Texas Victim survivor fails to stop execution Man says his Muslim faith allowed him to forgive killer

By Michael Graczyk Associated Press HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) -- The lone survivor of a shooting spree that convicted killer Mark Stroman said was revenge for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks asked the courts to spare the Texas death row inmate's life. The request delayed the execution, but couldn't stop it. Stroman, 41, went to the death chamber Wednesday night in Huntsville about three hours later than scheduled. He was sentenced to death for the fatal 2001 shooting of Dallas-area convenience store clerk Vasudev Patel during a robbery attempt. From inside the death chamber, Stroman looked at five friends watching through a window and told them he loved them. He said hate in the world needed to end and asked for God's grace shortly before the fatal drugs began flowing into his arms at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Huntsville Unit. "Even though I lay on this gurney, seconds away from my death, I am at total peace," he said. He called himself "still a proud American, Texas loud, Texas proud." "God bless America. God bless everyone," he added, then turned his head to the warden and said: "Let's do this damn thing." Feeling the drugs beginning to take effect, he said, he began a countdown. "One, two," he said, slightly gasping. "There it goes." He was pronounced dead at 8:53 p.m., less than an hour after his final court appeal was rejected. The execution's brief delay was caused by appeals from Rais Bhuiyan, a Bangladesh native who said his Muslim religion allowed him to forgive Stroman. Bhuiyan, who was blinded in one eye in the shooting, insisted that state officials had prevented him from meeting with Stroman and engaging in a remediation program to learn more about his shooting spree, which also killed another man. "Killing him is not the solution," Bhuiyan said. "He's learning from his mistake. If he's given a chance, he's able to reach out to others and spread that message to others." The U.S. Supreme Court twice turned down appeals Wednesday, but the punishment wasn't carried out until the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, acting on a second petition from Bhuiyan, barred a state district judge in Austin from stopping it. "He needed to have his day in court," Lydia Brandt, a lawyer for Stroman, said of the efforts from Bhuiyan's lawyers. Stroman had said his 2001 Dallas-area shooting rampage -- which killed Patel and Waqar Hasan -- targeted people from the Middle East, though all three victims were from South Asia. It was the death of Patel, who was from India, that put Stroman on death row. None of Patel's relatives attended the execution. Instead, they selected a police officer to represent them. Stroman's execution was the eighth this year in Texas. At least eight other inmates in the nation's busiest death penalty state have execution dates in the coming weeks. Stroman's lawyer, in a separate unsuccessful appeal to the Supreme Court, pointed to Bhuiyan's "significant surprise" and argued that attorneys during Stroman's trial and in earlier stages of his appeals were deficient for not illustrating "the path that led him to this violent frenzy." Stroman was free on bond for a gun possession arrest when his shooting spree started. He had previous convictions for burglary, robbery, theft and credit card abuse, served at least two prison terms and was paroled twice. His juvenile record showed an armed robbery at age 12. When police arrested him the day Patel was killed, they found the .44-caliber handgun used in the shooting. Stroman confessed, and court documents show he told authorities he belonged to the Aryan Brotherhood, a white supremacist prison gang. Prosecutors also said he told another jail inmate about the shootings and how automatic weapons police found in his car were intended for a planned attack at a Dallas-area shopping mall. Stroman more recently denied the white supremacist description. He also had avoided trouble in prison in recent years, said Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons. Stroman blamed the shootings on the loss of a sister in the collapse of one of the World Trade Center towers -- although prosecutors said in court documents that there was no firm evidence she ever existed. "I wanted those Arabs to feel the same sense of vulnerability and uncertainty on American soil much like the mindset of chaos and bedlam that they were already accustomed to in their home country," he said on a website devoted to his case. He described his victims as "perched behind the counter here in the Land of Milk and Honey ... this foreigner who's own people had now sought to bring the exact same chaos and bewilderment upon our people and society as they lived in themselves at home and abroad." But he also said he'd made a "terrible mistake out of love, grief and anger" and had destroyed his victims' families "out of pure anger and stupidity." "I'm not the monster the media portrays me," he said last week from death row. Besides Patel's slaying, Stroman was charged but not tried in the shooting death of Hasan, 46, a Pakistani immigrant who moved to Dallas in 2001 to open a convenience store. Hasan was killed four days after the terrorists struck. The attack on Bhuiyan came a week later. Published: Fri, Jul 22, 2011