Image: Rais Bhuiyan
Brandon Thibodeaux for msnbc.com
Rais Bhuiyan launched a campaign to halt the execution of Mark Stroman, who shot him in the face during a 2001 rampage that left two other men dead. Bhuiyan made a last-ditch effort to win a stay using a novel argument based on the Texas Victims' Rights Bill.
By Kari Huus Reporter
msnbc.com
updated 7/20/2011 10:26:44 PM ET 2011-07-21T02:26:44

The state of Texas executed convicted murderer Mark Stroman on Wednesday after rejecting the last move in a campaign to spare his life by a survivor of the former meth addict’s Sept. 11-inspired shooting spree.

Stroman was given a lethal injection of drugs and pronounced dead at 8:53 p.m. local time, Michelle Lyons, a Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman, said.

"The Lord Jesus Christ be with me," Stroman said, according to Lyons. "I am at peace. Hate is going on in this world, and it has to stop. One second of hate will cause a lifetime of pain. I'm still a proud American. Texas loud, Texas proud. God bless America, God bless everyone."

Dallas resident Rais Bhuiyan, one of three men shot by Stroman in 2001 — and the sole survivor — had lobbied for months for Texas to commute Stroman’s death penalty in favor of a life sentence without parole. The 37-year-old tech professional argued that his Muslim faith calls on him to forgive and seek mercy for Stroman, 41.

He made an unprecedented argument early Wednesday in an Austin court based on the Texas Victims Bill of Rights, requesting a stay of execution so that he can pursue his right to mediation with the offender — a move that could have postponed Stroman’s execution for months or even years.

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the argument, but a late state court appeal by Bhuiyan in Austin delayed the execution, local media reported, citing The Associated Press.

The last-minute lawsuit — naming Gov. Rick Perry as a plaintiff — was an ironic twist on the state law, as “victims’ rights” are often invoked to justify harsh penalties for offenders.

“Plaintiff strongly desires mediation and reconciliation, and has for a long time,” the legal complaint said, alleging that the state never informed Bhuiyan of this right. “(His) own ability to reach a cathartic point in his own recovery depends very much on his being able to make full efforts to help Mark Stroman to reach his full potential, and to overcome the very negative lessons that he was taught as a child. … This will inevitable be a process that will take time."

Injury… outweighed
After several hours U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel issued an order denying a stay of execution, saying that the case had failed to meet several prerequisites that would give the federal court jurisdiction to intervene. Among them, Bhuiyan had failed to show “a substantial threat of irreparable injury if the injunction is not issued,” he said.

A ruling in Bhuiyan’s favor “would allow litigants to delay an execution indefinitely by filing a succession of requests for injunctive relief in unrelated civil actions mere days before an execution,” Yeakel wrote. “… Thus, the irreparable injury asserted by Bhuiyan — his claim of violation of the Crime Victims’ Rights statute being rendered moot — is outweighed by the damage to the operation of the criminal justice system as a whole that would result from this Court’s granting the request.”

Image: Mark Stroman
AP
Mark Stroman, who killed two men and wounded a third.

Human rights activist Rick Halperin, an ardent supporter of Bhuiyan, said the decision was disappointing but not surprising.

“It is now at long last painfully clear that there is no such thing in Texas as clemency for condemned inmates,” he said. “It is equally painful to realize that victims of violent crimes who speak on behalf of mercy and compassion are to be ignored or marginalized by the stalling of top appointed and elected officials.”

With just a few hours remaining before the execution, Bhuiyan’s attorneys said they would appeal to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans and to the Supreme Court.

Halperin was not optimistic about obtaining a stay of execution. "My gut reaction is that Mark Stroman will be put to death," Halperin said. "I'm just prepared for the worst."

Indeed, both courts rejected the appeals.

Shortly after the 9-11 terrorist attacks, Stroman shot three men working in Dallas area convenience stores who he believed were Muslims, in an apparent bid for vengeance. In addition to Bhuiyan, who was blinded in one eye, Stroman shot and killed Indian immigrant Vasudev Patel – for which he was convicted of murder and sentenced to death — and Pakistan-born Waqar Hasan.

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Stroman’s defense attorney, Lydia Brandt, has argued that his initial defense team failed to adequately present evidence that could have ruled out execution. Court documents show Stroman suffered a childhood of neglect and abuse, followed by post-traumatic stress and a methamphetamine addiction —evidence that Brandt believes shows Stroman did not have the “condition of mind” that is required when handing out the death sentence.

But appeals along these lines, and on technical grounds, failed one by one.

Bhuiyan, who emigrated from Bangladesh and later became a U.S. citizen, has crisscrossed the state of Texas seeking support for his bid to spare Stroman’s life. He met with the local district attorney seeking support, but met with rejection. He requested a meeting with Stroman, who agreed, but did not receive a response to his request from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. His efforts to meet with the powerful Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles went unanswered.

Finally, on July 14, he filed his novel lawsuit arguing that his rights under the Texas Victims Bill of Rights were being violated.

Under the bill, victims are offered mediation with offenders as a means of personal closure. Preparations for the meetings typically require four to six months.

The lawsuit was first filed in state court, but at the first hearing on Monday, attorneys representing Perry and the other defendants, succeeded in getting the case moved to federal district court in Austin, then won a one-day delay — pushing it back to a slot just hours ahead of Stroman’s execution.

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