HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) – Already a three-time felon with a violent history when locked up, convicted robber Donald Newbury was serving a 99-year prison term when he joined six fellow convicts in Texas’ biggest prison break ever.
Now Newbury is set for execution Wednesday for the shooting death of a suburban Dallas police officer during a sporting goods store robbery the fugitives carried out after their escape in 2000.
Newbury, 52, would be the third Texas prisoner put to death this year and the third of the notorious “Texas 7” gang executed for the slaying of 29-year-old Irving officer Aubrey Hawkins.
The U.S. Supreme Court had an appeal Tuesday from Newbury’s attorney, William Harris, who told the justices Newbury hasn’t had a “meaningful opportunity” and sufficient court-approved money to develop a claim that his trial lawyers were deficient for not showing jurors significant psychological evidence of his abusive childhood.
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The Texas attorney general’s office in opposing the appeal said Newbury has been given court reviews and court-authorized money and “has not pointed to any facts” that would prove he’s innocent.
Newbury was spared from lethal injection three years ago by a Supreme Court reprieve.
Evidence showed the gang led by George Rivas, who was serving 17 life prison terms, overpowered workers Dec. 13, 2000, at the Connally Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, about 60 miles south of San Antonio.
Eleven days later on Christmas Eve night, and after robberies as far away as Houston, Hawkins was shot 11 times and run over with a stolen SUV when he interrupted the gang’s holdup of the sporting goods store. The fugitives got away with $70,000, 44 firearms, ammunition and winter clothing. They also took jewelry and wallets from store employees who were closing up for the evening.
They were hunted down a month later in Colorado where one of them, Larry Harper, killed himself rather than surrender.
According to court records, 12 loaded firearms were found in the Holiday Inn room in Colorado Springs where Newbury was arrested with escapee Joseph Garcia.
Newbury contended he didn’t shoot to kill Hawkins and pointed his gun far above the officer’s head.
Prison records show Newbury has had dozens of disciplinary cases since arriving on death row in 2002. Most were defined as major, such as assaulting corrections officers, possessing weapons and contraband, and creating disturbances. At least one was a riot case.
“He really likes coming across as the bad outlaw,” said Toby Shook, the former Dallas County assistant district attorney who prosecuted Newbury.
In a 2003 interview with The Associated Press, Newbury said he would still escape if he could do it all over again.
“I had 99 years,” he said, referring to his original sentence. “What did I have to lose?”
Gang leader Rivas, 41, was put to death three years ago. George Rodriguez, 45, was executed in 2008 after ordering all his appeals dropped.
Three remain on death row: Garcia, 43, Patrick Murphy Jr., 53, and Randy Halprin, 37.
– By MICHAEL GRACZYK, Associated Press
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