Ex-Deputy Executed for Woman's Slaying

By MICHAEL GRACZYK
The Associated Press
Wednesday, June 6, 2007; 10:12 PM

HUNTSVILLE, Texas -- A former sheriff's deputy was executed Wednesday for the robbery, rape and fatal stabbing of a Houston woman at her family's flower shop.

Asked by the warden if he had a final statement, Michael Griffith said "No, sir."

As the drugs began taking effect, Griffith said in a barely audible whisper, "Please take my spirit to the Lord." He was pronounced dead at 6:18 p.m., nine minutes after the lethal dose was administered.

Griffith, 56, was the 15th condemned prisoner put to death this year in Texas, the nation's most active death penalty state. Four other inmates, including a woman, are set for lethal injection over the next three weeks.

Griffith was convicted and sentenced to die for the 1994 slaying of Deborah McCormick, 44. Griffith had been a repeat customer at her flower shop.

"Our family lost much more than a beautiful daughter, mother, sister and friend on October 10, 1994," said McCormick's daughter, Dawn Kirkland, who watched the execution. "We lost the glue that held our family together."

He was one of the few former lawmen ever sent to death row in Texas. He rose to the rank of sergeant over his 10-year career with the Harris County Sheriff's Department but lost his job in 1993 when he was charged with assault, a violation of the department policy on domestic abuse.

At his capital murder trial, former wives and girlfriends testified how he courted them with flowers but later abused them, including one who said he became violent with her on their wedding day.

Griffith also was convicted of two violent robberies the same month as the McCormick slaying. In one, evidence showed he shot a woman in the head during the robbery of a savings and loan office. In the other, he robbed and sexually assaulted a woman at a bridal salon.

Griffith was arrested after the robbery and attack at the bridal shop. Police found him with credit cards belonging to McCormick's mother that were taken in the flower shop robbery. They also found a knife and a receipt for roses he'd purchased that day from the store. A medical examiner and DNA evidence identified the knife as the murder weapon.

The U.S. Supreme Court in January refused to review the case and Griffith's lawyer filed no additional appeals to try to block the execution.

"The evidence against him was overwhelming," said David Cunningham, one of his trial lawyers. "When you focus on the circumstances of his arrest _ they find him with the credit cards, the knife with her DNA on it, they had him on at least two other crimes _ there really wasn't much."

Scheduled to die next is Cathy Henderson, facing lethal injection June 13 for the 1994 slaying of a 3-month-old child she was baby-sitting.

Henderson would be the fourth woman executed in Texas since the state resumed carrying out capital punishment in 1982 and the 12th nationally since the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976 allowed the death penalty to resume.

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On the Net:

Texas execution schedule http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/stat/scheduledexecutions.htm

© 2007 The Associated Press