denied having sex with her.
Williams' palm prints and a finger print were found
on the El Camino. Type O blood, which was Vicky's blood type, was
found on the board, on Williams' clothes and inside the El Camino.
Williams was indicted for the capital murder of
Vicky Lynn Wright while in the course of committing kidnapping,
robbery and aggravated rape. He pled not guilty. At the conclusion of
the guilt phase of the trial, the jury found Williams guilty of
During the punishment phase, the state presented
evidence of four extraneous and unadjudicated offenses that Williams
allegedly committed: (1) the rape of a sixteen-year-old acquaintance
in April 1978; (2) the abduction and sodomy-rape of a woman on April
5, 1978; (3) the abduction of a woman from a post office, her rape and
nonfatal shooting on June 1, 1978; and (4) the abduction and sodomy-rape
of a woman on June 10, 1978. Each of these victims testified and three
identified Williams as their assailant. In the fourth crime, Williams
was identified by a witness who interrupted the crime.
The state also presented a witness who testified
that Williams suspiciously approached her in her apartment complex
parking lot after midnight on April 5, 1978. According to her
testimony, Williams requested help with jumping his car battery, but
walked off when she told him that her boy friend, who was upstairs,
As evidence in mitigation of punishment, the
defense offered the testimony of Williams' family and friends who
promised that they would help to rehabilitate him if he were given a
life sentence. These witnesses testified that Williams had been hit by
an automobile at the age of six. Since the accident, he had been a
slow learner and had complained of headaches.
The defense also introduced psychiatric testimony
indicating that Williams was borderline mentally retarded. The state
rebutted with its own psychiatric testimony.
On September 25, 1978, the jury answered "yes" to
both special issue questions, and the court assessed punishment at
death. Williams appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which
affirmed on October 14, 1981. Williams v. State, 622 S.W.2d 116 (Tex.Crim.App.
1981) (en banc). The United States Supreme Court denied certiorari on
March 8, 1982. Williams v. Texas,
455 U.S. 1008 , 102 S.Ct. 1646, 71 L.Ed.2d 876 (1982).
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stayed Williams'
execution pending his application for state habeas relief. After
exhausting his state appeals, Williams filed for federal habeas relief
in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas
on October 4, 1985. A stay was granted on October 7, 1985. Judge Bue
dismissed his application, Williams v. McCotter, Civ. No. H-85-5650 (S.D.Tex.
March 17, 1986), and issued a certificate of probable cause to appeal
to this court on May 29, 1986. Williams' stay of execution remains in
effect pending the outcome of this appeal.
Williams first contends that the trial court failed
to correctly apply the Witherspoon standard in excluding prospective
juror Mary Oligney for cause, based on her views against the death
penalty. Witherspoon v. Illinois, 391 U.S. 510, 88 S.Ct. 1770, 20 L.Ed.2d
776 (1968). At voir dire, Oligney equivocated in her answers to
questions regarding her ability as a juror to follow Texas law, even
if it meant that the defendant would receive the death penalty.
