The El Paso Times has run has run several long articles recently covering the case of William Josef Berkley, who was convicted and sentenced to death in El Paso. In the latest article, Berkley again says “I didn’t kill her”. He is scheduled to be executed today at 6 PM.
Call the governor at 512 463 1782 to express your opposition to this execution. Or use Rick Perry’s online website contact form.
LIVINGSTON, Texas — The day before his scheduled execution, William Josef Berkley was eerily calm, at times joking.Berkley, 31, sat in a glassed cage during a 45-minute interview with the El Paso Times, a prison guard standing behind him. The bridge of his round silver-framed glasses was crudely repaired with Scotch tape, and he was quick to smile. At one point, he stuck out his tongue as he was photographed.But when asked whether he was the man responsible for the brutal robbery, rape and murder of 18-year-old Sophia Martinez in 2000, he grew serious, and his gentle grasp on a telephone used to communicate did not change.“I didn’t kill her,” Berkley said in a soft voice.He didn’t appear very concerned about his execution,
scheduled to take place just after 5 p.m. El Paso time today in Huntsville.“To me, it’s in God’s hands,” Berkley said. “I’ve done all I can do. I read my Bible every day. It’s his choice.”During the middle of the interview, the prison chaplain walked in and asked Berkley whether he was sure that he did not want a Mass on Wednesday or before he was to be put to death.“No, no,” Berkley replied, matter of factly.As he spoke, there was no sense of fear or terror on his face. He joked, cussed and looked you in the eye.He was slender, wore a white T-shirt and said he could be called “Will” or “Ghost,” a nickname his mother gave him as a child.Berkley, who said he was not especially religious though he has read the Bible since he was young, was sentenced on April 22, 2002, to die for Martinez’s murder. Police, prosecutors and jurors found that Berkley shot Martinez in the face and robbed her of $200 at an East Side ATM. He then drove her red Pontiac Grand Am to a desert area of Northeast El Paso, raped her and shot her to death.Close to graduatingMartinez, a Burges High School senior just months from graduating, had stopped at the ATM on her way to meet a blind date at the Old Plantation nightclub in Downtown El Paso.Prosecutors and police said Berkley used a gun belonging to his father, a former Army Ranger who served in Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s.An FBI forensic expert told jurors that bullets found at the crime scene matched bullets found in Berkley’s home. However, last year FBI officials disavowed the expert’s testimony.Appeal is deniedThe dispute over the forensic expert’s testimony was the basis for a last-minute appeal filed last week by attorneys Cori Harbour and Leon Schydlower. The appeal, which also included a request that Berkley’s execution be postponed, was eventually denied by a state appellate court and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.Schydlower said Wednesday that he was preparing and filing a motion to the U.S. Supreme Court to stay Berkley’s execution.Asked about the testimony about his father’s gun matching the crime scene, Berkley said, “Bull … .”Some hopeBerkley said he had some hope that he would not be executed today.“One of my attorneys said there’s a very good chance I’ll get a stay,” Berkley said.Berkley said he doesn’t believe he received a fair trial. His trial attorney, Frank Macias, has said Berkley received “the fairest (trial) he could.”“Macias didn’t investigate nothing,” Berkley said.Instead, Berkley said, Macias prepared for the punishment phase of trial instead of trying to prove his innocence.On Wednesday, Berkley claimed that on the night of Sophia’s murder, he had been driving around town with his friend, Michael Angelo Jacques, discussing ways of earning quick cash. He said the two had an argument over whether they should rob someone, and Berkley got out of the car and walked to a gas station near Viscount and Hawkins.Berkley said he hid behind the gas station to roll a joint, then began walking toward a friend’s apartment. He said he couldn’t remember exactly where his friend lived and decided to walk home. He said three girls in a car stopped and gave him a ride.Friend gets life termA jury in San Antonio in 2002 convicted Jacques of capital murder for his role in planning Martinez’s murder. The jury sentenced him to life in prison.Berkley claims to have known Martinez. On Wednesday, Berkley said he and Martinez met in January 2000 through a mutual friend after a night at the Old Plantation.He said he and Martinez bumped into each other several times after first meeting in January 2000, and claims his father even met Martinez. Berkley claims Martinez refused to introduce him to her family because he already had a daughter.“She was a cool chick with a good head on her shoulders,” Berkley said.Martinez’s family and District Attorney Jaime Esparza fervently deny that Martinez and Berkley knew each other.Berkley on Wednesday denied a statement from a prosecution witness who claimed Berkley laughed when he read a newspaper article about Martinez’s death. Berkley admits learning about her death from the article but described his reaction as more of a laugh in disbelief.Evidence of rapeDuring Berkley’s trial, Macias argued that Berkley and Martinez had consensual sex. However, Dr. Juan Contin, the county’s deputy chief medical examiner, testified that Martinez’s body showed evidence of rape.Berkley claimed it’s not in his nature to rob someone.“I’ve never denied doing drugs, but I’m not the type of person to go robbing people,” Berkley said.Berkley said he regrets not applying himself in school, saving his money and becoming a lawyer. He dropped out of Irvin High School in 1996, but later obtained the equivalent of a high-school diploma.“I could have have had money for a home school paralegal course,” Berkley said. “I could have gone on to be an attorney.”He also regrets not joining the military when he had a chance, but said he chose not to so that he could spend more time with his daughter, who is now 13 and lives in El Paso with her mother. Berkley said his daughter visits him in prison about once a month.Mother blames selfHe said his parents are holding up “as well as they can in this situation.” Berkley said his mother blames herself for what has become of Berkley, her only child.One thing he said he doesn’t regret is his drug abuse. Besides immersing himself in legal research for his appeals, he has researched the possibility of marijuana one day becoming legal for medicinal purposes.Berkley said that in the past he had abused cocaine, acid and marijuana, but that he believes marijuana can heal him of his epileptic seizures and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.He said he’s also studied death, something that has interested him for most of his life.“I used to think, ‘I could die tomorrow so I’m going to live today,’ ” Berkley said.Asked whether he had anything to say to Martinez’s family, Berkley grew quiet for a moment.“I feel for them,” he said when he finally spoke. “I hope they’re doing OK. I’m sorry she passed away. I wish she was still with them.”After another pause, Berkley said, “But I didn’t kill her.”