Defendant seeks halt to fight against death penalty
Lawyers asked to stop opposing constitutionality
Jan. 3, 2011

Defendants with their lives at stake rarely ask their lawyers to stop trying to declare the death penalty unconstitutional, but Travis Mullis has a different view of the world.

Mullis, accused of attempting to sexually molest his 3-month-old son Alijah before stomping him to death in 2008, has asked his attorneys to withdraw 21 motions before a Galveston judge questioning the constitutionality of the death penalty.

If the motions are not withdrawn, Mullis threatens to sue the judge, his attorneys and the district clerk, file complaints with various state agencies and notify several television stations.

Interviewed in the Galveston County Jail on Monday, Mullis, 24, said the challenges to the death penalty would stir up so much media interest that the resulting publicity would prejudice a jury against him.

"It's more a publicity stunt than anything else," Mullis said about his attorneys' death penalty challenges. "Before the jury is selected they are going to drag all my case and all the accusations through the media."

But there is reason to suspect that a Houston case may have influenced Mullis's decision.
Green case reference

One of Mullis's attorneys, Robert Loper, is also an attorney in a case where his challenge to the death penalty has received wide media attention.

In that case, Harris County District Judge Kevin Fine declared the death penalty unconstitutional in March based on filings by Loper on behalf of John Edward Green, accused in a 2008 robbery and slaying in Houston.

Fine later rescinded the decision to gather more information.

Mullis couldn't remember the name of the case, but pointed to media attention in a Harris County case as reason for his decision to oppose his attorneys' attempts to fight the death-penalty in his case.

Mullis, who says he was diagnosed as a teenager as having bipolar mental illness, filed his handwritten motion in November asking that the death penalty motions be withdrawn.

He says a civil rights attorney whose identity he refuses to reveal has been advising him to reject the advice of Loper and attorney Gerald Bourque, both experienced death-penalty attorneys.
Strategy conflicts

Mullis says that he has a right to manage his own case, but Loper says he is misinformed. The defense attorneys, not the client, determine legal strategy, he says.

"I don't know what that civil rights lawyer, if there is one, thinks he is doing for him, but it's going to be very little," Loper said.

Jury selection for Mullis's capital murder trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 1.

Jan 6, 2011
Categories: Essays
Written By: Billy Sinclair

Robert Loper is a prominent and highly respected death penalty attorney. He and two fellow attorneys, Richard Burr and John “Casey” Kerinan, recently drew international attention by filing for and securing a hearing before Harris County Criminal District Court Judge Kevin Fine challenging the manner in which Texas’ death penalty is carried out (here). The inmate in that case is named John Green who was arrested and indicted for capital murder in connection with the June 2008 shooting death of a woman during a robbery. Green apparently had no problem with being center stage in the high profile challenge to the states death penalty which featured all the “top stars” in the anti-death penalty movement.

But Travis Mullis views the matter quite differently, and understandably so. He is sitting a Galveston jail facing the death penalty after being indicted for attempting to sexually molest his three year old son. Loper is also representing Mullis. The aggressive attorney filed 21 motions challenging the constitutionality of the death penalty in Mullis’ case. Unlike John Green, Mullis was not pleased by this high profile defense strategy. The Houston Chronicle reported the defendant threatened to sue the trial judge, Loper, and the Clerk of Court if the 21 motions are not withdrawn.

The newspaper cited Mullis’ concern about the media interest generated by such pre-trial challenges to the death penalty. “Its more a publicity stunt than anything else,” the newspaper quoted the accused child molester as saying. “Before the jury is selected, they are going to drag all my case and all the accusations through the media.”

Mullis is 100 percent right. He is facing possibly the worse charge a man can face in Texas: trying to molest his own 3-year-old son. The less publicity his case receives, the better. Texans love the death penalty and hate child molesters. Mullis sits squarely on that double-edged sword. I don’t know what Loper was thinking when he decided to use this kind of case to challenge the death penalty— and apparently the decision was made without the full consultation and blessing of his client. As a consequence, the attorney may have already irreparably prejudiced any potential jury pool against Mullis with such an ill-advised defense strategy.

