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Texas inmate who blamed deadly shooting spree on 9/11 retaliation set for execution
HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) ' The U.S. Supreme Court rejected attempts to keep a Texas inmate from execution Wednesday evening, but appeals of a lawsuit from the lone survivor of the condemned prisoner's post-9/11 shooting spree at least temporarily stalled the punishment.
Mark Stroman has said his 2001 Dallas-area shooting rampage was in retaliation for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He was placed on death row for killing a convenience store clerk during a robbery attempt as he ' according to his own description ' targeted people of Middle East descent in the weeks after the attacks as a patriotic response to terrorism.
Two men were killed and a third was wounded. All were from South Asia, not from the Middle East.
In an unusual step, surviving victim Rais Bhuiyan asked the courts to halt Stroman's execution. Bhuiyan, a native of Bangladesh and a former convenience store worker lost the sight in one of his eyes when Stroman shot him in the face.
In a lawsuit, he argued his religious beliefs as a Muslim told him to forgive Stroman. He also said he wanted to spend time with the convict to learn more about why the shootings occurred.
"Killing him is not the solution," Bhuiyan said. "He's learning from his mistake. If he's given a chance, he's able to reach out to others and spread that message to others."
A federal district judge in Austin rejected the suit and Bhuiyan's request for an injunction on Wednesday afternoon. His lawyers appealed the ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and said they would take the matter to the Supreme Court if needed.
Stroman's lawyer, in the prisoner's own appeals to the Supreme Court, pointed to Bhuiyan's "significant surprise" and argued 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."
The high court, in brief orders late Wednesday afternoon, rejected those appeals.
Stroman's lethal injection would be the eighth this year in Texas. At least eight other inmates in the nation's busiest death penalty state have execution dates in the coming weeks. The death warrants in Texas specify lethal injections are carried out after 6 p.m., but the warrants remain in effect until midnight.
State attorneys opposed all the appeals, contending Stroman was "misrepresenting the actual facts."
In Bhuiyan's lawsuit, they said he previously signed a document indicating he had no wish for any contact with Stroman. As a victim, he also received notification four months ago about the scheduled execution but waited "until Stroman's execution was imminent" before becoming involved, Erich Dryden, an assistant Texas attorney general, said.
"To entertain Bhuiyan's complaint would reward late filers and create a perpetual motion machine of last-minute attempts to stay executions," Dryden said.
State lawyers 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 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 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 cellphone, 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 there's no firm evidence she ever existed.
"I wanted those Arabs to feel the same sense of vulnerability and uncertainty on American soil much like the mindset of chaos and bedlam that they were already accustomed to in their home country," he said on a website devoted to his case.
He described his victims as "perched behind the counter here in the Land of Milk and Honey ... this foreigner who's own people had now sought to bring the exact same chaos and bewilderment upon our people and society as they lived in themselves at home and abroad."
But he added he had made a "terrible mistake out of love, grief and anger" and had destroyed his victims' families "out of pure anger and stupidity."
"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