Continued from Page 1
A jury convicted Rodriguez of capital murder in May 1991 and sentenced him to death. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed his conviction in December 1993 because the jury cards - which determine the order in which potential jurors are considered for the panel - were shuffled twice. Rodriguez was tried again and in September 1994 was again found guilty of capital murder and sentenced to death. The TCCA affirmed this conviction and sentence in February 1997. All of his subsequent appeals in state and federal court were denied.
James Gonzales was convicted of aggravated robbery and sentenced to 40 years in prison. He remains in custody as of this writing.
In an interview from death row the week before his execution, Rodriguez said that on the night of the murder, he and his cousin decided to go and act out some fantasies from the movies. After backing out on robbing a gas station and shooting at a motorist, they saw their car was running low on gas, and spotted Gee alone in her car.
"It should've never happened," Rodriguez said in the interview. "Not only did I bring so much pain and heartache to the Gee family, but also to my family. I destroyed two families ... Of all the pain I caused, I'm ashamed." Rodriguez said he hoped that the victim's family could forgive him. He also said that he matured and became more spiritual over the past 17 years and did not want people to think of him as a monster. "Don't make me look any worse than I already do," he pleaded to a reporter.
At Rodriguez' second trial, jurors heard testimony from defense witnesses about how he had changed in the 2½ years since his first trial, but the jury nevertheless found that he was a continuing danger to society. "People on juries ... they actually believe we'll never change for the better." Rodriguez said. "They figure we're better off dead. But people change with time."
At his execution, Rodriguez, strapped to the gurney, craned his head to face the victim's family members who attended. "You have every right to hate me.. You have every right to want to see this," he said to them in his last statement. "I couldn't do this in a letter. I had to do this face to face, eye to eye. None of this should have happened." He said he hoped that the family could forgive him. "I'm responsible. I'm responsible. I'm sorry to you all. This never should've happened. To ... my family, you all don't deserve to see this [but] it is the right thing to do." Rodriguez also thanked his family members and told them, "We will see each other again." As the lethal injection was started, he whispered, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." He was pronounced dead at 6:19 p.m.
By David Carson. Posted on 21 June 2007.
Sources: Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Texas Attorney General's office, Houston Chronicle, Huntsville Item.