I am a Killer (2018) s01e06 Episode Script

Chuck Thompson

[man] I don't know what's worse.
Being executed or spending the rest of your life in prison.
I'm just sitting in limbo right now.
There is no hope once you're in here.
When you're guilty, accept it.
[man] If you ever thought about taking somebody's life, you better think about it long and hard.
'Cause to walk that road right there is a lot of heartache.
You may think you're tough, but, uh you really ain't nothing if you're a murderer.
You're nothing.
[man 1] And I walked up, I fired one shot.
And as I got closer, I fired one more shot.
[man 2] She was shot through the cheek and it stopped in her jaw.
[man 3] I drove him around behind a desk and I stabbed him approximately 25 times.
[man 4] I couldn't believe it.
I just thought I can't believe I just killed somebody.
[man 5] I don't feel bad about it.
[laughs] [man 6] I started stabbing him, stabbing the guy on the couch.
[man] This is U.
S.
69, northbound, out of Lufkin.
Right up on the north fringe of Angelina County.
[Cooper] Thirty-two years ago, almost to the minute, it's about five minutes after 8:00, I was headed in this direction in a big hurry to the crime scene up here.
Calls of this nature, that adrenaline kicks in and, uh, you don't need the morning cup of coffee.
You don't ask questions, you just jump in the car and you respond.
All hands on deck.
Coming into the edge of the little town of Wells.
It's like so many little towns in East Texas.
Population well under a thousand at that time.
Everyone knows everyone.
Weather's almost identical to that morning.
Fall weather.
Hunting season.
[crickets chirping] [indistinct chatter] [man] We moved around a lot when I was young.
Texas, Chicago.
Mom, dad, stepdads.
No solid family unit.
A lot of disruption.
I wasn't given much attention, I was given free reign, so I became a wild child.
[thuds] I just had a "I didn't care" attitude.
I felt like nobody cared about me, so why should I? So I was just going to do as I please, and that's basically the way I lived my life.
My name is David Lewis, 52 years old.
I've been here over, just a little, 30 years.
I was kicked out of the house at 16 and I was living on the streets and the only way to provide for myself was to become a thief 'cause nobody wanted to hire an uneducated 16-year-old boy that didn't have any skills.
So I stole.
Just took what I wanted.
[chuckles] [crickets chirping] [Lewis] I believe I was 21 20 or 21 when I moved to Lufkin.
It's a small country town.
I used to drink, I was an alcoholic, and, uh, I smoked weed.
Took acid, pills, mushrooms, whatever got me off, but yeah, once I tasted the marijuana, that was it for me, I was in love.
Helped me escape reality of life and put me in another world, in another state of mind, where I could escape all this.
And then, when I got older, it turned more into alcohol.
And once I became a drunk, I just didn't care about nothing.
I was going to do whatever I wanted and didn't care about the consequences.
Me and my friends would be out late at night drinking and smoking, and we'd just decide to go burglarize something.
You know, what young boys did back then.
[chuckles] Houses, stores, whatever we could get into.
Living on the streets, you know, you've got to do what you can do to survive.
[crickets chirping] That day, me and some friends, we went down to the liquor store, bought some beer, and we decided to go fishing and while out fishing, I found some mushrooms, and I ate the mushrooms, drank the beer, and by the end of the day, I was pretty plastered.
[clears throat] So they dropped me off at my grandpa's in Lufkin.
[sniffs] And, uh, I'm sitting there waiting on him 'cause we were going to go hunting that night, and it's taking him a long time to show up.
And so when it gets dark, I get the gun and I'mma go hunting by myself.
I was crossing behind Ms.
Ruby's house and I was planning to cut through the backyard and go down to a stream behind her house 'cause that usually where the deer and stuff hang out at night time.
When I'm walking by, I see the bathroom window's open and I don't see no car nowhere.
So, I crawl in through the bathroom window.
[thuds] I stand at the door that goes into the hallway, the hallway goes two ways.
