Related topics

Texas Becomes Fifth State To Allow Victims’ Relatives To Watch Executions

February 5, 1996

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) _ Relatives of two murder victims plan to witness the execution this week of the man who killed their loved ones, the first time victims’ relatives would be allowed in the Texas death chamber.

Texas leads the nation with 104 executions since the death penalty resumed in the state in 1982, but has never allowed victims’ family members to witness executions. The state joins Virginia, Louisiana, Washington and California in allowing the practice.

Leo Jenkins, 38, is set to die by injection Friday evening for the 1988 shooting deaths of Kara Voss and her brother, Mark Kelley, during a robbery of their Houston pawn shop.

Jenkins and an accomplice, Eugene Hart, walked into the Golden Nugget Pawn Shop and told Mrs. Voss, 20, he wanted to put a rifle on layaway. Then, according to trial testimony, he shot her in the head with a .22-caliber pistol. He turned and fired three times at her 25-year-old brother.

Bowing to demands from victims’ rights groups, the Texas Board of Criminal Justice last year authorized renovations to the death house to allow victims’ relatives to watch.

In this case, the victims’ parents, a sister, grandmother and Mrs. Voss’ husband plan to be a few feet away as Jenkins takes his final breaths.

``I’m glad I have the choice,″ said Linda Kelley, mother of the two victims.

Death-row inmates don’t think it’s a good idea.

``It’s just a form of vengeance,″ said death row inmate Thomas Miller-El. ``I’m really surprised they don’t let the victims put the needle in my arm. I’m surprised they haven’t gone farther.″

Update hourly