Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive

Monday, May 22, 2000



AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn offers the following information on James Davis Richardson who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m., Tuesday, May 23rd.


On the evening of December 17, 1986, Gerald Abay, was found dead on the floor behind the counter of his liquor store in Corsicana, Texas. Abay had been shot in the neck and chest. Over $100,000 and Abay's .25 caliber pistol, which he kept behind the counter for protection, were taken from the store. The glass in the front doors of the liquor store was shattered, and there was blood on the floor near the front door. A .38 caliber pistol, that Abay was known to carry, was found near his body.

Michael Ellison, James Davis Richardson's accomplice, testified at trial that on Dec. 17, 1986, he asked James McHenry, another accomplice, if he would take him to a liquor store. McHenry agreed and Richardson went with them. At the liquor store, Ellison and McHenry went inside and Richardson waited in the car. While Ellison was paying for some beer, Richardson entered the store. As McHenry walked out of the store, Richardson suddenly shot Abay in the neck with a .25 caliber pistol. Richardson then shot Abay a second time in the chest. Abay pulled out his .38 caliber pistol and shot at Richardson several times. Abay shot Richardson in the thumb and shattered the glass in the front doors of the liquor store. Ellison took money out of the cash register, as well as Abay's .25 caliber pistol, which was kept behind the cash register. Ellison testified that Richardson drove the car after the robbery and handed his own .25 caliber pistol to McHenry who put it in the glove compartment.

Don Sullivan, a fingerprint examiner, while en route to the crime scene, saw an abandoned car matching the radio broadcast description of the getaway car. Sullivan approached the car and saw blood on the steering wheel, front door handle, door panel and carpet on the driver's side. A fingerprint on the front door handle matched Richardson's fingerprint. A .25 caliber pistol was found in the glove compartment of the getaway car and a thumbprint matching the thumbprint of James McHenry was taken from the pistol. Shortly after the murder a Navarro County sheriff's deputy arrested Richardson, whose left hand was wounded and wrapped in a bloody towel. The deputy took Richardson to the hospital for treatment and the towel was bagged and sent to the laboratory for analysis. Both McHenry and Ellison gave information leading to the recovery of Abay's .25 caliber pistol and some money. Dr. Grady Shaw treated Richardson for a gunshot wound to his left hand. Forsenics experts were able to match the blood found on the getaway car to that of Richardson.

Dr. Vincent Matthews, deputy chief medical examiner for Dallas County, determined that Abay's death was caused by gunshot wounds to the neck and chest. Two .25 caliber bullets were recovered from Abay's body and were submitted for ballistics testing. Larry Fletcher, a firearms examiner, conducted an examination of the .25 caliber pistol found in the glove compartment of the getaway car and the two .25 caliber bullets taken from Abay's body. The test rounds fired from the .25 caliber pistol and the bullets taken from Abay's body were identical and were fired from the same firearm.


Richardson was indicted on Feb.12, 1987, for the capital murder of Gerald Abay, committed during the course of committing and attempting to commit robbery. Richardson was originally tried for this offense, convicted of capital murder, and sentenced to death on April 21, 1987. However, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the conviction and ordered a retrial because the court reporter misplaced a portion of the trial transcription. At the second trial, Richardson pleaded not guilty to the charged offense. On Nov. 1, 1988, the jury found Richardson guilty as charged in the indictment. After a separate punishment hearing, the jury sentenced Richardson to death.

Richardson's conviction and sentence were automatically appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. On Dec. 1, 1993, the court affirmed Richardson's second conviction and sentence of death. Thereafter, on Nov. 28, 1994, the United States Supreme Court denied certiorari review.

Richardson's execution was the set for April 11, 1995. However, on March 28, 1995, a federal district court stayed Richardson's execution and appointed counsel to represent Richardson in a federal habeas proceeding. On Oct.r 31, 1995, though, the district court dismissed Richardson's federal habeas corpus proceedings without prejudice so that he could return to state court to exhaust his state remedies.

Through court-appointed counsel, Richardson filed an application for state writ of habeas corpus on March 7, 1997. On Sept. 24, 1997, the Court of Criminal Appeals denied Richardson's application for habeas corpus relief.

Richardson's execution was then set for Dec. 10, 1997, but on Nov. 17, 1997, a federal district court again stayed the execution. The court then appointed counsel, and Richardson filed his second petition for writ of habeas corpus on Feb.17, 1998. On April 14, 1999, the district court denied Richardson's petition. The district court denied permission to appeal on June 9, 1999.

Thereafter, on November 22, 1999, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals also denied Richardson permission to appeal. Subsequently, on Feb. 2, 2000, the trial court set Richardson's execution for May 23, 2000, and Richardson filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court on April 24, 2000. That petition is currently pending.


Richardson was previously convicted of aggravated robbery and burglary of a building. Disciplinary reports admitted at trial, revealed that while Richardson was in prison on the aggravated robbery conviction, he was disciplined for destroying state property, striking an officer by throwing hot water on him, and creating a disturbance. Richardson's juvenile record also reflects he had 10 prior arrests; which included theft, truancy, and fighting.

While awaiting trial for capital murder, Richardson smuggled two hacksaw blades into the Navarro County Jail and attempted to escape. Richardson also sexually assaulted another inmate in the Navarro County Jail and threatened him with subsequent assaults if he told anyone.


There was no evidence of drug or alcohol use connected with the instant offense.

SCHEDULED EXECUTIONS 05/24/00 Richard Donald Foster
05/25/00 James Edward Clayton
05/31/00 Robert Earl Carter
06/01/00 Ricky Nolen McGinn
06/12/00 Thomas Wayne Mason


If this execution is carried out, it will be the 215th execution since executions resumed in Texas in December 1982 and the 51st since General Cornyn took office. This case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Edward Marshall of the Capital Litigation Division.

- 30 -

Contact Mark Heckmann, Heather Browne, or Tom Kelley at (512) 463-2050