John Joe Amador says he was an easy mark when authorities charged him with the slaying of a San Antonio taxi driver during a robbery 13 years ago for there was one murder already on his record.
"I was on parole," he said. "I told them I had no involvement."
But a woman who survived the same attack that killed taxi driver Mohammad Reza Ayari identified Amador as the gunman, and a Bexar County jury convicted him and sentenced him to death.
"I feel for her, I feel for the deceased's family, but I didn't do this," Amador, 31, insisted in a recent death row interview.
He is set for lethal injection Wednesday, the second of three condemned Texas prisoners scheduled to die this week in the nation's most active death penalty state.
Late Tuesday night, DaRoyce Mosley became the state's 22nd prisoner executed this year when he received his punishment for the fatal shooting of a woman who was one of four people killed during a robbery in Kilgore in East Texas. The execution was delayed more than five hours until the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a late appeal.
Another condemned inmate from Bexar County is scheduled to die Thursday.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Monday rejected a petition from Amador's attorneys, who argued the execution should be stopped because his trial lawyers failed to investigate his abusive childhood and jurors should have been told about it before they sentenced him to death.
"That's all I've got, but I'm optimistic we'll get a stay with the courts somewhere down the line," attorney Marina Thais Douenat said.
At the time of the shooting, Amador recently was freed after serving three years at a youth prison in California for being an accessory to the stabbing death of his stepfather in Rialto, California. The slaying was the climax to what he called a "rocky relationship" over the years with the man.
"There's nothing I can say. They found my fingerprints. I confessed," he said. "I was so drunk, so loaded on drugs. I feel responsible for his death."
But not for Ayari's, he said.
It was early morning on Jan. 4, 1994, when Ayari, 32, who had 23-year-old Ester Garza riding with him, picked up a man and woman at a convenience store in San Antonio and was told to drive toward Poteet, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) to the south. When they reached a ranch house in a remote area, Ayari and Garza were shot, robbed of about US$100, and then were pulled from the cab, which was driven away.
Garza testified she survived because she pretended to be dead when she hit the ground. Under questioning at Amador's trial, she acknowledged she had up to 15 beers and a wine cooler in the preceding hours. She was able to identify Amador only after repeated interviews and a hypnosis session with investigators.
Another motorist testified she saw Amador and a young woman walking away from a taxi that had been abandoned on the shoulder of a highway. The cab was Ayari's. The younger woman accompanying Amador turned out to be a teenage cousin who was arrested as a juvenile.
Amador was arrested three months later in Rubidoux, California.
At his trial, evidence showed Amador wrote a note threatening a former girlfriend if she testified against him. She did, saying Amador told her a few days before the shootings that he wanted to do something crazy involving a taxi.
"My anger dictated my emotions and harmed me," Amador said from death row, acknowledging the letter. "I was in a rage then.
"I've changed a lot. I'm not the same angry man, the person I was back then."
On Tuesday evening, Mosley, 32, issued a brief final statement from the gurney, expressing love to his family and thanking them and his friends for their support.
"Keep your head up," he said twice, once to them and a second time to "all the fellows on the row."
"Continue to fight," he said.
Nine minutes later, he was pronounced dead.
Mosley said he was involved only in the East Texas robbery and not the killings. His lawyers argued unsuccessfully that his uncle, Ray Don Mosley, was responsible for the slayings or for threatening his nephew into shooting the customers at Katie's Lounge in Kilgore in July 1994.
DaRoyce Mosley was convicted for one of the four deaths. Ray Don Mosley took a plea bargain and is serving life in prison.
On Thursday, Kenneth Foster, 30, is set to die for being the getaway driver when a San Antonio man, Michael LaHood, 25, was killed during an attempted robbery in the driveway of his home. Mauriceo Brown, the man convicted of firing the fatal shot, was executed last year and Foster was convicted under Texas' law of parties, which makes a non-triggerman just as culpable. His scheduled punishment has prompted condemnation from death penalty opponents.