HOUSTON (AP) – A federal appeals court has rejected an appeal from a white supremacist convicted of killing an Indian man during a shooting spree that started after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Mark Stroman, 41, of Dallas, has said he was angry at people of Middle Eastern descent after the terrorist attacks. He was convicted in the October 2001 slaying of Vasudev Patel, who worked at a gas station convenience store in the Dallas suburb of Mesquite.
Patel, 49, a native of India who moved to Texas in 1983 and was a naturalized U.S. citizen, was one of three people shot — and two killed — by Stroman, according to trial testimony.
The New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in its decision dated Monday that Stroman believed the U.S. government “hadn’t done their job so he was going to do it for them” and retaliate for the terrorist attacks. Its ruling moves him one step closer to execution.
Stroman, who told lawyers he belonged to the Aryan Brotherhood, a white supremacist prison gang, also was charged but not tried in the shooting death of Waqar Hasan, 46, a Pakistani immigrant who moved to Dallas in 2001 to open a convenience store. Hasan was gunned down Sept. 15, 2001, four days after the terrorist attacks.
A worker at a third convenience store, Rais Bhuiyan, identified Stroman in court as the man who shot him in the eye a week after Hasan was killed.
Stroman had previous convictions for burglary, robbery, theft and credit card abuse and served at least two earlier prison terms, one for two years and another for eight. He was paroled twice, prison records show. He had a juvenile record that included an armed robbery at the age of 12.
As the punishment phase of his 2002 murder trial was about to begin, Stroman turned to Hasan’s relatives in the courtroom and directed an obscene hand gesture at them, The Dallas Morning News reported then.
Mesquite police arrested Stroman the day after Patel was killed. His death was recorded by the store’s video camera, and the security tape, played at his trial, showed the gunman walking into the store, ordering Patel to “give me the money now” and then shooting Patel when the clerk tried to reach for his own weapon. As in the other two shootings, no money was taken.
Stroman confessed to the shooting spree, and police said the .44-caliber handgun recovered during his arrest was used to kill Patel. Prosecutors said Stroman also told another jail inmate about the shootings and how automatic weapons found by police in his car were intended for a planned attack at a Dallas-area shopping mall.
Stroman blamed his rage on what he said was loss of his sister in the World Trade Center collapse on Sept. 11, 2001.
“That’s what he believes,” said Lydia Brandt, his appeals attorney.
She said she couldn’t remember whether his claim about his sister’s death was ever verified. Investigators said when Stroman was on trial that they couldn’t confirm the story.
“I cannot tell you that I am an innocent man,” Stroman says on a website devoted to his case. “Let’s just say that I could not think clearly anymore and I am sorry to say I made innocent people pay for my rage, anger, grief and loss.”
Stroman had asked the 5th Circuit for permission to move forward with an appeal contending he was innocent and that the Texas justice system failed to provide him competent legal help to investigate and present claims to the courts.
“There is no constitutional right to counsel in post-conviction proceedings,” the appeals court said, rejecting his request.
Stroman also argued unsuccessfully that his trial lawyers were deficient in not challenging the seating of a juror and for failing to object to what he believed was hearsay testimony. He does not yet have an execution date.
“We’re going to continue litigating this all the way to the United States Supreme Court and whatever avenues are open to us,” Brandt said.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)