HUNTSVILLE, Texas — Condemned inmate Mark Stroman was looking to the federal courts to prevent his execution Wednesday for killing a Dallas-area convenience store clerk during a shooting he said was in retaliation for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Stroman, 41, said he went on a shooting spree in the weeks following the 2001 attacks targeting people of Middle East descent, claiming it was a patriotic response to terrorism. Two men were killed and a third was wounded. Stroman is scheduled for lethal injection Wednesday evening in Huntsville, and his execution would be the eighth this year in Texas. At least seven other inmates in the nation's busiest death penalty state have execution dates in the coming weeks.
In an unusual step, the lone shooting survivor, Rais Bhuiyan, a native of Bangladesh, has asked the courts to halt the execution. In a lawsuit, he argues that his religious beliefs as a Muslim told him to forgive Stroman. He also wants to spend time with the convict to learn more about why the shootings occurred.
Meanwhile, Stroman's lawyer was at the U.S. Supreme Court pointing to Bhuiyan's "significant surprise" and arguing that attorneys during Stroman's trial and in earlier stages of his appeals were deficient for not illustrating "the path that led him to this violent frenzy."
State attorneys disputed those arguments, contending Stroman was "misrepresenting the actual facts." They said lawyers had called witnesses who testified about Stroman's poor and abusive childhood, alcoholic parents, drug use and behavioral problems before and after Sept. 11, 2001. They also contested Bhuiyan's statements about acting on behalf of all the victims, including the widow of Vasudev Patel.
It was the shooting death of Patel, 49, during an attempted convenience store robbery in October 2001 in Mesquite, just east of Dallas, that put Stroman on death row. Patel had moved from India to Texas in 1983, and was a naturalized U.S. citizen.
His wife told the Dallas County district attorney's office that no one had permission to speak on her behalf. She was not made available for media questions as the execution date neared.
Stroman was free on bond for a gun possession arrest when his shooting spree started. He had previous convictions for burglary, robbery, theft and credit card abuse, served at least two prison terms and was paroled twice. His juvenile record showed an armed robbery at age 12.
When police arrested him the day Patel was killed, they found the 44-caliber handgun used in the shooting. Stroman confessed, and court documents show that he told authorities he belonged to the Aryan Brotherhood, a white supremacist prison gang. Prosecutors also say he told another jail inmate about the shootings and how automatic weapons police found in his car were intended for a planned attack at a Dallas-area shopping mall.
Stroman more recently has denied the white supremacist description. He also has avoided trouble in prison in recent years, said Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons. But in 2008, prison officials found a cell phone, a charger, a piece of metal sharpened to a point and what appeared to be marijuana in his cell. About the same time, he was written up by prison authorities for scratching an obscenity into some fresh paint in a visiting booth.
Stroman blamed the shootings on the loss of a sister in the collapse of one of the World Trade Center towers, although prosecutors said in court documents that there's no firm evidence she ever existed.
"I remember sitting at home watching the nightmare on TV, and knowing she was on the top floors of the North Tower," Stroman said on a website devoted to his case. "Let's just say that I could not think clearly anymore, and I am sorry to say I made innocent people pay for my rage, anger, grief and loss."
"I'm not the monster the media portrays me," he said last week from death row.
Besides Patel's slaying, Stroman was charged but not tried in the shooting death of Waqar Hasan, 46, a Pakistani immigrant who moved to Dallas in 2001 to open a convenience store. Hasan was killed four days after the terrorists struck. The attack on Bhuiyan came a week later.
Stroman's website: http://www.executionchronicles.org/stroman/index.htm