Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive

Tuesday, January 16, 2001


Alvin Goodwin Scheduled To Be Executed

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn offers the following information on Alvin Goodwin who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m. on Thursday, January 18th.

Goodwin was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1986 murder of James Douglas Tillerson in Conroe, Montgomery County, Texas. Tillerson was shot to death on or about Nov. 30, 1986, during a robbery.

In confessions to police, Goodwin admitted committing the murder.


According to Goodwin's confession, between 8 and 10 p.m. on the night of Tillerson's murder, Goodwin and Billy Dan Atkins Sr. drove by Tillerson's trailer. Goodwin and Atkins talked about either getting a loan from Tillerson or robbing him. Goodwin and Atkins then approached Tillerson's trailer. When Tillerson answered the door, Atkins ordered him to sit in a chair and demanded money. Tillerson told them that he did not have any money, but they proceeded to ransack Tillerson's trailer anyway. They found no money, but they took other items and ordered Tillerson to his car. Atkins drove while Goodwin sat in the front seat, pointing a .357 Magnum at Tillerson. When they got to a wooded area, Atkins and Goodwin ordered Tillerson to get out and walk ahead of them. When they reached a dense area of the woods and could not walk any farther, Atkins tried to shoot Tillerson but the gun did not discharge. At that point, Goodwin raised his .357 Magnum and shot Tillerson and he fell to the ground. Goodwin thought he had only grazed Tillerson, so he shot him again. When Goodwin saw blood coming out of Tillerson's head, he and Atkins ran back to the car.

On December 1, 1986, Montgomery County Sheriff's deputies received a report of a theft at Tillerson's trailer house. Tillerson had not reported for work that morning and had not been seen since the previous Sunday.

On January 17, 1987, a body was discovered by trail-riders approximately two and one-half miles from his trailer at the edge of the woods near Fawnmist Road in Montgomery County. At the scene, police officers inspected the body's clothing and tentatively identified the body as Tillerson. The Harris County Assistant Medical Examiner positively identified the body as Tillerson. The examination disclosed that Tillerson had been dead for approximately one month and had died from a gunshot wound to the head. A second wound had been made by a bullet entering Tillerson's right arm, exiting at the forearm.

Goodwin and Atkins were arrested in the state of Iowa on separate charges more than a month after Tillerson's murder. Goodwin gave a full confession on videotape and was extradited to Montgomery County where he was interviewed by officers and later gave a written confession.


Inmate Delbert Burkett testified that while he and Goodwin were being held together in the Montgomery County Jail in January of 1987, an article about the Tillerson murder appeared in the paper. Goodwin read the article and passed the paper to other inmates, saying that he had gone to Tillerson's trailer to steal a government check. Goodwin said that he and an accomplice entered the trailer with guns, forced Tillerson to sit on the couch while they removed objects from the trailer, then took Tillerson into the woods. There, Goodwin shot Tillerson in the arm. Tillerson fell to the ground, pleading and screaming. Goodwin said that he "was tired of him screaming and sniveling," so he shot Tillerson in the head with a .357 pistol. After shooting him, Goodwin and the accomplice left Tillerson in the woods. Burkett heard Goodwin tell this story several different times.


Goodwin had a prior conviction for burglary of a motor vehicle. Also, at the time of his arrest in Iowa, Goodwin and another person had been caught breaking into several cars, houses and garages. As Goodwin ran from Iowa police, he pointed a cocked and loaded pistol at one of the officers. It was later determined that the gun had been stolen from a house in Burlington, Iowa. Additionally, Goodwin burglarized a neighbor's apartment in December of 1986, in Huntsville, Texas.


Several state and federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court, have reviewed and rejected Goodwin's appeals.

  • July 30, 1987 - Following a jury trial, Goodwin was found guilty of capital murder.
  • August 3, 1987 - After hearing additional evidence relating to punishment, the jury affirmatively answered the two special issues presented pursuant to Article 37.071 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. In accordance with state law, the trial court imposed the death sentence.
  • October 24, 1990 - Goodwin's conviction and sentence were automatically appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which affirmed the conviction.
  • June 28, 1991 - The United States Supreme Court denied certiorari review.
  • November 6, 1991 - Goodwin filed a petition for state writ of habeas corpus.
  • June 25, 1993 - The state convicting court recommended that habeas relief under Article 11.07 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure be denied.
  • June 29, 1994 - The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied state habeas relief.
  • November 4, 1994 - Goodwin filed a second application for state habeas relief.
  • December 8, 1994 - The state convicting court recommended that the subsequent writ also be denied.
  • January 27, 1995 - The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied relief on Goodwin's second state petition.
  • February 27, 1995 - Goodwin filed a federal petition for writ of habeas corpus which was denied on March 6, 1995.
  • December 23, 1997 - The Fifth Circuit vacated that portion of the district court's judgment denying habeas relief on Goodwin's Fifth Amendment claim and remanded for an evidentiary hearing on the issue of whether Goodwin invoked his Fifth Amendment right to counsel upon being taken to the Burlington police station. It affirmed the judgment of the district court in all other respects.
  • September 21, 1999 - After hearing oral argument on the evidence, the district court entered findings of fact on September 24, 1999. The court found that Goodwin did not invoke the right to counsel in Iowa before he confessed to the Texas Rangers and also made an additional finding that Goodwin's delay in raising the issue substantially prejudiced the State's ability to establish precisely the sequence of events.
  • October 18, 1999 - The district court denied Goodwin's petition for writ of habeas corpus but granted his application for a certificate of probable cause.
  • August 17, 2000 - The Fifth Circuit affirmed the federal district court's order dismissing Goodwin's federal petition for writ of habeas corpus.
  • December 18, 2000 - Goodwin filed a petition for writ of certiorari, which is currently pending in the United States Supreme Court.


For additional information and statistics, please log on to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice website,

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Contact Mark Heckmann, Tom Kelley or Jane Dees at (512) 463-2050.
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