Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive


Tuesday, July 6, 1999

MEDIA ADVISORY

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn offers the following information on
Tyrone Leroy Fuller who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m., Wednesday, July 7th.

FACTS OF THE CRIME

At about 7:30 a.m. on the morning of January 20, 1988, Patricia Duke returned home to the apartment she shared with her sister in Paris, Texas, from her night-shift post as a nurse at a nearby hospital. Patricia approached the apartment from the rear where the carport was located. She noticed that her sister's car was gone, and assumed she had already left for work. The telephone was ringing when Patricia entered the apartment; she went to answer it, then noticed that the front door was standing open. She walked toward the front door and saw that the floor and walls of their apartment were smeared with blood. Patricia ran out the front door and around the corner of the apartment following a pair of bloody footprints to where police, emergency medical technicians, and passersby were gathered around the body of her sister Andrea Lea Duke.

Duke's nightgown-clad body had been discovered shortly after 7 a.m. on the morning of January 20, 1988, on the front steps of the duplex next door to her apartment. She had been beaten, stabbed several times, sexually assaulted, and left for dead; then she had apparently managed to drag herself from her bedroom out the front door and across the lawn to the steps of her next-door neighbors, where she died. Police investigating the scene retraced the trail of blood left by Duke back into the apartment and into Duke's bedroom where they discovered large amounts of blood on the bed, clothing strewn about, and the furniture in general disarray. They also discovered a bloody sock print on a floor tile in the hallway outside the bedroom. Patricia Duke informed investigators that several items were missing from the apartment, including videotapes, jewelry, some credit cards, and her sister's car.

A pathologist, who first observed Duke's body at the crime scene and later performed an autopsy, testified that Duke died as a result of multiple stab wounds to the chest and heart and subsequent loss of blood. The pathologist identified 44 wounds on Duke's body, which included several stab wounds, three of which penetrated the chest cavity and were potentially fatal; various lacerations and contusions; and several "paired wounds" and "brush burn type" abrasions, which could have been caused by being whipped with the plug of the electric cord that was found tied around Duke's right wrist. The pathologist also detected a broad contusion with sub-scalp hemorrhaging on the back of Duke's head, which indicated a blow to the head with a broad, flat object. According to the pathologist, evidence indicated that Duke had lived for a significant period of time, possibly for hours, after she was wounded.

The pathologist also took note of a stab wound to Duke's throat which produced a great deal of bleeding and which could have made it impossible for Duke to call for help either during the attack or after she was abandoned by her assailants.

The pathologist also testified that he had detected two distinct types among the numerous stab wounds on Duke's body: one type that was sharp at one end and blunted or squared off at the other end, which would be consistent with a single-edged knife; and the other type that was rounded at both ends, which could have been produced by either an irregular, a single-edged, or a double-edged sharp instrument. However, the pathologist acknowledged that all of the stab wounds could have been inflicted by the same weapon. He testified further that a five-inch-long lock-blade pocket knife could have inflicted the injuries.

The state presented at trial several statements Fuller had made to law enforcement and his testimony before the Lamar County grand jury, in which Fuller admitted to various levels of involvement in the instant offense. He claimed that he had been planning the burglary of Duke's apartment for about two weeks and had asked co-defendants John McGrew and Kenneth Harmon to accompany him; that the three of them broke into the apartment on the night of January 19, 1988, unaware that anyone was home; that he discovered Duke in her bed and informed McGrew and Harmon, then went to another room to look for items to steal; that McGrew and Harmon went into Duke's bedroom; that he heard a "scuffling" from Duke's bedroom and thought McGrew and Harmon were tying her up and putting her in the closet; that McGrew and Harmon were in Duke's bedroom for 45 to 55 minutes while he searched for items to steal; that he and McGrew left without Harmon then met up with him again later that night; that he did not see any blood on McGrew or Harmon; and that they never discussed what happened to Duke. In all of these statements, Fuller denied any involvement in, and indeed claimed that he was not even aware of, the sexual assault and murder of Andrea Lea Duke.

Several eyewitnesses placed Fuller in Duke's car on the day of the murder. His fingerprints were found in and on Duke's car, which was located by police the day after the murder parked a block from Fuller's house. Fuller's handwriting and fingerprints were found on the receipts of the stolen credit cards, and several witnesses testified he had used the credit cards during the weeks following the crime. The bloody sock prints found in Duke's apartment were found to be consistent with Fuller's footprints but not consistent with the footprints of his co-defendants, McGrew and Harmon. Standard blood typing and genetic marker testing of seminal stains found on Duke's bed excluded McGrew, Harmon, and Duke's boyfriend as the donor, but did not exclude Fuller. Finally, DNA testing of seminal stains and hairs found on Duke's body and in Duke's bed also excluded McGrew, Harmon, and Duke's boyfriend, but not Fuller.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On December 13, 1988, Fuller was indicted in the Sixth Judicial District Court of Lamar County, Texas, in Cause No. 11755, for the capital murder of Andrea Lea Duke while in the course of committing and attempting to commit the offenses of aggravated sexual assault, burglary, and robbery, which occurred on January 20, 1988. After a change of venue to the 59th Judicial District Court of Grayson County, Texas, Fuller was tried before a jury upon a plea of not guilty, and on March 7, 1989, the jury found him guilty of the capital offense. On March 13, 1989, following a separate punishment hearing, the jury answered affirmatively the two special sentencing issues submitted pursuant to former Article 37.071(b) of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. In accordance with state law, the trial court assessed Fuller's punishment at death.