Williams claims that Oligney was not excludable under Witherspoon
because her voir dire responses, although conflicting, did not
indicate that Oligney's views against the death penalty would prevent
or substantially impair her performance as a juror. Williams further
argues that because his trial took place before the Supreme Court
decided Adams v. Texas, 448 U.S. 38, 100 S.Ct. 2521, 65 L.Ed.2d 581
(1980), the trial judge excluded Oligney solely on the basis of
of the Texas Penal Code and disregarded the Witherspoon standard. It
therefore follows, he argues, that the trial court's exclusion of
Oligney cannot be given the presumption of correctness mandated by 28
U.S.C. § 2254(d), as explained in Wainwright v. Witt,
469 U.S. 412 , 105 S.Ct. 844, 83 L.Ed.2d 841 (1985).
We disagree. While Oligney initially equivocated in
her answers at voir dire, she subsequently concluded that regardless
of the circumstances she "would say `no' with the death." IV Trial
Transcript at 1292. Oligney's ultimate statement of irrevocable
opposition to the death penalty justified her exclusion under
Witherspoon. Willie v. Maggio, 737 F.2d 1372 (5th Cir.), cert. denied,
469 U.S. 1002 , 105 S.Ct. 415, 83 L.Ed.2d 342 (1984);
Williams v. Maggio, 679 F.2d 381, 385-89 (5th Cir. 1982) (en banc),
463 U.S. 1214 , 103 S.Ct. 3553, 77 L.Ed.2d 1399 (1983).
Moreover, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
reviewed this case after Adams was decided and held that Oligney's
views would have prevented or substantially impaired her performance
as a juror. Williams, 622 S.W.2d at 118. It is clear that the Texas
appellate court applied the proper Witherspoon standard, and we must
accord its determination a presumption of correctness under section
2254(d). Summer v. Mata, 449 U.S. 539, 546, 101 S.Ct. 764, 768, 66
L.Ed.2d 722 (1981).
Williams also challenges the trial court's refusal
to exclude for cause Alva Jean Wagner, the twelfth juror selected.
Williams argues that during the voir dire examination, Wagner
exhibited an overall prejudice and strong bias in favor of the death
penalty and also revealed her inability to consider life imprisonment
as punishment for a capital murder conviction. Comparing the trial
court's exclusion of Oligney for cause at the state's request with the
court's refusal to grant the defense's challenge for cause against
Wagner, Williams complains that the trial court favored the state and
did not apply the Witherspoon standard evenly.
Again, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
considered this argument and we see no basis to question its
conclusion. That court found that Wagner was not unwilling to follow
the law in determining whether the accused was guilty of capital
murder; nor was she incapable of considering life imprisonment as an
appropriate punishment. Under Witherspoon, Wagner was a qualified
juror because she was capable of voting for life imprisonment. Oligney,
however, was excludable because she was incapable of voting for the
death penalty in a capital murder case. Williams, 622 S.W.2d at 119.
We conclude therefore that the Texas courts correctly and consistently
applied the Witherspoon standard to the challenges for cause made by
the prosecution and the defense.
Williams urges that his counsel failed to provide
him with effective assistance, particularly at the punishment phase of
the trial. Although Williams claims that several aspects of his
counsel's performance were deficient,
he chiefly objects to his counsel's failure to investigate the
extraneous, unadjudicated offenses presented by the state as proof of
Williams' future dangerousness and his counsel's failure to engage in
discovery of some sort with respect to these offenses. Williams
alleges in his brief that he "specifically informed counsel that he
did not commit [the extraneous offenses] and was unaware of such
charges until they were introduced by the state."
However, his counsel submitted an affidavit in the
state court proceedings, which is in the record before us, that
specifically denies that Williams ever made this statement to him.
The state trial court made a finding of fact in the habeas proceedings
that the facts asserted by the defense counsel in his affidavit were
true. In accord with Sumner v. Mata, 449 U.S. 539, 101 S.Ct. 764, we
apply "the presumption of correctness," which is mandated by 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254 for factual determinations made by state courts, and therefore
accept the state trial court's finding of fact.
The application of Sumner is particularly
appropriate in this case because Williams' allegation is contained
only in statements in his brief and is unsupported by any record
evidence. Moreover, that Williams was unlikely to have made such a
statement is substantiated by Williams' failure, even now, to offer
any suggestion of evidence to support his innocence except his simple
denial of the charges to counsel. Accepting, therefore, the state
court's finding that Williams did not make the alleged statement to
his counsel, we need consider no further this allegation as a basis
for a claim of ineffectiveness.
With respect to Williams' other allegations of
ineffectiveness, see supra note 3, he has shown no prejudice.
Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674
The final claim raised by Williams is that his
fifth and sixth amendment rights were violated when the state's
psychologist testified during the penalty stage of the trial. He
claims that the basis of the testimony was a pretrial psychiatric
examination, conducted without advising Williams of his right to
remain silent and his right to consult with counsel. Because the
state's psychiatric evidence was based on an unwarned examination, he
argues that the Supreme Court's holding in Estelle v. Smith, 451 U.S.
454, 101 S.Ct. 1866, 68 L.Ed.2d 359 (1981), supports the conclusion
that his rights were violated.
