HUNTSVILLE, Texas (USA TODAY) — A Fort Worth jury sent Christopher Wilkins to death row for killing two men after he explained how he shot his victims over a $20 phony drug deal and that he didn’t care if he was sentenced to death.
“Look, it is no big deal,” Wilkins calmly said from the witness stand at his 2008 trial.
On Wednesday, more than 11 years after the killings, the 48-year-old Wilkins is scheduled to die by lethal injection, pending the outcome of an appeal in the U.S. Supreme Court. If the execution goes ahead, it will be the nation’s first this year.
In 2005, after serving time in prison for gun possession, Wilkins drove a stolen truck to Fort Worth, where police tied him to several aggravated assaults and burglaries. There he befriended two men, 40-year-old Willie Freeman and 33-year-old Mike Silva, who duped him into paying $20 for a piece of gravel he thought was a rock of crack cocaine. According to court records, Wilkins said he shot Freeman on Oct. 28, 2005, for laughing about the scam, then he shot Silva because he was there.
Their bodies were found in a ditch. Wilkins’ fingerprints were found in Silva’s wrecked SUV and a pentagram matching one of Wilkins’ numerous tattoos had been carved into the hood.
“When I get wound up, I have a fuse that is short,” Wilkins testified. “I don’t think about what I am doing.”
He also admitted that a day earlier he had shot and killed another man, Gilbert Vallejo, 47, outside a Fort Worth bar in a dispute over a pay phone, and about a week later he used a stolen car to try to run down two people because he believed one of them had taken his sunglasses.
“I know they are bad decisions,” Wilkins said of his actions. “I make them anyway.”
Kevin Rousseau, a Tarrant County assistant district attorney, described Wilkins as “a professional criminal. Very violent."
Wilkins’ attorneys have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the execution, saying he had poor legal help at trial and during other appeals, and that the courts should have authorized money to his current lawyer to support other appeals and a clemency petition.
“He has never had a meaningful opportunity at any stage to develop that claim, to have any court address it on the merits, or even to have it considered as part of a petition for executive clemency,” attorney Seth Waxman told the justices in his appeal.
Stephen Hoffman, an assistant Texas attorney general, said investigation of those arguments “would either be redundant or fruitless,” and called the appeals a delaying tactic.
Thirty convicted killers were executed in the U.S. last year, the lowest number since the early 1980s. Seven were carried out last year in Texas, the fewest since 1996, but Wilkins is among nine Texas inmates already scheduled to die in the early months of 2017.