The left goes to the kitchen, and then the right goes to a couple of bedrooms.
So I go into that bedroom and that's where a gun rack is.
So I take the guns and I roll them up in a bed sheet.
And as I'm coming out, somebody's coming through a hall door from the living room.
I see the silhouette.
- I just raised the gun and pow.
- [gunshot] She kind of turned towards me and let out a loud scream.
And I struck her in the top of the head with the barrel of the gun.
[thuds] Then I flicked the light on and seen who it was, and I'm like [sighs] man.
I thought the house was empty.
I didn't think anybody was in there.
I was kind of shocked, I didn't even think.
I took the keys to the car and the guns and left.
[car engine starts] And I left the car parked on the side of the highway.
[goats bleating] I'm sitting in my grandpa's trailer, smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee, getting ready to leave, when the police come across the highway.
[siren blaring] I knew right then that they were coming for me.
That they'd found Ms.
Ruby already.
It rained earlier in the day and I left footprints through the trail in the woods right up to my grandpa's trailer house.
My grandpa's girlfriend opened the door and one of the investigators, as soon as he sees me, he tells the two polices with him, "I think we got our man.
" [siren blaring] They take me to the police station, asking questions, and I just keep denying it.
But as soon as they try to implicate my grandfather in it, that's when I finally confessed, told them I did it, that he had nothing to do with it.
Oh, I figured I'd be in prison a long time, 30, 40 years maybe.
But when I got my attorney and he told me they were seeking a death penalty, I'm like, "What? Death penalty? What is that?" And he told me what it was and I'm like, "Oh" [chuckles] I really didn't think about death penalty when I was free.
I didn't even know we had one.
I shut down all thought about the crime until I was sitting in a cell, and I started thinking about what I'd done and what I was fixing to face, and that's, that's when I broke down.
When I came to death row, I just kept it locked up, and, uh, I didn't really face what I'd done until 2004, and that's when it really hit me hard.
That's when I went ahead and accepted the responsibility for it.
You know, whatever comes, I accept it.
Either life in prison or an execution, either one I accept.
What can you do when you're guilty, man? You don't have a hope or prayer when you're guilty.
[chuckles] [dog barking] This is the evidence box of the David Lee Lewis trial, back in '86.
Haven't seen most of this stuff since that day.
These are the glasses that Ms.
Ruby had on when she walked into her home that night.
Right lens is missing, right ear, leg missing.
She still had these partially on her face when I arrived at the scene.
And a round was fired, went through right about here.
Struck her in the corner of the eye.
You have to quite often kind of divorce yourself from the physical aspects of a scene like that, if you can.
And you try to do the job and document everything and get everything ready.
And, of course, you're always thinking ahead to the trial part of this situation, anytime you're in that type of situation.
And [sighs] then you think about it later.
We got our big break, I think, initially, when we found the footprints.
Casting of a shoe print.
This is a pretty good casting.
Heel, toe, trim.
Especially when you can mate it up with the actual shoe that made it.
This was found at the rear of the home, not far from where he gained entry.
And then things fell into place.
When we approached the residence where Lewis was apprehended, that's where they found the shoes that matched the prints.
Um, sometimes, it's nice to be lucky.
Not quite as a good as a fingerprint, but very, very strong circumstantial evidence.
You know, a thief is a thief is a thief.
Not to get Biblical, but I'm sure somewhere in that list of ten is, I still recall from way back, that there's one in there about stealing and thou shalt not.
You go in with the intent to do just a property felony and something goes horribly wrong and somebody dies, and it leaps all the way up through all the various steps of different levels of crime right to the very top.
The one that we hold most heinous, which is capital murder.
Um Did he go there with the intent to kill somebody? No.
[stutters] You're never going to be able to convince me or anybody else of that.
Did somebody die as a result of him being somewhere where he wasn't supposed to be? Yes, they did.
And an innocent person lost their life.
You look at it.
