A Texas death row inmate faces execution Thursday, claiming he has turned his life around after decades in prison.
William Speer, referred to by his peers as “Big Will” in a video posted on YouTube by the Texas Department of State Defenders, is the first in a faith-based program for men offered by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. He has reportedly been selected as the inmate coordinator. Death row prisoner.
“When you stop and think about Mr. Collins, when you think about Mr. Dickerson, you start thinking about what you took from them, what you stole from them,” Speer said in the video. He filed it with the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole as part of a clemency petition. “People grow up, they have kids, they miss their grandfathers, they miss their brothers, they miss their uncles, they miss their families that aren’t there because of what I did, and that’s what it is, I’m sorry.”
The 49-year-old Harris County native is scheduled to receive the lethal injection at the state prison in Huntsville. He was convicted of strangling Gary Dickerson to death in July 1997 at Telford State Prison near New Boston in northeast Texas.
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Prosecutors said Speer killed Dickerson in order to join a Texas Mafia prison gang but ordered the killing after erroneously concluding that Dickerson had tipped off authorities about cigarettes he was trying to smuggle into the prison. He said he did.
At the time of Dickerson’s murder, Speer was serving a life sentence for shooting and killing a friend’s father, Jerry Collins, in his Houston-area home. Speer was 16 years old at the time.
Speer’s lawyers asked for a halt to Speer’s execution for several reasons. The change in his life in prison, the allegations against prosecutors at his 2001 trial, and the argument that the state-supplied execution drug pentobarbital was exposed to extreme heat in a recent fire and became unsafe.
The Texas Attorney General’s Office said the execution drugs were tested for potency and sterility after the fire. Mr. Murphy’s execution demonstrated that the state “can handle Mr. Speer’s execution in a safe and humane manner,” officials said.
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Sammy Martin, Dickerson’s only living sibling, wants his life spared.
“I have spent much time thinking about what kind of justice my brother and his family deserve,” Martin wrote in federal court documents filed this week. “In my heart, I feel that not only is he remorseful for his actions, but he is also doing good deeds for others and has something left to offer the world. ”
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Lawyers for the Texas Attorney General’s Office said in court documents filed this week that despite Martin’s feelings about Speer’s execution, “the state remains committed to ensuring that justice is served for Dickerson.” “We continue to be concerned about stopping gang murders and prison violence.”
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The parole board voted 7-0 Tuesday against commuting Speer’s death sentence. Members also refused to grant a six-month grace period.
Speer is the seventh inmate in Texas and the 21st inmate to be executed this year in the United States.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.