Tuesday, 12 Nov 2019

Supreme Court halts execution of Texas 7 gang member

BREAKING: Supreme Court halts execution of member of Texas 7 gang of escaped prisoners over policeman’s killing after Buddhist priest was not allowed into the execution chamber

  • Patrick Murphy, 57, had been scheduled to receive a lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas on Thursday at 6pm
  • The death row inmate had asked that his execution be stopped until prison officials allow his spiritual advisor, a Buddhist priest, to be with him 
  • He was a member of the ‘Texas 7’ gang of violent prisoners who escaped and went on a crime spree in December 2000
  • Dallas police officer Aubrey Hawkins was shot dead during a Christmas Eve robbery involving the escaped prisoners
  • Murphy said his life should be spared because he was only the getaway driver
  • He was still sentenced to die in 2003 after being convicted of capital murder of a police officer 
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Patrick Murphy, 57, had been scheduled to receive a lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas on Thursday

The execution of a member of the ‘Texas 7’ gang of escaped prisoners over a policeman’s killing 18 years ago has been halted this evening after a Buddhist priest was not allowed into the execution chamber.  

Patrick Murphy, 57, had been scheduled to receive a lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas on Thursday at 6pm. 

He said his life should be spared because he didn’t fire the fatal shots.   

The death row inmate, who became a Buddhist almost a decade ago while incarcerated, had also asked that his execution be stopped until prison officials allow his spiritual advisor to be with him when he is put to death. 

And in a last minute ruling the Supreme Court stopped the execution Thursday evening based on the decision to not allow a Buddhist priest into the execution chamber.

They said the Texas Department of Criminal Justice had violated his religious rights, The Texas Tribune reports. 

Only prison employees are allowed in the execution chamber and only Christian and Muslim clerics are employed by the state. 

A spokesperson for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said the order will be reviewed by prison legal teams to ‘determine what, if any, future impact it might have.’

Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote: ‘As this Court has repeatedly held, governmental discrimination against religion — in particular, discrimination against religious persons, religious organizations, and religious speech — violates the Constitution.’ 

His lawyers had alleged the officials’ actions violate Murphy’s First Amendment right to freedom of religion and the request had been turned down by a federal judge in Houston and by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. 

Murphy’s lawyer, David Dow, said Thursday: ‘We are pleased the Supreme Court acknowledged…that Mr Murphy as a Buddhist is entitled to be accompanied in the execution chamber during the execution by a minister of his own faith.’

Murphy was among seven inmates who escaped from a South Texas prison and fatally shot 29-year-old Dallas police officer Aubrey Hawkins during a Christmas Eve robbery in 2000.

Murphy said he was only the getaway driver during the crime spree and was not the one who shot the officer 11 times. 

He was still sentenced to die in 2003 after being convicted of capital murder of a police officer. 

In his final interview before his scheduled execution, Murphy told CBS said he believed his death was ‘vengeance’. 

‘I don’t think sentencing and culpability about law of parties is about justice. I think it’s about vengeance,’ he said.  

‘I’m not challenging the guilt of the crime. My role was basically really to be the getaway driver. I’m sorry. I regret what occurred.’ 

Murphy was serving a 50-year sentence for aggravated sexual assault when he and six other inmates broke out of a maximum security prison in Kenedy on December 13, 2000. 


Murphy was among seven inmates who escaped from a South Texas prison and fatally shot 29-year-old Dallas police officer Aubrey Hawkins (above) during a Christmas Eve robbery in 2000


The members of the Texas 7 gang (left to right) Joseph C. Garcia, Randy Ethan Halprin, Larry Jame Harper and Patrick Murphy, Donald Keith Newbury, George Rivas and Michael Anthony Rodriguez

Eleven days later, they donned fake security guard uniforms to steal firearms from a sporting goods store in Irving on Christmas Eve.       

The officer was shot and killed by the group as they fled.  

Hawkins, who had been with the Irving police force about 14 months, had just finished Christmas Eve dinner with his family when he responded to the call about the robbery at a sporting goods store and was ambushed. 

The escaped inmates were caught a month later at a Colorado RV park following a six-week manhunt. 

One of the inmates killed himself as officers closed in and the other six were all convicted and sentenced to death. 

Murphy would be the fifth to be executed. 

The sixth inmate, Randy Halprin, has not yet been given an execution date. 

Since his sentence, Murphy’s attorneys have filed several unsuccessful appeals challenging the merits of the case, including the constitutionality of the law of parties statute.

Murphy’s attorneys filed an appeal on Tuesday to stop his execution, arguing his death sentence is unconstitutional because he was only the lookout during the robbery and was not a major participant in the crime. 


In his final interview before his scheduled execution, Murphy told CBS said he believed his death was ‘vengeance’


Eleven days later, they donned fake security guard uniforms to steal firearms from a sporting goods store in Irving on Christmas Eve. The officer was shot and killed by the group as they fled

Murphy’s attorneys also contend his execution should be stopped because Texas lawmakers are debating in the current legislative session whether to change the law of parties to prohibit a death sentence for any individual convicted for the conduct of a co-conspirator.

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Toby Shook, the lead prosecutor who handled Murphy’s case and those of the other five members, said Murphy actively participated in the robbery, monitoring a police scanner from a getaway vehicle and telling the other inmates when Hawkins was coming to the back of the store.

‘He alerted them. That allowed them to set up their ambush,’ said Shook, who is now a criminal defense attorney in Dallas.

Murphy was serving 50 years for a Dallas sexual assault but was only 15 months away from being released on mandatory parole when he took part in the prison escape.

Shook said Murphy has a very long and violent criminal history, including molesting his step-sister and pulling a gun on his father.

‘They all were violent felons,’ Shook said. 

‘He fit in perfectly with the rest of the Texas 7. He actively participated in all their robberies and all their crimes when they were out on the run.’ 

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