Life on death row

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 30, 2006

Convicted killer Dominique Ray makes court appearance

By Victor Inge

The Selma Times-Journal

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Barbara Brown and Renee Muhammad know about pain. Both lost their only sons to violent deaths.

They were back in the Dallas County Courthouse this week, sitting in on an appeal of convicted killer Dominique Ray, who has been on death row since Oct. 4, 1999, for the brutal death of Tiffany Harville.

Ray, now 30, is one of 193 inmates on Alabama’s death row. Inmates sentenced to death have a built-in appeal process, to ensure due process for convicted killers.

Ray’s defense attorneys, Donna

C. Morrow and Peter Racher from the Indianapolis, Ind., law firm of Plews, Shadley, Racher & Braun, are handling the complicated appeal process.

Jon Hayden, who once served as an assistant district attorney in Dallas County, is now an assistant attorney general, in the capital litigation division. Hayden represented the State of Alabama during the appeal.

On Thursday before Judge Tommy Jones, Morrow and Racher called a psychology professor from Nova Southern University to testify about psychological exams given to Ray.

Dr. Charles J. Golden testified that he gave Ray a test that involved looking at 10 ink blotches and for Ray to tell him what he saw. Dr. Golden also testified Ray had an IQ “in the borderline range.”

“He is not retarded, he’s average,” Golden testified. “People with his IQ can have developmental problems.”

Golden testified about the brain and how the deeper part of the brain works.

“This portion determines how you see the world and how you behave. People like Dominique have a different perception of the world. The effects of environment on the brain are not new,” Golden testified.

“Tests show he operates at a low catatonic level. People like this are especially bad in stressful situations. Their moods may change very radically, especially when they’re under stress.”

Harville, 15, was reported missing July 31, 1995. On Aug. 16, over two weeks later, her badly decomposed body was discovered in a cotton field in Sardis. Ray was arrested Aug. 19, 1997, along with Marcus Owden, 21 at the time, and charged with capital murder in the disappearance and brutal death of Harville.

Owden was also charged in the Feb. 4, 1994, double murder of two brothers, Ernest and Reinhard Mabins – Muhammad’s sons. Ernest would be 31 and Reinhard would have been 26 in August.

Owden is serving a life sentence, without an opportunity for parole.

For three and a half years, there was no justice for the death of Muhammad’s only sons. For Muhammad, life was terrible, she said. Time heals, but the hurt will never go away.

“I knew his family,” said Muhammad of Owden, who asked for leniency. “I’ve had a lot of years to do a lot of thinking. I’ve had time to deal with myself in a spiritual way.”

Brown, who also lost two sons to violent deaths, has become an outspoken advocate of halting the madness.

“I admire Renee (Muhammad). We are all sentenced to grieve, and go through hell the rest of our lives,” Brown said.