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Texas To Execute Teen Murderer

April 22, 1998

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) _ At 17, Joseph Cannon was no stranger to trouble when he shot and tried to rape an attorney who had taken him in.

Now 38, he has spent more than half his life on death row for the crime. He is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday evening.

Only an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court that cites international treaties setting 18 as the minimum age for executions stands between Cannon and a lethal injection.

``It’s going to go through,″ Cannon said in an interview last week. ``I’ve thought about it for about a year. I sort of expect the worst and hope for the best.″

Cannon would be the fifth inmate convicted of murdering at age 17 to be executed in Texas and the 10th nationwide since 1976, when the U.S. Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to resume.

After deadly school shootings in Arkansas and Kentucky, a Texas legislator wants to allow the execution of convicts who were 11 when they committed their crimes, though they wouldn’t be put to death until age 17.

At least 27 inmates among 447 on Texas’ death row were 17 when they committed their crimes. At the start of the year, 67 inmates in 12 states were awaiting execution for murders at age 16 or 17, said Victor Streib, dean of the law school at Ohio Northern University.

Two other condemned killers were scheduled to die by injection early Wednesday. Missouri executed Glennon Paul Sweet, 41, for gunning down a state trooper in 1987. Arizona executed Jose Roberto Villafuerte, a 45-year-old Honduran citizen, for the 1983 murder of a woman he left bound and gagged in his Phoenix trailer.

A frequent juvenile violator and runaway from Houston, Cannon was facing jail time for a burglary unless he could find a stable living environment. Anne Walsh, an attorney whose brother had represented Cannon, was convinced by her brother to take the boy in.

According to his confession, Cannon had been drinking and taking drugs on Sept. 30, 1977, when Mrs. Walsh came home for lunch. He shot her at least six times as she begged for her life, tried to rape her, then stole her daughter’s car.

``His lawyers argued that he was a young boy,″ said Paul Canales, the assistant district attorney who prosecuted the case nearly 20 years ago. ``But the facts are so heinous. The jury didn’t buy it.″

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