We've got 30 something years of back and forth lives torn apart.
Lives on the inside, lives on the outside.
And it fits on this one table.
[birds chirping] [man] In David's particular case, the evidence of guilt was overwhelming.
They had confessions and they found evidence from the burglary and the place where he was living.
The prosecution put on evidence that David Lewis knew and understood what he was doing at the time the offense was committed.
I'm Jon Anderson.
I was born and raised in Lufkin, Texas.
I've practiced law here for about 34 years, and I was David Lewis's defense lawyer.
A capital murder jury at the time this case was tried is asked specific questions in the punishment phase of the case.
One of those questions is whether the defendant knowingly and intelligently committed the crime, and the other question is, whether or not that defendant is going to be a future danger to society.
Those are black and white questions the jury is asked to decide.
The issue of mental competence and the defendant's ability to understand what it was he did, those are not black and white questions that are asked to a jury.
[Anderson] When you have someone like Mr.
Lewis, who is mentally impaired, even if you read that defendant his rights, the question remains whether or not he understands his rights and he can make a knowing and intelligent decision to waive those rights and to give a statement.
And so there was a strong argument to be made for the defense that he was not knowing enough and understanding enough to where he was making a voluntary confession.
And so I'm asking the jury to consider and to believe the difficulty that David had from a mental standpoint and to consider, based upon his lack of understanding, in general, to answer the questions in such a way, that he's given life in prison and not the death penalty.
[woman] My son was born in '65.
And I had a very hard delivery.
I was in labor for 72 hours.
They had to forcibly remove him with forceps, which damaged his brain and his eyes.
And me being so young and stupid, I didn't realize that until he started going to school.
My name is Linda Lewis, and I'm David's mother.
I was almost 18 when I had him.
This is David in school.
[laughs] He's a cute little bugger.
[chuckles] In the park playing with his ball.
[laughs] He used to chase that ball around.
I can see him doing it now, just a little bitty thing, toddling around.
[laughs] Him and Linda, Christmastime.
Oh, yeah, he was a mommy's boy.
[laughs] Uh-huh, he is my first born.
He's my baby.
Still is.
I don't care how old he gets or what he does, he's always going to be my baby.
[sniffs] And I'm always going to love him dearly.
When he had homework to do, you couldn't make him understand.
I mean, you could sit there and you could explain it, and show him and explain it and show him, and he just didn't grasp it.
I knew that he was real shy and stand-offish with other kids, but I didn't I don't think I actually really snapped to what was going on with him until I had him in a private school.
About three months into it, they told me that they couldn't do anything for my son.
And they wanted me to take him and have him tested, his mental capacity.
And that's when I found out that he had problems.
And, um, there was nothing that I could do about it except try to keep him out of trouble and try to teach him right from wrong.
And I did a pretty good job of that.
[chuckles] For the most part.
All I know is that everybody thinks he's a monster, and he's not.
He's a very loving, caring person.
[woman] "David Lee Lewis was given the death penalty Tuesday night by a jury that earlier found him guilty of capital murder in the shooting death of Myrtle Ruby, 74, of Wells.
" Wow.
That's been a long time ago.
And he's still alive 30 years later, yeah.
That's what's unbelievable.
My name is Rhonda Oaks.
I'm a former journalist at the Lufkin Daily News.
I did it for 20 plus years.
I was born and raised in Lufkin, Texas, and I'm proud to be a seventh generation Angelina County resident.
It's always been a small community, you know, very tight-knit community.
People are very religious, and so you trust everyone.
And, you know, a crime like this, it brings it home that sometimes you can't trust everyone.
"The sheriff said Mrs.
Ruby was killed by a single shot to the head from a 22-calibre rifle.
Mrs.
Ruby apparently was killed when she surprised a burglar upon returning home from church at about 9:00 p.
m.
" We rarely saw crimes like this committed.
It was a shocking event, so it drew a lot of interest.
You know, you just wouldn't expect that sort of crime to occur.
