Issue Date: November 5, 2004
Lethal injection ends Dominique Green's life
Victim's family pleads for clemency but officials turn deaf ears
By DENNIS CODAY
Dominique Green, the death row inmate who wrote the essay More than just a rosary in the Oct. 15 issue of NCR, was executed by lethal injection in Huntsville, Texas, Oct. 26.
Green and his supporters experienced an emotional roller coaster as he was granted a reprieve hours before the scheduled execution and then the reprieve was overturned. The execution went forward despite an 11th-hour appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Green is the 18th Texas inmate put to death this year and the fifth in October. Another six are to die before the end of the year.
Green had requested that his body be cremated and the ashes taken to Santa Maria Church in Trastevere, Rome, Italy. Trastevere is home to the Community of SantEgidio, an Italian lay church movement that befriended Green more than a decade ago. Two members of the SantEgidio community were among the five witnesses to Greens execution.
In the weeks before the execution, the family of the man Green was convicted of murdering joined in the struggle to have Greens sentence commuted.
The murder victims wife, Bernatte Luckett Lastrapes, wrote to Texas Gov. Rick Perry and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles: All of us have forgiven Dominique for what happened and want to give him another chance at life. Everyone deserves another chance.
During an Oct. 19 news conference, called by Greens legal team and supporters, the victims son, Andre Lastrapes, asked that Green be spared the death penalty. Killing him aint going to bring my daddy back, the Houston Chronicle quoted him as saying.
Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza of Galveston-Huston joined the news conference in support of Green.
Green was 18 when he was arrested for his crime and 30 when he was executed. Green never denied that he had robbed Andrew Lastrapes Jr. outside a Houston convenience store, but he maintained until he died that he did not shoot him. Two of three accomplices were convicted of aggravated robbery and received prison terms. The third was not tried for the crime.
Green spent the morning of Oct. 26 with the people who had supported him during his 12 years on death row and who would witness his death that evening: David Atwood, the Huston coordinator for Pax Christi; Barbara Bacci from Rome, a member of the SantEgidio community; Lorna Kelly of the New York chapter of SantEgidio; Sheila Murphy, a former Illinois state judge and Greens lawyer; and Andy Lofthouse, part of Greens defense team.
Greens mother and a girlfriend also visited him that morning.
The day before, Green had met with Andre Lastrapes for about an hour and a half, Atwood told NCR. It was their first face-to-face meeting. They got a good chance to talk, Atwood said, adding that he is convinced the two found reconciliation. Dominique expressed sorrow for what happened and expressed gratitude to Andre that he had spoken out against the execution. So it was pretty good and pretty amazing.
Andre Lastrapes returned to see Green again Oct. 26 and brought his brother Andrew with him. The three young men really hit if off, Murphy and Kelly told NCR. Kelly said seeing the three young men together was powerful.
It was so remarkable to see these three African-American guys together. They were very similar, all about the same age, Kelly told NCR. Kelly has corresponded regularly with Green for the last three years and Green had asked her to be his spiritual adviser.
Green gave the Lastrapes brothers the rosary he wrote about in NCR and a copy of Bishop Desmond Tutus book No Future Without Forgiveness, a memoir of Tutus time as president of South Africas Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Tutu had visited Green on death row earlier this year.
Meanwhile, Greens defense team was fighting to halt the execution on grounds that ballistics evidence used to convict him may have been inaccurate because it was done by a scandal-ridden Houston Police Department crime lab.
They said the execution should be put off until thousands of recently found case files at the lab could be reviewed. In August, police discovered that the crime lab had mishandled some 280 boxes of evidence involving some 8,000 cases covering more than two decades.
The Associated Press has reported that Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt has called for a moratorium on executions in cases where the lab was involved, but the executions have not stopped.
Shortly after noon Oct. 26, guards took Green to prepare him for transport to Huntsville, Texas, about an hours drive away, where the execution chamber is located.
About the same time, Greens defense team learned that U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas in Houston had accepted his lawyers arguments and ordered a stay of Greens execution. Green was in Huntsville in the waiting room next to the execution chamber when he learned of his stay. About 80 of his supporters -- including the Lastrapes brothers -- were across the road from the prison. His only human contact was with the prison chaplain he had met that afternoon and his lawyer, Murphy.
Legal wrangling continued. The Texas state attorney generals office objected to the reprieve, and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans overturned it about 5:30 p.m. Greens lawyers went to the U.S. Supreme Court, but it refused to hear the case.
About 7:30 p.m. Green received word that his execution would proceed.
Greens five witnesses were led into the room from which they would watch Green die. Separated by glass, Green could see them but not hear them. They could see Green strapped to a hospital-like gurney by thick, leather belts and covered with white sheets, his head propped on a pillow. His arms were extended, crucifixion-like according to Atwood, and wrapped in Ace bandages to cover the tubes in his veins.
A microphone was lowered to Greens mouth and from the gurney he spoke for about three minutes. Tell Andre and them that I didnt get a chance to reach my full potential, but you can help them reach theirs, he said, according to a transcript made by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
There was a lot of people that got me to this point, and I cant thank them all, but thank you for your love and support; they have allowed me to do a lot more than I could have on my own, he said.
But I have overcome a lot, he said. I am not angry, but I am disappointed that I was denied justice. But I am happy I was afforded you all as family and friends. Green repeated several times, I love you to his witnesses, who mouthed the words back to him.
The lethal dose was administered at 7:50 p.m. Kelly described the scene to NCR: I thought he was trying to catch his breath, waiting to say something else to us, his eyes were closing, and suddenly it dawned on me, he is dying. They are doing it. They are killing him.
Green gasped, and a doctor entered the room to declare him dead at 7:59 p.m.
He was beautiful, Atwood of Pax Christi told NCR Oct. 28. Even on the execution gurney he expressed gratitude. He even chuckled a few times as he saw his friends standing there.
He was so thankful for the people in his life who had helped him grow as an individual.
Dennis Coday is an NCR staff writer and coordinates the NCR Web site. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
Editors Note: Green asked his lawyer to have the money he earned for publication of his essay in NCR to be sent to the Lastrapes family.
National Catholic Reporter, November 5, 2004
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