Homless Man Executed in Slaying of DeSoto Widow

Proclaiming his innocence, condemned prisoner Gregory Wright was executed Thursday evening for the fatal stabbing and robbery of a Dallas-area woman who tried to help him when he was homeless.

"There's been a lot of confusion who done this," Wright said from the death chamber gurney.

Then, as he has for years, he declared a fellow homeless man, John Adams, was responsible for the murder of Donna Vick.

"I never sold anything to anyone. My only act or involvement was not telling on him. John Adams was the one that killed Donna Vick. The evidence proves that. ... I was in the bathroom when he attacked. I ran into the bedroom. By the time I came in, when I tried to help her with first aid it was too late."

He said an innocent man was being put to death and said he loved his family. "I'll be waiting on y'all. I am finished talking."

Nine minutes after the lethal drugs began to flow, he was pronounced dead at 6:20 p.m. CDT.

Wright, 42, was one two homeless men convicted of killing Vick, 52, at her home in DeSoto, just south of Dallas, in 1997. The woman was known for helping the needy and had given Wright food, clothing and money after he said she spotted him on a street corner holding a cardboard sign offering to work for food.

He was the 14th Texas prisoner executed this year, the second this week. Another six are set to die in November, including one next week, in the nation's most active capital punishment state.

Wright was an out of work truck driver when he befriended Adams, who also was homeless in Dallas. Adams was tried separately and also was convicted and sentenced to death. He does not have an execution date.

"He could have been the hero in this if that was a true story," Jerry Don Blanton, Vick's son, said after watching Wright die. "I really think if there was any truth in what he said, he could have probably stopped this.

"And if he wanted to protect his friend, all he had to do was call 911 and get an ambulance out there."

Blanton said he thought both Wright and Adams were "very much total participants in what happened that night, no doubt... We're getting the same thing we've got since day one, each of them blaming it on the other one."

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Wright less than an hour before he was scheduled to be taken to the Texas death chamber. Other federal courts had rejected similar appeals and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles also refused a clemency request for Wright on a 7-0 vote Wednesday.

"The truth doesn't matter," Wright told The Associated Press recently from a visiting cage outside death row, saying he was stunned at the outcome of his 1998 trial in Dallas. "I couldn't believe what was happening. I'm very upset at a number of different people. I don't blame the legal system. I blame individuals running the legal system. ... I am innocent."

Adams, who implicated Wright as the killer, earlier this year recanted his statement against Wright. Then at a court hearing last month, he reversed his recantation.

"The co-defendant has been a bit erratic," Meg Penrose, one of Wright's lawyers, said Thursday.

She said she understood demands for an execution in the case "but I thought justice demanded we executed the right person."

"I guess there's a difference of emphasis," Penrose said. "I'd rather wait 30 years and make sure we have the proper individual executed than wait 12 and hedge our bets. I don't like the rush to review that we're at. A person who is innocent is rushed to the gurney and is executed."

New DNA tests requested by Wright's lawyers, which put off Wright's execution initially scheduled for last month, "on the whole, confirmed Wright's guilt," state attorneys told the appeals courts in their arguments. Penrose contended the tests were ambiguous.

At Wright's trial, jurors were told that after the killing, the two men packed up items from inside the house, drove off in Vick's car and traded the loot for crack cocaine.

A day and a half later, Adams turned himself in to police, implicated Wright, directed officers to Vick's home and helped in the recovery of her car. DNA tests of blood on the steering wheel of the car was shown to belong to Wright. His bloody fingerprint also was found on a pillowcase on her bed. Wright's lawyers disputed the accuracy of the fingerprint evidence.

From death row, Wright refused to talk about specifics of the crime, saying only that it stemmed from an argument between Vick and Adams over Adams' smoking.

"This should have been finished long ago because there's no question about his guilt and there should be no question about the jury's verdict either," said Greg Davis, who prosecuted Wright. "He and Adams had been living on the streets together. So what he does, he talks his way into the victim's home and then he gets Adams in there, too. Both them actually stabbed her to death."

Scheduled to die next is Elkie Taylor, 47, on Nov. 6. Taylor was condemned for strangling a 65-year-old Fort Worth man in 1993 with two wire coat hangers and then leading police on a four-hour chase in a stolen 18-wheeler. Authorities said the robbery and murder of Otis Flake at Flake's Fort Worth home was the second killing linked to Taylor over an 11-day period.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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