Executing Youthful Offenders: The Doyle Case
According to court records, Anthony Dewayne Doyle did not have a happy home life. His parents often fought; the uncles who hung around the family's home in Rowlett were heavy drinkers who roughed up their girlfriends. Doyle's one companion was his grandfather, with whom he shared a bedroom as a child. Indeed, Doyle was 11 and sleeping in the same bed with his grandfather the night the elder man passed away. Doyle's behavior changed after that, family testified at Doyle's 2003 trial, but he never received counseling. After that he found himself in trouble frequently, with several misdemeanor charges that eventually landed him in a Texas Youth Commission boot camp program alongside juvenile felons.
Two years after he was released from that program, and just three months after his 18th birthday, Doyle called Chaha Donuts, placed an order for delivery to his mother's home, and then beat to death the delivery driver, Hyun Cho, when she refused to give Doyle any money. He dumped the body in a neighbor's trash can and tried to clean the blood before taking off in Cho's car, according to court records.
There is no doubt that Doyle committed the crime – he left behind plenty of physical evidence and made a full, handwritten 10-page confession to police. What remains in doubt, according to court filings, is whether Doyle's culpability is mitigated by immaturity, "organic" brain damage, and other "serious emotional and psychological mental impairments," reads an appeal filed late last year with the U.S. Supreme Court by Doyle's attorney Lydia Brandt. At specific issue is whether Doyle, even though already 18 at the time of the brutal crime, should instead be treated as a juvenile under the law – a protection that would eliminate the possibility of a death penalty.
In 2005, the Supremes ruled that executing youthful offenders, those whose crimes happened before they turned 18, would offend the Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment. Juveniles are different than adults, the court noted, in part because their brains have not fully matured; if their brains have not matured, then they can't be held responsible in the same way that an adult offender could be. The court also noted that it would likely be criticized for its "bright-line" ruling, cutting off juvenile protection at 18.
That expectation has materialized in cases around the country – including that of Ray Jasper, slated for execution as we go to press Wednesday for the murder of San Antonio music producer David Alejandro when he, like Doyle, was just three months past his 18th birthday (see "Texecutions Roll On," March 14). According to a psychologist who examined him, Doyle suffered from frontal lobe "dysfunction" and "cognitive disarray," which in turn contributed to serious emotional and behavioral problems, evident in school records dating back to the third grade – problems that went untreated. Doyle's multiple impairments should be considered in determining whether he should be executed, Brandt argued, because it is clear that Doyle is "similarly situated, developmentally" to the juveniles protected by the Supreme Court's ruling.
The courts have rejected that argument. But on March 17, Brandt filed a new pleading with the Court of Criminal Appeals, arguing that the state unknowingly presented false testimony about Doyle's past troubles with the law, particularly concerning whether he was previously given any shot at rehabilitation. Brandt argues that the failure of anyone to treat Doyle's mental impairments extended to the TYC, which operated a boot camp where Doyle was incarcerated for two years, from 1999 to 2001. Brandt says the camp was designed to punish and not to rehabilitate juvenile offenders and that the programs, now outlawed in Texas and elsewhere, actually served to increase recidivism among participants. In contrast, prosecutors at Doyle's trial argued that Doyle had been provided with both treatment and rehabilitation, but that "nothing has been able to change" Doyle, and that even the "TYC couldn't stop him" from eventually killing Cho. That was false information that was material to the jury's determination that Doyle should be sentenced to die, Brandt argues. She is asking the CCA to stay Doyle's March 27 execution.
Unless the court agrees, Doyle will become the fourth inmate executed this year, and the 512th executed in Texas since reinstatement of the death penalty.