First, we hold that Estelle v. Smith does not
control this case. In Smith, a capital murder defendant, who was
examined pretrial by a state psychiatrist, was given no Miranda
warnings prior to the examination, and his counsel was not notified in
advance that the examination would encompass the issue of the
defendant's future dangerousness. At trial, the state introduced
psychiatric evidence that was obtained from this examination and used
the evidence to prove the defendant's future dangerousness. The
defendant offered no psychiatric evidence at trial and had never
indicated that he would rely on a psychiatric defense.
The Supreme Court held that where the defendant
neither initiated a psychiatric defense nor introduced any psychiatric
evidence at trial, the state's introduction of evidence obtained from
the unwarned psychiatric examination violated the defendant's fifth
and sixth amendment rights. Smith, 451 U.S. at 468-71, 101 S.Ct. at
1875-77. The Court noted, however, that "a different situation arises
where a defendant intends to introduce psychiatric evidence at the
penalty phase." Id. at 472, 101 S.Ct. at 1878.
Williams' case is easily distinguished from Smith
because Williams' counsel was given advance written notice that the
scope of the state's psychiatric examination would include a
determination of Williams' future dangerousness. I Trial Transcript at
13-15. Furthermore, Williams' case presents the "different situation"
to which the Court referred in Smith. At trial, it was Williams who
first introduced psychiatric evidence on the issue of future
dangerousness. On these facts alone, it is obvious that Williams'
Smith claim is baseless.
Second, the factual basis of Willams' argument is
further flawed because the record clearly reveals that the evidence
complained of is not subject to exclusion on fifth and sixth amendment
grounds. The record shows that the defense made no objection
whatsoever, before trial or at trial, to the state's psychiatric
evidence. Indeed, the only objection Williams now raises, or has ever
raised, relates solely to the state's psychiatric testimony regarding
However, none of the testimony on future
dangerousness given by the state's psychologist, Dr. Jerome Brown, was
obtained from or based upon his interview with Williams. Instead, Dr.
Brown's scant testimony regarding future dangerousness reflected only
his personal opinion based on his years of professional experience.
Thus, because no statement made to Dr. Brown by Williams was the
subject, directly or indirectly, of his testimony, we hold that there
is no factual basis on which to predicate a fifth or sixth amendment
Finally, we note that even if we were to assume
that a factual predicate exists in the record upon which Williams
could base a fifth or sixth amendment claim, Vardas v. Estelle, 715
F.2d 206 (5th Cir. 1983), makes it clear that Williams waived his
right to object to the state's use of psychiatric evidence on the
issue of future dangerousness. Vardas stands for the proposition that
when a defendant introduces psychiatric evidence on a critical issue,
he waives his fifth and sixth amendment objections to the state's
psychiatric testimony, provided that the state's evidence is used
solely in rebuttal and properly limited to the issue raised by the
defense. Id. at 209-10.
Here, Williams not only put into issue the question
of future dangerousness through the testimony of his psychiatrist, but
he also initiated questioning on his own future dangerousness in the
cross-examination of the state's psychologist. Having first been
raised by the defense, it was perfectly proper for the state to
explore this issue on the redirect examination of its psychologist.
In conclusion, we hold that the jury was properly
selected in accord with the Witherspoon standard, that Williams has
failed to allege a sufficient claim of ineffective assistance of
counsel, and that Williams' fifth and sixth amendment rights were not
violated by the state's use of psychiatric evidence during the trial's
punishment phase. The district court's denial of Williams' petition
for writ of habeas corpus is therefore.
§ 12.31. Capital Felony
(b) Prospective jurors shall be informed that a
sentence of life imprisonment or death is mandatory on conviction of a
capital felony. A prospective juror shall be disqualified from serving
as a juror unless he states under oath that the mandatory penalty of
death or imprisonment for life will not affect his deliberations on
any issue of fact.
Tex.Penal Code Ann. § 12.31(b) (Vernon 1974).
Q. I want to ask you finally, Doctor, whether or
not, based on your experience and training that you've had in the area
of psychology, can you state ... what is one of the best indicators of
a person's future behavior?
A. Probably the best single predictor to the
future behavior that is available at this time is past behavior.