HUNTSVILLE, Texas – Condemned Texas prisoner Christopher Young says there's no question he fatally shot a San Antonio convenience store owner but insists he never intended to kill the man whose slaying was recorded on a surveillance camera.
"I've never denied the crime," Young said recently from a visiting cage outside Texas death row. "You have video of me shooting somebody. That's pretty damaging."
Young, 34, set for lethal injection Tuesday evening, contends he's no longer the drug-using street gangbanger who was drunk on a Sunday morning in November 2004 when 53-year-old Hasmukh "Hash" Patel was killed. He told a psychiatrist he'd smoked marijuana and downed 15 to 20 beers the night before and did cocaine that morning.
The state's top criminal court, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, last week rejected an appeal that questioned the removal of a potential juror at Young's January 2006 trial. Then the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles rejected a clemency plea where Young's lawyers said he was "no longer the young man he was when he arrived" on death row, that he was "truly remorseful" and that Patel's son did not wish the execution to take place.
Young's attorneys have sued the panel, arguing a white Texas inmate, Thomas Whitaker, received a rare commutation earlier this year as his execution was imminent for the slaying of his mother and brother. Young is black and race improperly "appears to be the driving force in this case," one of Young's attorneys, David Dow, said in a federal court appeal that seeks to delay the punishment.
Stephen Hoffman, an assistant Texas attorney general, said the civil rights lawsuit was a delay tactic, improper, speculative and "legally and factually deficient."
According to court documents, Young sexually assaulted a woman in her apartment with her three young children present, then forced her to drive off with him in her car. She managed to escape, and records show he drove one block to the Mini Food Mart where owner Patel was shot during an attempted robbery. Then he picked up a prostitute while driving to a crack house where he was arrested 90 minutes after the shooting. The car reported stolen had been spotted by San Antonio police.
"It was sitting in the front yard," Young said. "I didn't know I had killed an individual. I didn't know I was wanted for capital murder."
From prison, he denied the sexual assault, although court records said DNA tests confirmed the attack. He said he shot Patel in the hand and the bullet careened into Patel's chest, killing him. The surveillance camera recorded both video and audio of the shooting and two customers in the parking lot identified Young as the shooter.
Mitesh Patel, whose father was killed by Young, said last week at a rally for Young in San Antonio that he supported Young's clemency bid because "nothing positive comes from his execution" and carrying out the punishment would leave Young's three teenage daughters without a father.
Young said the shooting stemmed from a dispute he believed involved the mother of one of his three children and Patel.
"He was not a bad dude at all," Young said. "My baby's mother lied to me. I was drunk. We knew the victim. The whole confrontation went wrong. I thought he was reaching for a gun and I shot."
Young said he was a state chess champion, played violin, cello and bass but "all that stopped" when he was about 8 as he joined the Bloods street gang after his father was shot and killed in a robbery.
His execution would be the eighth this year in Texas, one more than all of last year in the nation's busiest capital punishment state. At least six other Texas inmates have execution dates in the coming months.