James Autry was executed by the State of Texas for the murder of a store clerk during a robbery. According to court documents James Autry would rob a convenience store and in the process shoot and kill Shirley Drouet. James Autry would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death. James Autry would be executed by lethal injection on March 14 1984
James Autry More News
Condemned killer James Autry was executed early this morning in the same Huntsville prison death chamber where he narrowly escaped death five months ago.
James Autry, sentenced to die for the 1980 murder of a convenience store clerk, had his last hope for a second reprieve dashed when Texas Gov. Mark White late last night refused to intervene. Shortly after, Autry was taken to the death chamber and injected with sodium thiopental, potassium chloride and pavulon, a muscle relaxant. He was pronounced dead at 12:40 a.m. CST.
Last October Autry was less than 30 minutes from death, strapped to a gurney with intravenous tubes dripping a saline solution into his veins in preparation for the lethal injection, when Supreme Court Justice Byron R. White granted a stay.
It was an 11th-hour reprieve for Autry, 29, as White said the high court should first rule on the “proportionality” issue–whether Autry’s sentence was in line with those given others for similar crimes. On Jan. 23 the court ruled, 7 to 2, that death-row inmates are not entitled to a special appeals court review on the issue, and Autry’s execution was rescheduled.
Yesterday the Supreme Court refused, again 7 to 2, to hear an appeal of Autry’s case, and a federal court refused to order that his execution be televised. White was the last stop, but he, too, refused to intervene, saying the case had been thoroughly reviewed by 14 judicial panels.
The narrowness of Autry’s October escape highlighted the role of legal tenacity in staving off executions, but the rescheduling of his execution was a reminder that appeals can and do run out.
Autry was the 14th man executed in the United States since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, while the death-row population has swelled to more than 1,200. In recent years the Supreme Court has expressed impatience with drawn-out, scattershot appeals in death penalty cases.
Autry’s brush with execution in October led to another effort by his lawyers to try to save him. ACLU attorney Stefan Presser argued in a petition to the Supreme Court last week that Autry had been subjected to “cruel and unusual punishment” during his first trip to the death chamber because officials strapped him to the gurney and inserted the intravenous tubes nearly an hour before his scheduled execution time, and because they then delayed telling Autry of the stay for 45 minutes. But the high court refused to hear the case Tuesday afternoon.
Autry’s lawyers also filed suit Monday in U.S. District Court in Texas, arguing that the execution should be stayed because the Texas Board of Corrections had denied Autry’s request that it be televised. But a District Court judge turned down this request.
“I want my execution on TV because it may help someone else from being put on death row and maybe someone will see my execution and decide the death penalty isn’t right,” Autry said in an affidavit filed with the suit.
But the board voted unanimously against televising his or other deaths. “I think it is in terribly bad taste. It shouldn’t be in people’s living rooms,” said Board Chairman Robert Gunn.
“They allow printed media but not electronic media to witness executions because they are trying to portray the death penalty in the least graphic way,” countered Presser.
After his last-minute reprieve in October, Autry told reporters that he had resigned himself to dying and said he “almost had a heart attack” as he lay connected to intravenous needles awaiting death.
Autry, an oil field roughnenck with a long criminal record, was condemned in 1980 for slaying Port Arthur convenience store clerk Shirley Drouet, 43, a mother of five who was shot between the eyes when she tried to collect $2.70 for a six-pack of beer. A customer in the store also was fatally shot and another person severely injured.
Autry maintained that his companion, John Sandifer, was responsible. Both were indicted for capital murder, but Sandifer plea bargained in a different case and received a seven-year sentence. He has since been paroled. Autry was offered a plea bargain, but turned it down and was convicted, primarily on Sandifer’s testimony.
Autry, the second person to be executed in Texas in 18 years (the other, convicted murderer Charlie Brooks Jr., 40, was executed by injection at Huntsville on Dec. 7, 1982), is the first of four death-row inmates scheduled to die in the state this month.
Texas has more than 170 people on death row.
Autry is not the only death-row inmate whose time may have run out this week. In North Carolina, James W. Hutchins is scheduled to die Friday morning for the 1979 shotgun slaying of three police officers. Hutchins came within 40 minutes of execution in January before the Supreme Court intervened.