Death Watch: No Comfort, No Closure

Jonas Cherry's parents don't want their son's killer killed

Thirty-two-year-old Paul Storey is the fifth person set for a state killing this year, his execution date currently set for Wed­nesday, April 12. In 2006, Storey shot and killed Jonas Cherry, manager of the Putt-Putt Golf & Games mini-golf course in Hurst (Tarrant County) during a botched robbery. His friend Mark Devayne Porter, who had served as accomplice, accepted a plea deal, and is currently serving life in prison. Storey refused a similar plea, and in 2008, he was found guilty of capital murder, and sentenced to death.

Storey's efforts for relief have since been unsuccessful. But recently, a few impediments to his execution have arisen. Austin attorney Keith Hampton, who's representing Storey with Mike Ware, says that Cherry's parents Glenn and Judy were appalled by the state's invitation to travel to Huntsville to witness Storey's execution, and have filed an affidavit with Tarrant Co. District Attorney Sharen Wilson and Gov. Greg Abbott requesting that Storey's life be spared. "It is very painful for us to consider the suffering of Paul Storey's mother, grandmother, and family if he is put to death," they wrote. "[His] execution will not bring our son back, will not atone for the loss of our son, and will not bring comfort or closure." Hamp­ton called the Cherrys' request an "amazing act of mer­cy." He said it's rare to hear the family of a murder victim say "you'll multiply our pain by inflicting pain on another family."

Hampton and Ware have separately been at work to vacate Storey's sentence. On March 31, they filed a petition asking that their client's sentence be vacated in consideration of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amend­ments. They say prosecutors knew of the Cherrys' opposition to the sentence, and that prosecutor Christy Jack lied in her closing argument about their desire to see Storey executed. And because the prosecution offered Storey a plea deal prior to trial, Hampton argued, the prosecution's pursuit of the death penalty raises a presumption of vindictiveness.

Making matters more muddy is that Sven Berger, one of the jurors during Storey's trial, spoke with the Marshall Project last March, confessing his regrets for sending Storey to death row. Referencing a 2010 affidavit he filed in Storey's support, Berger said he would have lobbied against the death penalty had he known of Storey's "'borderline intellectual functioning,' history of depression," and other mitigating evidence. And in a second affidavit, Berger said he would also have rejected a death sentence had he known the Cherrys' stance.

Both Ware and Hampton hope that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals will be swayed and grant Storey a new punishment hearing. If not, he'll be the 543rd Texan executed since the state reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

Meanwhile, at SCOTUS ...

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of Carlos Ayestas, a Houston resident who's spent nearly 20 years on death row for a 1995 murder. Ayestas has argued that the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals wrongly denied him the necessary resources to investigate whether his attorneys had failed to raise substantial mitigating evidence, including a history of cocaine addiction and mental illness. (He was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2001.) Ayes­tas also claimed that the Harris County Dis­trict Attorney's Office pursued a death sentence because he was an illegal immigrant (from Honduras), but that request was denied. Justices will consider his case during their fall term.

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Paul Storey, Keith Hampton, Christy Jack, Mike Ware, Jonas Cherry, Carlos Ayestas

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