HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — A Dallas man was executed Tuesday for the 1999 slaying of his ex-girlfriend while he already was on parole for killing his estranged wife.
William Rayford, 64, became the nation’s second inmate put to death this year, both in Texas, when he received lethal injection for beating, stabbing and strangling 44-year-old Carol Lynn Thomas Hall. Her body was found about 300 feet (91 meters) inside a drainage pipe behind her home in South Dallas’ Oak Cliff area. Hall’s 11-year-old son also was stabbed in the attack but survived. He testified against Rayford.
The punishment was delayed until the U.S. Supreme Court rejected last-day appeals from Rayford’s lawyers. They argued his death sentence was tainted because his trial attorney in 2000 improperly introduced the subject of race as a factor in prison violence while questioning a prison expert during the punishment phase. Nadia Wood, a Dallas-based federal public defender, told the high court that in bringing it up, the trial lawyer implied “that people like Mr. Rayford — a black man — are the cause of the violence.”
An assistant Texas attorney general, Jefferson Clendenin, disputed the argument, telling the justices the witness never testified as an expert in rates of violence because he wasn’t qualified to do so and that none of the witness’ trial testimony “even implied that African-Americans are more likely than others to be violent or that Rayford himself was a future danger.”
Rayford’s lawyers argued in another appeal that a federal judge improperly denied money to hire an expert for his appeals to look into his claims that his trial lawyers were deficient for not investigating whether Hall’s slaying may not have qualified for a capital murder charge. They also argued Rayford suffered from brain damage from lead poisoning because he grew up near a toxic site and carried lead residue from old gunshot wounds.
Evidence “more than established” Rayford kidnapped Hall while trying to kill her, supporting the capital murder charge, and arguments about lead poisoning were based on a “vague, general and nebulous conclusion” by a defense expert, Clendenin indicated in his response.
Hall, who knew Rayford since they both grew up in a Dallas housing project, had broken up with him two months earlier, according to evidence in the case. Rayford entered her home on Nov. 16, 1999, using a key she didn’t know he had. They argued and it turned violent.
Hall’s son, Benjamin, testified at Rayford’s trial that he suffered a punctured lung from the stab wound, was hit on the head when he tried to protect his mother, and watched her run from the home with Rayford pursuing her. He said he saw Rayford carry his mother toward the drainage pipe where her body eventually was found.
Police responding to a call about the attack arrested Rayford at the scene. Hall’s blood was on his face and clothing. He told an officer Hall could be found “in the hole … up in the sewer, in the water.”
Rayford had been previously convicted of murder in 1986 for fatally stabbing his estranged wife, Gail Rayford, in front of their four children. She had obtained a court order four days earlier to keep him away.
He was sentenced to 23 years in prison for her slaying but was paroled after eight years under a former Texas law that allowed some prisoners to be released as the state struggled with prison crowding.
Rayford had been on parole for five years when Hall was killed. Relatives said she was aware of his previous murder conviction when they became a couple and believed it was her Christian duty to give people second chances.
Another Texas prisoner is set to die this week. John David Battaglia, 62, of Dallas, is to be executed for the May 2001 shooting deaths of his daughters, ages 6 and 9.