The jury was very serious and concentrated on the decision of whether or not he was mentally challenged.
They knew he was guilty.
They really listened to both sides of the events and tried to come back with an impartial decision.
Looking back, I don't think he seemed that remorseful.
In my mind, I think someone who is mentally challenged, they might be breaking into a house, they might be stealing some guns, and they might even hit the victim over the head with the gun, knock them out or whatever.
But when you choose to shoot someone in the face, that's not a mentally You know, a mentally challenged person will normally just run from the scene.
Um, he didn't, he chose not to.
And he chose to take her life.
And I think that that put him into a class of criminals that was a type that we didn't see many of in east Texas.
I think it was a cold-blooded act.
[man] People like to think that the diagnosis of intellectual disabilities is something kind of like if you break your arm, you x-ray it, there's the break, what you've got is a broken arm.
That's not how it works with mental retardation.
It's a diagnosis in flux, it moves around.
There's quite a bit of discrimination and, uh, myths and misunderstandings that get in the way, uh, particularly in the field of criminal justice.
I'm Dr.
Richard Garnett.
I've been involved in the field of disabilities since probably 1968.
I was involved with David Lewis's case in 2006 when I was asked to come in and review his files and review all of the material they had from previous assessments in previous situations, schools, and psychologists, etc.
The material that was generated on him back then made it pretty clear that he had a diagnosis of mental retardation.
[Garnett] Let's say you're testing somebody and you get a score, and the score is 70.
Well, that's the cut-off, and if you're below that, you're "retarded.
" But that's not how you do it.
You look at that, and you look at all this other material, and you look at the adaptive level that the person is, and you try and pull all of it together and see, "Does that support a diagnosis of mental retardation?" And this part might not, and this part may, and this one you don't know and this one sure doesn't.
And so that's the battle in court, is to say my testing came up with an IQ of 69, prosecutor will come up and say, "Well, the State's done three or four different tests and they are always in the 75 to 80 range, so it can't be.
" Well, that's because they're not given the right tests, they're not given them by the right people, they're not given them under the right circumstances.
You know, mine were.
And I think deep inside, the system has these people already gone through the courts, convicted of capital murder, sentenced to death, and by God we're going to do it.
If the judge in the end had been convinced that David had intellectual disabilities, then I think the automatic response would be to, uh, vacate the death penalty and convert it to life in prison without parole.
However [chuckles] it was found that we had not proved our case.
He's still there, so there must have been some appeals that were instituted.
But they found that we did not present an adequate case to show that he had mental retardation.
- [birds chirping] - [cows mooing] [man] If life without parole was the verdict and the sentence, then I think the family would probably be fine with it if that's what the jury and the judge found to be the best solution for the crime.
So, I don't think any of us are out for just, you know, "This man's got to die.
" Uh, you know, justice has got to be done.
My name is David Ruby.
I'm a nephew of Myrtle Ruby.
She grew up in the area.
We all went to church together at the Falvey Methodist Church.
At the time this happened to Aunt Myrtle, I had just moved back from St.
Louis and just got a phone call from my mom.
Someone had broke into Aunt Myrtle's house.
She came home from church and it was of course dark, and came into the house and evidently startled the person, so they just shot her and murdered her.
This still makes no sense whatsoever.
Aunt Myrtle was a senior citizen.
Why didn't the person just say, "Hey, I'm sorry, I'm gonna walk out of your house.
" I mean, she's not gonna beat him up.
If they wanted to steal something, why didn't they just take it and leave? I know my cousins still suffer with that.
How could they not? It devastated them, and it would devastate any child, no matter how old you are, it doesn't matter.
It's your mom.
[Lewis] When I was born, my mom had trouble giving birth to me.
And it gave me a mild retardation.
That's why I'm a slow learner.
[chuckles] And school, I just really didn't care about it.
[Ruby] My opinion on that is, his mental capacity is not the issue, his threat to society is the issue.
