By Philip Jankowski
Killeen Daily Herald
WACO - Convicted killer Richard Lee Tabler's stay of execution will continue after he claimed guards at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice coerced him to abandon any appeals by threatening him.
U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. ruled that while Tabler appears to be mentally competent, his decision was not voluntary.
Smith produced a letter Tabler wrote to the judge. In it, Tabler claimed staff members at TDCJ threatened to harm his family unless he gives up challenges to his execution.
Tabler said TDCJ staff began treating him badly after he placed a threatening phone call to state Sen. John Whitmire in 2008. Tabler also called several reporters.
The incident created a statewide lockdown and embarrassed TDCJ as cellphones were found in prison cells across the state, reports show.
The ruling holds up the execution of Tabler, who has repeatedly communicated his desire to die.
Tabler initially did not attempt to appeal his conviction on the state level, said Sean Proctor, an assistant district attorney for Bell County.
After the timetable for a state appeal lapsed, Tabler changed his mind. He attempted to appeal, but was denied, Proctor said.
An execution date was set in February 2010, but Smith issued a stay of execution three weeks later, court records show.
Since then, Tabler has sent at least six letters to 264th District Court Judge Martha Trudo, who tried the capital murder case, imploring her to help move his execution along.
"What does matter is that I understand right from wrong, and that I have no remorse for the actions I took," Tabler wrote in a letter, dated July 7, 2010.
Tabler was convicted of the 2004 killing of Haitham Zayed, 28, and Mohamid-Amine Rahmouni, 25. He also confessed to killing Amanda Benefield, 16, and Tiffany Dotson, 18. The four murders happened in a three-day span. Tabler was placed on death row in 2007.
Tabler threatened to kill himself in order to speed along the process unless Trudo set an execution date in one instance. His language varies from polite to obscenity-laden, followed by apologies.
"Please let us waste no more time and money," he wrote.
Contact Philip Jankowski at firstname.lastname@example.org.