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Inmate Executed For Slaying He Said Was Ordered By Devil

December 12, 1995

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) _ A man who fired his attorney and refused appeals that could have spared him was executed Monday for a murder he said was ordered by the devil.

Esequel Banda, 31, had no final statement before receiving a lethal injection.

``Dizzy,″ was the only word he said, staring at his wife who stood a few feet away along with his former attorney.

He was quiet after a single gasp, and was pronounced dead after seven minutes.

Banda was condemned for the Aug. 3, 1986, rape, stabbing and strangulation of Merle Laird, a 74-year-old widow, at her home in Hamilton about 50 miles west of Waco.

Banda told friends he stabbed the woman and then sucked the blood that was coming from her mouth because he had sold his soul to the devil, who told him to kill six people.

Banda fired his court-appointed attorney, Randy Johnston of Dallas, last month. Johnston said he met with Banda on Monday, but could not persuade him to file an appeal.

``He understood very much what was happening,″ Banda said.

Rick Wetzel, a spokesman for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, said an appeal to the federal courts likely would have resulted in a reprieve.

Banda, a ninth-grade drop out from Arizona, was convicted in 1983 of burglary and auto theft and given four and five year sentences respectively. He was paroled in less than a year but returned to prison as a parole violator after only three months.

In May 1986, he was freed under mandatory supervision, meaning his prison time and so-called ``good time″ earned while locked up equaled his sentence and his release was required by law. Mrs. Laird was murdered 10 weeks later.

``It’s a sad day when anyone dies,″ said Clay Laird, the slain woman’s son.

He said he blames U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice for both his mother’s death and the death of Banda.

Justice had control of the Texas prison system for years because of a lawsuit that accused the state of prison overcrowding. Under his prison population restrictions, the state was forced to release thousands of inmates during the 1980s. Banda was one of them.

``I will never forgive Mr. Justice. I could forgive Mr. Banda,″ Laird said.

Banda told relatives he had committed a murder and they notified police. He was arrested for public intoxication and put in a drunk tank.

``Don’t put me in a cell with anybody. I’ll kill them,″ he told a jailer. ``It won’t bother me to kill them. I have already killed somebody.″

Authorities conducted a house-to-house search in the community of 3,200 and discovered Mrs. Laird’s body. Her home was within walking distance of where Banda lived.

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