And whether he was a complete, you know, lunatic or a sane person, to me, is not an issue, because we want to remove people from society that are a threat to society.
So, anyway, I don't buy it.
[man] When they told me that Mr.
Lewis was the suspect, I thought, you know, "Why is this man still running the streets?" David Lewis was known for burglary.
He was also known for narcotic use, thefts.
He had a history of criminal activity.
[indistinct radio chatter] My name is Sergeant Ruben Gonzales, and I'm with the Oyster Creek Police Department.
[indistinct radio chatter] [Gonzalez] On September 1st, 1986, I received a call about the stabbing, in the 1500 block of Avenue F.
I remember it was a clear night that night.
The stabbing occurred during the burglary of a vehicle, and that the complainant came out, observed the subject in between the cars, observed his wife's purse sitting in front of him with the car door open.
And when the complainant yelled at the suspect, the suspect stood up and stabbed him in the stomach.
I parked right here in the same place.
And the police officer was parked behind the vehicles, and, uh the ambulance was right behind him.
Hopefully there's not a dog! [laughs] [car door closes] After I completed my initial investigation here at the house, I started going to the neighborhood, you know, talking to different people, giving them the description, and see if they had remembered anybody like that or anything.
But that description matched so many people.
Then approximately about two days later, I received a call from Mr.
A.
L.
Thompson about the stabbing.
[Linda sniffs] This is me and my two brothers and my sister.
A.
L.
, me, my sister, and Danny, my brother.
You don't see me smiling in that picture, because I'm sitting next to A.
L.
My son idolized that man.
He just followed in his footsteps.
David was maybe ten, 11, 12 years old.
A.
L.
used to sit and brag about this man he beat the hell out of and that man he stabbed and this man he shot and shit like that.
And he never did any of those things, but my son thought he did and I guess he just thought it was acceptable.
My brother could've helped him.
But instead of going the right way, he went the wrong way and he taught him things that he shouldn't have taught him.
Since David wasn't mentally capable of thinking the consequences about things, and A.
L.
seemed to get away with everything, I guess he thought it was okay.
My son's always taken the blame for everything, whether he did it or not.
Always! And there are things that he has gone to jail for that I know for a fact that he did not do.
That I know that my brother A.
L.
did.
And that's why I asked him who was with him when he did what he did.
He told me no one.
I keep hoping eventually that he will tell me the truth about that night.
But my brother A.
L.
instilled in him that you don't rat on nobody.
You don't tell on nobody, period.
[birds chirping] The call came into the police department and it was out of the blue.
Uh, I didn't know Mr.
Thompson.
As a matter of fact, I couldn't even get an address from him.
All he told me is that his nephew came to the residence, and he was sweating profusely, and was tired, and the little bit of blood that he had on his hand, and he told Mr.
Thompson that he had stabbed somebody.
With the information that he gave me and me checking the information, uh, it was good enough to get Mr.
Lewis apprehended and arrested.
David didn't want to talk at first.
And I read him his rights.
I read him his rights just to let him know that, you know, I was going to speak to him in reference to it and everything.
And he really didn't want to give me very much information.
I said, "Let me tell you what happened and you tell me if you did it or not.
" I gave him the sequence of the crime that was committed.
"This happened, this is you.
You ran.
You ran to your uncle's sweating, tired, blood on your hand" The only stabbing in Freeport that night.
Never did I tell him he did it.
Never did I tell him he didn't do it.
"Now it's on you if you're going to tell me what happened or not.
I want your side of the story.
" And all he said, when he looked at me, he said, "Okay.
" And that was it.
He says "I don't want to talk anymore.
" I said, "Okay.
" So to me, when he said, "Okay," that was a confession for me.
You know? [Anderson] When I learned that law enforcement had taken a confession to an unrelated stabbing that supposedly was committed by the defendant before he came to Angelina County, I would say livid is getting closer to how I felt about that.
I was extremely angry.
