Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dead end

This was a particularly brutal crime.

The evidence persuasive and overwhelming.

Making him a posterboy for the death penalty.

End of road nears for murderer of 3 restaurant workers
By Michelle Mondo - Express-News

Kevin Watts, scheduled to be executed Thursday for the 2002 triple homicide at Sam Won Garden restaurant on the Northeast Side, has apologized to his victims' families but said he does not deserve to die.
In a jailhouse interview eight days before his scheduled execution, Watts said that after five years in prison he is not ready to face death.
“Sometimes it feels like I just got here yesterday, and other times it's like I've been here forever,” he said from Texas' death row in Livingston on Wednesday.

Watts was convicted in February 2003 of the execution-style shootings of restaurant manager Hak Po Kim, 30, and employees Chae Sun Shook, 59, and Yuan Tzu Banks, 52, along with the kidnapping and rape of Kim's wife.

Lawyers on both sides of the case said that with such compelling evidence against Watts, his appeals sped through the system.
“There weren't a whole lot of issues to decide,” said defense attorney John Economidy, who represented Watts through the appeals process. “It's what lawyers call a clean trial.”
It was a crime that shocked the city because of its brutality and shook San Antonio's small, tightknit Korean community.

On March 1, 2002, the then-21-year-old Watts, by his own admission, entered the restaurant carrying an automatic pistol to get some “fast money.” He ordered Kim, Banks and Shook to get on their knees in the kitchen, then shot each of them in the head.
Kim and Shook died at the restaurant. Banks died at Brooke Army Medical Center the next day.
Kim's wife — just two months in America — was forced at gunpoint into her husband's vehicle and taken to an apartment complex. She was sexually assaulted by Watts and another man.
When police caught Watts within hours of the shootings, he had tied around his neck the gun that ballistics tests showed was the one used to kill the restaurant workers.

As Watts sits on death row, his family — along with the families of the victims — is trying to cope with the fallout of his actions.
Calls to the Banks family were not returned, and most of the victims' relatives requested privacy and said they did not want to comment; some cited fear of retaliation.
Watts' family was verbally abusive toward the victims' families in court, and Watts has made public outbursts as well.
One victim's relative spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing safety concerns.

He spoke about the cultural divide between the United States and Korea and about what he viewed as lax American gun laws. In Korea, with very few exceptions, private gun ownership is prohibited.
The relative said this case taught him, “There is freedom for bad and good guys, but no feeling of responsibility for bad guys.”
He added, “No one can understand the misery of these years. No one can help us recover and forget.”

Linda Watts, the condemned man's aunt; Sonia Watts, his cousin; and Tiffany Prince, his girlfriend and the mother of his 8-year-old daughter, all said he took responsibility for his crime. Because of that — along with the mitigating circumstances that he had a rough childhood and was on a litany of drugs at the time of the crime — his life should be spared, they said.

Prince and Sonia Watts both said Kevin Watts was high when he confessed and was not aware of what was going on. Watts claims he was on cocaine, a number of prescription pills and ecstasy. An expert testified Watts was in a cocaine-induced psychosis at the time of the killings.
“We're not saying he's innocent, but we don't think he deserves to die,” Sonia Watts said.