Texas executes convicted gay basher

BY Advocate.com Editors

February 08 2003 12:00 AM ET

An apologetic Henry Dunn Jr. was executed Thursday night in Texas for participating in the fatal shooting of a Tyler man who was abducted and targeted for robbery because he was gay. Strapped to the death-chamber gurney, he expressed love for his family and asked for forgiveness from his victim's relatives. "I hope you can find it in your heart to find forgiveness and strength, to move on and find peace," Dunn said, looking at Nicolas West's sister, brother, and brother-in-law. As the drugs began taking effect, Dunn let out a gasp. He was pronounced dead at 6:15 p.m., six minutes after the lethal dose was administered.

In a written statement released following his death, he complained that the death penalty in Texas is "broke." He said unqualified attorneys were appointed for him under state law. "Texas has executed innocent people, and tonight Texas has shown just how broke and unfair its system is," he said. Dunn accused the state of having no clemency and urged politicians to work to "fix the Texas justice system" and continue to "work for a moratorium on the death penalty in Texas." In the signed statement, he urged his family and friends to "continue to struggle and fight against the death penalty as its only use has been for revenge and it does not deter crime." Dunn, 28, was the eighth Texas inmate executed this year and second this week. Three more are scheduled for lethal injection later this month.

The former fast-food restaurant worker acknowledged being present when the 23-year-old West was gunned down near Tyler more than nine years ago. But he said a companion also sent to death row was primarily to blame for the gay-bashing hate crime. "I don't hate homosexuals," Dunn, who was 19 at the time of the killing, said last week. "That's their right to be that way if they want to." Donald Aldrich, now 38, also is on death row for the West slaying. A third man, David Ray McMillan, who was 17 when the crime took place on November 30, 1993, received a life prison term. "I did admit to being at the crime scene," Dunn said in a death row interview. "I'm not saying I'm responsible."

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday afternoon refused to review the case and halt the execution. Dunn was one day away from injection last May when the fifth circuit U.S. court of appeals stayed his execution so it could consider an appeal.

Authorities believed that Aldrich, on parole after a pair of burglary and robbery convictions, was the leader of what became known as the "CB gang"--because they first became acquainted over CB radios. The gang preyed on gay men in the Tyler area for months. West, a medical clerk, was abducted from a Tyler park known as a gay cruising spot. Taken to a remote area of Smith County, he was stripped, ordered down on his knees, and shot as many as 15 times. Dunn called it "a crime that got out of control." Aldrich had lured West under the guise of seeking sex, then drove away with him. Dunn said he and McMillan were waiting nearby. According to a plan carried out several times previously, Dunn and McMillan followed them out of town, where the trio would then rob the unsuspecting victim. "Aldrich was mad because the dude didn't give him all his money," Dunn said. At his trial Aldrich blamed Dunn for starting the gunfire. Dunn replied from death row that he could "not positively say" he did any shooting. Evidence, however, showed that he used a .357-caliber Magnum and that the shot he fired into West's head was the last of the more than a dozen bullets and a shotgun blast fired into the victim. West's body was found two days later. Dunn was arrested driving West's truck.

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