Nine Years After Murder, Executed Death Row Inmate Said He Shouldn't Die - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

02/06/03 - Tyler

Nine Years After Murder, Executed Death Row Inmate Said He Shouldn't Die

   Henry Dunn's confession to the murder of Nicholas West was a key to calling it a hate crime.

   Dunn (in a police videotape): "We didn't pick him up to steal his truck." Police Officer: "You picked him up because he was a fag." Dunn: "That's right."

   Today, Dunn says, "The courts are not always fair, everybody knows that."

   On Death Row eight years, Dunn says the shooting was never planned. After he, David McMillan, and so-called ringleader Donald Aldrich took Nicholas from Bergfeld Park, they tried to calm him down.

   Dunn: "At first, we said we were going to scare him."

   Nicholas was driven toward Noonday. The three said no one would get hurt, but someone fired the first shot.

   Dunn: "I can't even say, you know. It was dark. I was firing at the ground -- first in the air, then at the ground. I didn't think he was hit, but I know that somebody had hit him."

   Nicholas West ended up being hit at least nine times, but was still alive... at their mercy.

   Smith Co. District Attorney Jack Skeen: "After Nicholas West, the victim, had gone down on to the ground, and was laying on the ground, Dunn stepped up, took a .357 pistol, put it against his head, and fired a point blank head shot."

   A jury agreed. Dunn was given death. He said he had nothing to lose.

   "If you ask me to put faith in myself or put faith in the system, I'll put faith in myself."

   Throughout Henry Dunn's entire time on Death Row he says he hasn't thought about his execution date, but about one thing - trying to get out... whether on the inside learning about the law and filing appeals, or on the outside, trying to escape.

   Dunn: "[Another inmate] asked me, 'Would you take a chance going over that fence, or going with one of your attorneys?' That's how he convinced me to go over that fence."

   In November of '98, Dunn and six others hatched a plan to get out - by using prison bed sheets tied together. But someone forgot them, so they jumped.

   "From there, we made our way to the front of the unit," he recalls.

   They found the right moment. "That's when we made our break for the front of the fence."

   It was successful for only one of them. Martin Gurule made it, only to drown trying to cross a swollen river. Dunn was pinned down by gunfire, and caught.

   "I can only do one thing at a time," he says. "I am on day-per-day... because if I sit here and think about this, then it stops me from doing what I have to do to try to stop what is happening to me."

   Appeal is all he was focused on when we interviewed him last year.

   "You can feel sorry for yourself. You can be mad at yourself -- at whoever. But, it's not going to change anything. You're still going to be on Death Row."

   Dunn has had eight years on Death Row and he says he is sorry for what happened, but the death penalty is wrong.

   "Would I give my life to bring him back? Of course, I would. That's one thing I could do to change it. But them executing me is not going to bring him back."

   Seven inmates have already been put to death in Texas this year, Henry Dunn is number eight. The state is on a record pace.

   Morgan Palmer, reporting.

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