Fuller's conviction and sentence of death were automatically appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which affirmed on March 25, 1992. The United States Supreme Court denied a petition for writ of certiorari on June 28, 1993, and denied rehearing on August 9, 1993.

Fuller filed an application for state writ of habeas corpus on May 3, 1995. On November 30, 1995, the trial court issued findings of fact and conclusions of law recommending that relief be denied. On January 16, 1996, the Court of Criminal Appeals denied relief based on the trial court's findings and conclusions. On June 10, 1996, the United States Supreme Court denied a petition for writ of certiorari.

On April 22, 1996, Fuller filed an initial petition for federal writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Sherman Division. Fuller filed an amended petition on July 27, 1996, raising several claims which had not been presented to the state courts in either the direct appeal of his conviction and sentence or in his initial state application for writ of habeas corpus. On April 21, 1997, a United States Magistrate Judge conducted an evidentiary hearing limited to Fuller's claims which had been presented to the state courts. The following day, the magistrate judge issued a report and recommendation that Fuller's petition for writ of habeas corpus be denied. On August 19, 1997, a United States District Court Judge issued a memorandum opinion and order adopting the magistrate's report and recommendation and issued final judgment denying Fuller's petition for writ of habeas corpus. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas corpus relief on October 27, 1998, and the United States Supreme Court denied a petition for writ of certiorari on May 24, 1999.

On July 5, 1999, the Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed a second application for state writ of habeas corpus filed by Fuller. Also on July 5, 1999, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles denied a clemency petition filed by Fuller.

PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY

At the punishment phase of trial, the State presented evidence that Fuller had two prior felony convictions before the instant offense. On March 16, 1981, Fuller was convicted of the offense of burglary of a building upon a plea of guilty in Cause No. 8645 in the 6th Judicial District Court of Lamar County, Texas. He received a ten-year probated sentence for this offense, which was subsequently revoked when he failed to report to his probation officer. Fuller then received a seven-year sentence to be served in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Institutional Division. On August 18, 1983, Fuller was convicted of the offense of burglary of a building upon a plea of guilty in Cause No. 9413 in the 6th Judicial District of Lamar County, Texas. He received a twelve-year sentence to be served in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Institutional Division. 21 SR 91.

Cleon Drake, Fuller's adult probation officer in 1981, testified that at their first and only meeting Fuller indicated that his nickname was "Evil" because he was so bad. Despite Drake's efforts to schedule Fuller's reporting sessions around his work schedule, Fuller refused to cooperate and, in fact, never reported to Drake. Fuller's probation was revoked as a result. Drake testified that Fuller had an attitude that the world owed him something; and, according to Drake, Fuller never attempted to cooperate within the criminal justice system or try to turn his life around.

Jailer Juanita McFadden testified that while Fuller was incarcerated in the Lamar County jail awaiting trial for the instant offense, she discovered during a search of his single-man cell several items that she considered to be potential weapons -- metal parts from a television set, a bracket from a light fixture, and a comb -- which Fuller had hidden in his cell. McFadden searched Fuller's cell again a few days later when she heard banging noises and discovered that the television in Fuller's cell was turned up very loud. McFadden found Fuller attempting to dig through the wall of his cell into a stairway leading to an unsecured part of the courthouse. She also found a detailed outline of an escape plan and other notes in Fuller's cell, as well as more potential weapons. Fuller was then moved to another cell. During a third search of Fuller's cell, McFadden discovered more potential weapons and another note regarding escape plans.

Vicky Bates, a supervisor at a local food service corporation, testified that Fuller had been employed there from June of 1986 to July of 1987, when he was terminated due to his admitted involvement in a series of thefts.

Nan Rose, a counselor for the Texas Rehabilitation Commission, came into contact with Fuller in January of 1986 when he applied for services after being referred to the agency by his parole officer. Psychological testing conducted at that time indicated that Fuller had an average I.Q. and was fully capable of functioning at a high level; but Fuller wanted a less demanding job that did not require additional training. Fuller ultimately found a job as a dishwasher at a local food service corporation. He was also diagnosed at that time as an antisocial personality with the attendant characteristics of being manipulative and self-centered.

DRUGS AND/OR ALCOHOL

There was no evidence of drug or alcohol use in connection with the instant offense.

SCHEDULED EXECUTIONS

07/13/99 Spencer Corey Goodman (Fort Bend County)
07/21/99 Reginald Lenard Reeves (Red River County)
08/04/99 Ricky Don Blackmon (Shelby County)
08/05/99 Charles Anthony Boyd (Dallas County)
08/10/99 Kenneth Dunn (Harris County)
08/11/99 James Otto Earhart (Lee County)
08/17/99 Larry Keith Robison (Tarrant County)
08/18/99 Joe Mario Trevino (Tarrant County)
09/01/99 Raymond James Jones (Jefferson County)
09/10/99 Willis J. Barnes (Harris County)
09/14/99 William Prince Davis (Harris County)
10/21/99 Pedro Sosa (Atascosa County)

MISCELLANEOUS

If this execution is carried out, it will be the 180th execution since executions resumed in Texas in December 1982 and the 16th since General Cornyn took office.

This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Gena Bunn of the Capital Litigation division of the Office of the Attorney General.

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