The crime:

48 years ago Comments Off on The crime:

For most of us, death comes suddenly. Yet there are a few individuals among us who know the exact date their death will occur.Some even know the exact time.The state of Texas has branded Thomas Miller-El guilty of a 1985 robbery and murder and sentenced him to die. He’s not waiting for death. In fact, for 15 years, death has been waiting for him.Prior to even talking with Miller-El, I tried to research as much as I could about his case. While a lot of information is available to the public regarding police records and court documents, it is often hard to get to. I originally thought the more information I gathered on his case, the better off I’d be. I’ve quickly found the opposite to be true: the deeper I dig in research, the more questions I have.The facts of Miller-El’s case, as I understand them, go something like this. At 5 a.m. Nov. 16, 1985, Douglas Walker, 25, and Donald Ray Hall, 29, were working the front desk of a Holiday Inn on the West Airport Freeway in Irving, Texas. During their shift, the men were confronted by two individuals and forced into a back closet where they were bound with rope in a robbery attempt. The two men were shot with a 9 mm automatic weapon, killing Walker and paralyzing Hall from the chest down. The robbers took $500 in cash from the desk and made off with a 300 pound floor safe containing $2500 in cash and coins, and fled the scene.A senseless crime no doubt, fueled by hatred and greed–deadly sins.Miller-El was apprehended at a private Houston residence on Nov. 21 for being the triggerman in the crime. According to a Nov. 23 Houston Post article, Miller-El drove to the residence, only to be greeted by an armed policeman. He “tried to drive off but his car became stuck in mud.” Upon exiting his vehicle, he was shot in the back by a SWAT team marksman. After the shooting, he was found “armed with a weapon similar to a machine gun and a pistol tucked in a shoulder holsterand over 100 rounds of ammunition” though he never fired a shot at police.”A large quantity of what appeared to be cocaine, about $30,000 in cash and a large amount of gold jewelry were found in the house where Miller-El had been staying.Miller-El claimed he drove to the residence, but became scared upon seeing police. “A long-time drug dealer who was supplied by the Houston Police and embraced as an under-cover agent set [me] up and called the police to come and kill [me],” contends Miller-El. He claims he was not in Irving at the time of the robbery/murder and is innocent of the charges. “No arrest warrant was ever signed nor provided as evidence [in court], so as far as we know, there was never any warrant,” said Miller-El.Though the facts of the case as Texas courts interpret them find Miller-El guilty, let’s assume for a moment he is innocent. One must ask if it is possible that Texas can wrongly accuse someone, especially when a life is on the line.Miller-El, twice convicted of robbery and sentenced to jail time, contends, “Once you’ve been in prison, then it is extremely easy forTexas to gain a conviction and sentence [you] for anything they charge you with.”Though he claims innocence, he does “have a strong suspicion about who committed the crime.” But since he wasn’t there, Miller-El said he’ll “never actually know.”He was sentenced to death in March 1986 for the crime, a formerly stalwart 6-foot-4-inch man entered jail at a slim 150 pounds, due to wounds from the gunshot.His wife, Dorothy, was also given a life-sentence for being connected to the crime but it was later reduced to 15 years. She served six years before being released on mandatory supervision. Three other individuals were also arrested for being connected to the crime, two were convicted and received sentences of five and 20 years for attempted capital murder.”Life goes on,” said Miller-El, “and death is simply a part of life’s journey of experiences, something which we have no power over. Therefore, we accept the things we cannot change, change the things we can, and attempt to utilize the wisdom to recognize the difference.”Miller-El, who has tasted isolation far longer than any of us in the free world care to imagine, will face death in three weeks. His wife, on the other hand, lives. And she lives just miles away from where her husband is to die.I talk with Dorothy Miller-El next week.