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Ex-sheriff’s deputy executed for Texas slaying

A former Texas sheriff's deputy was executed Wednesday evening for the 1994 robbery, rape and fatal stabbing of a Houston woman at her family's flower shop.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A former sheriff's deputy was executed Wednesday evening for the robbery, rape and fatal stabbing of a Houston woman at her family's flower shop.

Asked by the warden if he had a final statement, Michael Griffith said "No, sir."

As the drugs began taking effect, Griffith said in a barely audible whisper, "Please take my spirit to the Lord."

Griffith, 56, was the 15th condemned prisoner put to death this year in Texas, the nation's most active death penalty state. Four other inmates — including a woman — are set for lethal injection over the next three weeks.

Griffith was convicted and sentenced to die for the 1994 slaying of Deborah McCormick, 44. Griffith had been a repeat customer at the shop run by McCormick and her mother, and he was known to the victim, who was alone at the time of the attack. McCormick and her mother, who discovered her daughter's body, had a policy of not opening the door for people they did not know if either was away.

The U.S. Supreme Court in January refused to review Griffith's case, and his lawyer filed no additional appeals to try to block the execution.

Griffith declined to speak with reporters in the weeks before his scheduled execution.

He was one of the few former lawmen ever sent to death row in Texas.

The slaying came nearly two years after Griffith, who rose to the rank of sergeant over his 10-year career, was fired for violating the sheriff’s department policy on domestic abuse.

McCormick was alone in her family’s Houston flower shop and wedding chapel in October 1994 when she let in Griffith, a repeat customer. He asked for six long-stem roses and then pulled out a gun.

Griffith was arrested after the robbery and attack. He was found with credit cards linked to the store, as well as a knife and a receipt for the roses.

McCormick’s mother, Mary Ringer, left briefly on the day of the murder. When she returned, she found her daughter’s body, stabbed 11 times.

“My mother was always welcoming and very friendly,” said McCormick’s daughter, Dawn Kirkland, who planned to watch Griffith’s execution. “If anything, he hasn’t spoken out at all. I would like to know why, why her of all people. Then again, I might not like the answer.”

Violent robberies, sexual assaults
Griffith also was convicted of committing two violent robberies in the month McCormick was killed. In one, evidence showed he shot a woman in the head during the robbery of a savings and loan office. In the other, he robbed and sexually assaulted a woman at a bridal salon. Both women survived and testified against him.

Former wives and girlfriends also testified about him abusing them. One said he became violent with her on their wedding day.

“It’s amazing to see a policeman go bad like that,” said Ira Jones, who prosecuted Griffith. “Policemen make mistakes. They are human beings. But to go that bad, there’s something seriously wrong.”

The U.S. Supreme Court in January refused to review his case and Griffith’s lawyer planned no additional appeals to try to block the execution.

“I have consulted my client on this — about filing anything on his behalf,” James Rytting said. “There’s nothing left.”

Evidence was 'overwhelming'
During his trial, a medical examiner testified the knife found on Griffith was used to repeatedly stab McCormick. DNA tests tied it to the victim and to Griffith.

“The evidence against him was overwhelming,” said David Cunningham, his trial lawyer. “We didn’t contest the issue of guilt-innocence. It was a punishment case from the start.”

A defense psychologist said Griffith had a borderline personality disorder that showed up against wives and girlfriends whose actions reminded him of growing up in Los Angeles, where his mother was described as often angry and violent when drunk.

After Griffith, scheduled to die next is Cathy Henderson, facing lethal injection June 13 for the 1994 slaying of a 3-month-old child she was baby-sitting.

Henderson has insisted the child’s skull was fractured accidentally when she dropped him. His body was found 18 days after she and the child disappeared, buried in a field in a wine cooler box. She said she panicked and fled to her native Missouri.

Henderson would be the fourth woman executed in Texas since the state resumed carrying out capital punishment in 1982 and the 12th nationally since the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976 allowed the death penalty to resume.