Thirty-seven-year-old Christopher Coleman received lethal injection Tuesday evening for his part in a scheme contrived by a Colombian man who hoped to eliminate an $80,000 cocaine debt by staging a robbery. Four people wound up getting shot in a car on a dead-end street in Houston. Three of them died, including a 3-year-old boy.
Coleman’s lawyers lost last-day appeals in the courts and failed to keep him from becoming the 18th condemned prisoner executed this year in Texas, the nation’s most active death penalty state.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles earlier rejected a clemency request for Coleman, one of three men convicted in the case. The other two, Enrique Andrade Mosquera and Derrick Graham, received life in prison.
“All I know is the jury never heard the truth in this case,” said Coleman’s attorney, Patrick McCann. “And I don’t think anybody can say who shot whom.”
Prosecutors said Mosquera owed $80,000 for four kilos of cocaine he received from Hurtado Heinar Prado, 34, also from Colombia, but didn’t want to pay. Instead, he hired Coleman for $12,000 and Graham for $10,000 to stage a robbery during the payoff.
Hurtado Heinar Prado was in the front seat of a car driven by another Colombian, Jose Mario Garcia-Castro, 33, when they met the three men at the end of a Houston street in the early morning hours of Dec. 14, 1995. Elsie Prado, Prado’s sister and Garcia-Castro’s girlfriend, and her son, Danny Giraldo, were in the back seat.
Testimony showed that Coleman approached the passenger side of the car, said something to the two men in the front and opened fire. Only Elsie Prado survived. She identified Coleman as the gunman.
Ballistics tests showed that all 11 shots were fired from outside the passenger side of the car. Testimony showed that Mosquero was standing near the front of the driver’s side and Graham was in front of the car.
Coleman was arrested at a motel in Lawrenceburg, Tenn., a week later. He told police he was at the shooting scene but denied being the gunman. At his trial, Coleman’s lawyers argued he was not the gunman.
Coleman’s appeals attorneys argued that Elsie Prado’s testimony at his 1997 trial was not truthful, that she lied about her involvement in the drug deal and that she failed to disclose that she and Mosquera knew each other and grew up in the same neighborhood in Cali, Colombia.
The 5th Circuit ruled last week that jurors could have found Coleman guilty of capital murder even without the woman’s testimony.
“There was substantial evidence, independent of Prado’s testimony, that Coleman was present at the scene of the murders and participated in the robbery that led to the killings,” the court said.
Coleman had no previous prison record but served 60 days in jail in Harris County for assault. He refused to speak with reporters in the weeks before his scheduled execution.
His execution was one of two set for this week in Texas.
Kenneth Mosley, 51, was scheduled to die Thursday for fatally shooting a police officer, Michael Moore, during a bank robbery in the Dallas suburb of Garland in 1997.
Shout this name from the rooftops, Todd Willingham. He was innocent and Texas killed him. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in 2006, wrote that, in the modern judicial system there has not been “a single case–not one–in which it is clear that a person was executed for a crime he did not commit. If such an event had occurred in recent years, we would not have to hunt for it; the innocent’s name would be shouted from the rooftops.”
Sign the petition to Governor Rick Perry and the State of Texas to acknowledge that the fire in the Cameron Todd Willingham case was not arson, therefore no crime was committed and on February 17, 2004, Texas executed an innocent man.