That confession was taken at a point in time where I had already been appointed as David Lewis's counsel and so I'm on the record as representing him.
So the law would require if a confession is to be taken after the defendant has counsel, that confession requires the consent of the defendant's counsel.
I was not notified of their visit here.
I was not notified of their intention to take a confession.
The confession did come into evidence and I can't help but think that plays a role in what the jury sees about future dangerousness.
Because if you got one event in a person's life, uh, that involves violence, then that may be some indication of what they're capable of doing and what they might do in the future.
But if you have, unrelated to that, another violet act, then it's much easier for a jury to imagine that, yes, this person is going to be a future danger to society, and therefore answer that question in the affirmative.
[crickets chirping] [keys jangling] [Gonzalez] On September 1st, 1986, I received a call about the stabbing a complainant came out, observed the subject in between the cars, the suspect stood up and stabbed him in the stomach.
Hmm.
Yeah, yeah.
That was used against me in my trial.
[clears throat] I was burglarizing another house.
And there was somebody asleep on the couch and they come outside and come around the back of the car.
So the only thing I could do was pull my knife and stick them, then I turned and ran.
I was a violent thug [chuckles] who didn't give a crap about anybody but himself.
When my mom first asked me about it, I told her I didn't do it, I didn't know anything about it.
And then I think in 2008 or '09, I told her that I that it was me that did it.
I think that's probably one of the reasons she doesn't come to visit me anymore.
'Cause I lied to her, I disappointed her.
This crime here weighed so much on her that I didn't want to tell her about the other.
And finally I had to.
It was too much weight on my shoulders and I had to get it off.
[Linda] A.
L.
used to sit and brag about this man he beat the hell out of and that man he David wasn't mentally capable of thinking the consequences about things.
A.
L.
seemed to get away with everything, I guess he thought it was okay.
Yeah, probably so.
I grew up with a bunch of bad influence.
Alcoholics, dope smokers.
It rubs off, but [clears throat] I have no excuse for my actions.
I did it, I'm guilty.
You know.
A.
L.
was, uh, my idol, my hero.
He was, uh, the ultimate outlaw, what I wanted to be growing up.
And I guess that's why I became a thug, an outlaw, a hoodlum.
He was an outlaw, biker, tough guy.
He didn't steal or rob or kill.
He didn't do none of that.
I was a thief when I was a little kid.
I'd steal in stores, steal candy and stuff.
I can go in a store and see a pair of tennis shoes, I'll just put them on, lace them up and walk out, 'cause I want them.
[Gonzalez] During the investigation, I received a call from Mr.
A.
L.
Thompson.
All he told me is that his nephew came to the residence, and he made a statement to Mr.
Thompson that he had stabbed somebody.
I never knew that.
I never knew he called the police on me.
Let me tell you something.
In prison, you don't ever want the snitch jacket on your back.
Ever, ever, ever.
That's worse than being a child molester.
[woman] But your uncle snitched on you.
I know, that's what hurts.
The material that was generated on him back then made it pretty clear that he had a diagnosis of mental retardation.
There's quite a bit of discrimination and, uh, myths and misunderstandings that get in the way, particularly in the field of criminal justice.
[Anderson] When you have someone like Mr.
Lewis who is mentally impaired, the question remains whether or not he understands his rights and he can make a knowing and intelligent decision to waive those rights and to give a statement.
[Lewis] Yeah, it's kind of too late to use that now.
They say I'm not retarded, so I guess I'm not.
It don't matter what the courts, it don't matter what the judge or DA Once they have their minds set on getting you, they're going to get you.
And, of course, I understand that 'cause I'm guilty.
If I was in their position, I'd feel the same way.
When it comes to crime and being a murderer, you really have no excuse.
You know what you're doing.
Even though I was impaired, I knew what I was doing.
Sure, I'm mentally impaired and I was drunk, high on mushrooms, but does it really matter? I pulled the trigger and killed somebody.
And I can never give that life back.
Not even taking my life can give it back.