Wednesday, May 8, 2013
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, citing the federal district court’s description of the facts, described the murder of Officer Troy Blando as follows:
On the night of May 19, 1999, Officer Troy Blando drove around the parking lot of the Roadrunner Inn [in Houston, Texas] looking for stolen vehicles. Blando was in plainclothes and drove an unmarked car. Blando saw Williams driving a Lexus. He inquired about the car [via a computer search in his car], and learned that the car was stolen in an aggravated robbery. As Williams stepped out of the car, Blando approached him with his weapon drawn. Trial testimony explained that it was departmental practice for officers to draw their weapons when approaching a suspect in a stolen vehicle. Blando and Williams tussled, and Williams pulled out a gun and fatally shot Blando.
Two witnesses also testified that they saw the shooting. One was staying at the Roadrunner Inn, and the other at a hotel next door. One of the witnesses testified that she heard two men arguing in the parking lot. When she looked out the window, she saw a white man and a black man arguing, and heard the black man telling the white man not to handcuff him. After the white man got one handcuff on the black man, the black man spun around and shot the white man. Williams was arrested near the scene a short while later. He was wearing one handcuff at the time.
After his arrest, Houston Police Officer Allen Brown read Williams his Miranda warnings and interviewed him. Williams acknowledged that he understood his rights and gave two statements in which he admitted shooting Blando. At trial, the medical examiner testified that the cause of Blando’s death was a perforating gunshot wound to the chest.
Police recovered shell casings fired from .380 caliber, .40 caliber, and 9 millimeter weapons. Blando fired a .380. At least some of the other bullets were fired by Williams’ gun. Williams’ fingerprints were on the Lexus and on Blando’s Jeep Cherokee.
The defense presented no witnesses during the guilt-innocence phase. In his statement to the police, however, Williams contended that he did not know Blando was a police officer, but thought that Blando was trying to rob him, and shot in self-defense. One of the officers who responded to Blando’s call for help, however, testified that Blando was wearing his badge around his neck. The jury found Williams guilty of capital murder for the murder of Officer Blando.
On July 21, 1999, a Harris County grand jury indicted Williams for murdering Officer Troy Blando.
On Feb. 3, 2000, a Harris County jury found Williams guilty of murdering Troy Blando. After the jury recommended capital punishment, the court sentenced Williams to death by lethal injection.
On May 8, 2002, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Williams’s conviction and sentence. Williams did not file a petition for a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court.
On Oct. 15, 2001, Williams sought to appeal his conviction and sentence by seeking an application for a state writ of habeas corpus with the state trial court.
On Jan. 29, 2003, the trial court detailed findings of fact and conclusions of law recommending that Williams’s application be denied.
On April 2, 2003, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals adopted the trial court’s findings and conclusions and denied habeas relief.
On June 17, 2003, Williams filed a successive state application for post-conviction writ of habeas corpus with the District Court of Harris County, Texas, raising two claims: (1) that Williams’s execution would violate the Eighth Amendment because Williams is mentally retarded (the Atkins claim), and (2) that Williams’s sentence violates the Sixth Amendment because the jury’s verdict did not include a determination that Williams is not mentally retarded.
On July 31, 2003, the District Court of Harris County transferred the case to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for consideration.
On Aug. 20, 2003, the State filed a motion to dismiss Williams’s successive state application as an abuse of the writ under state statute.
On Oct. 8, 2003, the Court of Criminal Appeals entered an order finding that Williams had failed to produce sufficient specific facts to support an Atkins claim and dismissed his successive application as an abuse of the writ.
On July 20, 2004, Williams filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus with the District Court for the Southern District of Texas. On Sept. 1, 2004 Williams amended his petition.
On July 15, 2005 the federal district court ordered funding for expert assistance and an evidentiary hearing set for Aug. 29, 2005, on Williams’s mental retardation claim. The federal district court also held that his ineffective-state-habeas-counsel claim was not cognizable on federal habeas. Likewise, his ineffective-assistance-of-trial-counsel claim was held unexhausted and procedurally defaulted.
On Aug. 5, 2005, Williams asked for a continuance. A telephone conference was set for Aug. 23, 2005.
On Aug. 22, 2005, Williams asked for another continuance, and the conference call was reset for Sept. 6, 2005.
On Sept. 6, 2005, the hearing was set for Jan. 31, 2006.
On Jan. 4, 2006, Williams’s motion for permission to depose a witness was granted.
On Jan. 13, 2006, both parties moved to continue the hearing, which was reset for March 20, 2006.
On March 17, 2006, the court held a telephone conference and reset the hearing for April 17, 2006.
On April 17-21, 2006, the evidentiary hearing took place, and as the time allotted was insufficient, the remainder of the hearing was continued to May 22-23, 2006. On Jan. 8, 2007, the magistrate judge filed its memorandum and recommendations denying relief.
On Jan. 29, 2007, Williams filed his objections.
On Feb. 14, 2007, the federal district court adopted the magistrate’s memorandum and recommendations and issued its final judgment denying Williams’s petition for writ of habeas corpus. COA was granted in part and denied in part.
On Feb. 28, 2007, Williams filed a motion to alter or amend the judgment pursuant to Rule 59(e) in the district court. He supplemented it on March 8, 2007, with a motion under Rule 60(b).
On April 4, 2007, the federal district court denied Williams’s motion to alter the judgment.
On May 10, 2007, the federal district court denied Williams’s motion for relief from the judgment.
On Sept. 19, 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed in part the federal district court’s judgment and remanded the case to the federal district court for further proceedings.
On Oct. 16, 2008, the federal district court denied COA as to the denials of his Rule 60(b) and 59(e) motions.
On July 26, 2010, Williams filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court denied Williams’s petition on Nov. 1, 2010.
On April 25, 2013, Williams filed a Rule 60(b) motion to alter the judgment and a motion to stay the execution in the federal district court.
Under Texas law, the rules of evidence prevent certain prior criminal acts from being presented to a jury during the guilt-innocence phase of the trial. However, once a defendant is found guilty, jurors are presented information about the defendant’s prior criminal conduct during the second phase of the trial which is when they determine the defendant’s punishment.
During the penalty phase of Williams’s trial, the State presented the testimony of Jennifer Null, the owner of the stolen Lexus. On May 10, 1999, nine days before the shooting, the car was stolen from Null at gunpoint. The thief attempted to force Null into the car, but she refused.
Officer Allen Brown testified that Williams admitted to committing several robberies and expressed no remorse over the Blando shooting. Two witnesses also identified Williams as the gunman in a robbery-shooting in January of 1999. The victim of that shooting was Ezzard McCowan. The same gun was used in the McCowan and Blando shootings.
For additional information and statistics, please go to the the Texas Department of Criminal Justice website at www.tdcj.state.tx.us.