Texas Execution Information Center

Execution Report: James Colburn

James Blake Colburn, 42, was executed by lethal injection on 26 March 2003 in Huntsville, Texas for the attempted rape and murder of a 56-year-old woman.

On 28 June 1994, Colburn, then 34, was walking in front of his apartment when he noticed Peggy Murphy hitchhiking. He introduced himself and invited her into his apartment for a drink. He then attempted to rape her, and when she resisted, Colburn strangled her until she stopped breathing. He then stabbed her in the neck with a steak knife to make sure she was dead.

Following the killing, Colburn went to a neighboring apartment and asked the residents to call the sheriff's department. After Colburn was arrested, he gave a videotaped confession. He said that he killed the woman because he wanted to return to prison.

Colburn had six prior felony convictions from 1977 to 1991. In June 1980, he began serving an 18-year sentence for aggravated robbery and burglary of a building. He was paroled in January 1987. In April 1990, he began serving a 5-year sentence for arson. He was released in March 1991. (At the time, early release was common in Texas because of strict prison population caps imposed by U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice.)

Colburn also had a history of mental illness. He began seeing psychiatrists at age 14, and at 17 was diagnosed as having paranoid schizophrenia. Dr. Walter Quijano, a psychiatrist testifying for the state, agreed with this diagnosis, but nevertheless testified at a competency hearing that Colburn was competent to stand trial and was sane at the time of the murder. Defense lawyers had another psychiatrist, Dr. Carmen Petzold, examine their client, but decided not to use her testimony in court.

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