Man who threw woman in river executed in Texas

November 18, 2009 5:33:49 PM PST
A convicted killer who volunteered for execution but in recent weeks changed his mind was put to death Wednesday evening for the abduction-slaying of an 84-year-old east Texas woman who was weighted down with a cinder block and thrown into a river. Danielle Simpson, 30, was condemned for the murder of Geraldine Davidson, a former school teacher and church organist abducted nearly 10 years ago during a burglary of her home in Palestine, about 100 miles southeast of Dallas.

"I want to tell my family I love y'all," Simpson, 30, said in brief comments while strapped to the death chamber gurney. "I'm going to miss y'all.

"I'm ready, ready."

He shook his head and raised it as the lethal drugs were administered, gasped a couple of times and then his body trembled for several seconds before he slipped into unconsciousness. He was pronounced dead at 6:32 p.m. CST, nine minutes later.

Simpson was the 22nd Texas prisoner to die this year.

A federal court earlier this year had said Simpson was competent to decide to drop his appeals. Then Simpson reversed himself and allowed lawyers to try to save him from lethal injection.

His execution came less than an hour after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a last-day appeal that argued he was mentally impaired and incapable of deciding whether to drop his appeals. They offered his repeated reversals as proof.

His lawyers also lost an appeal that challenged the elimination of two black people from consideration to serve on Simpson's trial jury. Simpson is black. No blacks on the jury that convicted him and decided he should be put to death.

Simpson told The Associated Press earlier this month from death row he was innocent, it wasn't his choice to volunteer for execution and Texas prisons were "pitiful."

He earlier sent a federal court a handwritten motion in which he said he was "tired of being in a institution that's unjust, degrading, and corrupted" and was ready to die.

A federal judge found Simpson had "a mental disease, disorder or defect" but was able to understand his legal position and competent to choose to die.

Evidence and testimony at Simpson's trial detailed Davidson's January 2000 death.

She arrived home and interrupted a burglary involving Simpson, then 20, his wife, Jennifer, 17, and a cousin, Edward McCoy, 13. Evidence showed Simpson, who lived nearby, had broken into Davidson's home at least two other times.

Testimony showed he held a knife to Davidson's throat and ordered her to surrender money from her purse. Davidson's mouth was duct taped, her hands tied behind her, her legs taped and a pillow case was pulled over her head. Davidson then carried her over his shoulder outside and threw her in the trunk of her car.

Testimony showed the three drove around in her car, bought marijuana, tried to buy cocaine, then went about 10 miles out of town to visit a relative where Simpson opened the trunk and showed off their captive.

When Davidson asked for her medication, Simpson told her to "Shut up!" and slammed the trunk lid. They drove back to Palestine and showed off their captive to more friends while Simpson's wife made calls on Davidson's cell phone.

The trio was joined by Lionel Simpson, his 15-year-old brother. With Danielle Simpson driving, they went to a dead-end road, pulled the woman out, re-taped her arms and legs, beat her and tossed her back in the trunk. They went to a fast-food place to eat, then drove to the Neches River, threw her to the ground, kicked her in the face, tied one end of a rope around her legs and the other end to a cinder block.

A medical examiner testified Davidson was alive when she was thrown in the river. A passing motorist eventually spotted the body floating in the water.

Simpson contended neither he nor his brother was responsible for the slaying, which he blamed on his wife and cousin, who testified against him.

"The problem with that was (Simpson) was the one who kidnapped her and threw her in the trunk," Doug Lowe, the Anderson County district attorney who prosecuted Simpson, said. "Since then, I haven't seen anything as brutal -- nothing that would get close to what that was."

Lionel Simpson is serving a life sentence. Jennifer Simpson pleaded guilty and is serving a 40-year term. Both were certified for trial as adults but were ineligible for the death penalty because of their age.

McCoy was sent to the Texas Youth Commission and paroled in 2007 at age 21 to serve the remainder of his 13-year sentence under adult parole supervision.

Another inmate who had been scheduled to die this week -- Gerald Eldridge, 45 -- won a reprieve from a federal judge who agreed with attorneys that his mental competency should be further examined before he can be put to death for a double slaying in Houston 17 years ago.

And on Wednesday, The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, in a highly unusual vote, recommended that a convicted murderer set to die Thursday for his part in the fatal shooting of Houston convenience store clerk have his sentence commuted to life in prison. The board's action leaves the decision on whether Robert Lee Thompson, 34, lives or dies with Gov. Rick Perry.


Load Comments