At 6 p.m. Tuesday, Ronnie Paul Threadgill is scheduled to be executed by the State of Texas for the murder of 17-year-old Dexter McDonald on April 14, 2001, outside a nightclub in Navarro County.
On April 14, 2001, three young men walked out of a nightclub in Navarro County and got into a car. Kevin Williams sat in the front passenger seat, and Dexter McDonald sat in the right rear passenger seat. Christopher Lane, the car’s owner, got into the driver’s seat but then got back out to talk to someone. Shortly thereafter, Ronnie Threadgill ran up and fired two shots from a handgun. The first shot did not hit anyone. The second shot hit McDonald. The bullet passed through McDonald’s arm and went into his chest, according to an account by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
Williams, who was in the passenger seat, jumped out of the car. Threadgill, then 29 years old, then leaped into the driver’s seat and took off with the car, stopping only long enough to drag McDonald out and leave him on the ground. McDonald was taken to the hospital but died of a gunshot wound to the chest.
At trial, Williams testified that the first shot was fired from outside the car, and that when the second shot was fired, the shooter “was standing outside the car, bent over into the car.” Danyel Nellums, who was nearby when the shooting happened, testified that McDonald was intoxicated and was sitting in the back seat with his head leaning against the window frame. Nellums specifically denied defense counsel’s suggestion that McDonald was lying down or stretched out on the seat.
Threadgill’s past criminal history was brought to the jury’s attention once he’d been found guilty. Nine officers and one other witness testified during the punishment phase that Threadgill’s reputation in the community was that of a bad or very bad guy. He had prior misdemeanor convictions for assault, resisting arrest, theft, criminal trespass, criminal mischief, and possession of marijuana, as well as prior felony convictions for possession of cocaine and burglary. He’d spent most of his adult life in prison or jail.
Two witnesses claimed that he’d been part of a previous shooting in Limestone County, although he hadn’t been charged or convicted of it.
Threadgill’s appeal stemmed from the possibility that his lawyer’s didn’t seek felony murder instead of capital murder, and that his lawyer should have rebutted the alleged shooting that was brought up during the trial as an argument that Threadgill is a danger to society. The implication was that when he fired into the car he didn’t know McDonald was in the back seat, or that he didn’t mean to kill McDonald.
He was convicted on July 18, 2002, and sentenced on July 19 of that same year. His sentence was upheld by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Oct. 13, 2004. A writ of habeas corpus was denied on Oct. 5, 2005. The federal court in Dallas, denied his petition for a federal writ of habeas corpus on Aug. 10, 2009. The U.S. Court of Appeals, fifth circuit, agreed with the federal court on May 12, 2011. He tried one more time, with a writ of certiorari filed with the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 1, 2011, and it was denied on Jan. 17, 2012.
Last August, Judge John Jackson, 13th District Court in Navarro County, scheduled Threadgill’s execution by lethal injection for April 16, 2013.
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