Mullis believes he has a right to control the defense strategy to be employed in his case. He is right. And some unnamed civil rights attorney apparently reinforced this belief to Mullis at the consternation of Loper who was quoted by the Chronicle as saying the defense attorney, not the client, determines “legal strategy” in a case. I don’t know what train Loper arrived at the station on, but it’s about three decades late. A criminal defendant can not only reject a given legal strategy, he can fire his attorney and elect to defend himself, even in a capital case.

The arrogance in Loper’s assessment that a client is at the mercy of whatever legal strategy he decides upon is stunning. I don’t know Robert Loper personally, but I have been associated with a number of what I call “attorney advocates” who too often blur their professional obligations with their personal cause-beliefs. Mullis makes a legitimate point when he charges that Loper is perhaps more interested in the publicity a death penalty challenge will generate than in the client’s legal interests. The fact that this question can even be raised is precisely why a well-informed attorney would not embark upon a controversial legal strategy, such as a death penalty challenge, without the complete support of his client.

At a November 1976 clemency hearing, Gary Gilmore told Utah Board of Pardons members what he thought about the efforts of the ACLU, NAACP, and religious leaders to prevent his January 17, 1977 execution: “They always want to get in on the act. I don’t think they have ever really done anything effective in their lives. I would like them all – including that group of reverends and rabbis from Salt Lake City – to butt out. This is my life and this is my death. It’s been sanctioned by the courts that I die and I accept that.”

The higher courts agreed with Gilmore. Every stay sought and secured by the ACLU was overturned including one issued just hours before his execution.

Robert Loper should perhaps revisit this historical lesson. Every man has the proverbial “right to go to hell in his own way.” At this moment in his life Travis Mullis is not concerned about whether Texas’ death penalty procedures are constitutional. He just does not want to take that prison van ride to Huntsville where the state’s executions are carried out while Loper is sitting in the comfort of his law office.

So I think Loper should take Gary Gilmore’s advice and “butt out” of the Mullis case.

UPDATE: Thank you to Jan for sending me this update

Galveston Jury Sentences baby-killer dad to death
Mullis gets death sentence in 3-month-old son's killing
Harvey Rice
Houseton Chronical
Published 05:30a.am, Monday, March 21, 2011

GALVESTON - Travis James Mullis stood alone with his attorneys Monday when the jury verdict was read
sentencing him to death for crushing his 3-month old sons head beneath his foot to make him stop crying. Not a
single relative or friend came to lend support or to hear the verdict, delivered after three hours of deliberation.

His adoptive mother was in Florida and let it be know that she wanted nothing to do with the case. She only wrote
him once curing his nearly three years awaiting trial in the Galveston County Jail, Mullis, 24, said in an earlier jail
interview with the Houston Chronicle. Long lost relatives who came from North Caroline to plead for his life - a
half brother, half-sister and aunt - had returned home when the jury delivered its verdict.

Mullis betrayed no emotion as the verdict was read. Moments before the jury returned he whispered something to
his attorney and grinned.

Mullis was given the death penalty for the Jan. 29, 2008, killing of his son, Alijah. He fled from Galveston Island
roadside where he had flung his sons body and walked into Philadelphia Police headquarters several days
later. He gave homicide detectives written and video accounts of his crime.

The jury heard five days of testimony last week in the penalty phase of the trial after convincing Mullis of a capital
on March 11.

"Unable" to feel
"The monster is sitting right here in this courtroom and his name is Travis Mullis," Assistant County District
Attorney Donna Cameron told jurors. "There is no medication, there is no treatment for the evil that he is."

Defense attorneys Robert Loper and Gerald Bourque argues to the seven women and five men on the jury that the
terrible events in Mullis' life, over which he had no control, were reason enough for his life to be spared. "He's an
emotional mental health quadriplegic,", Bourque argued. "It's not that he's unwilling, it's that he's unable" to feel
the emotions that others feel.

Bourque was referring to testimony that Mullis' mother's poor health caused complications in the womb that
developed into psychological problems.

Testimony also showed that he lacked enough human contact at birth to form the bond necessary to develop
empathy and love and was sexually abused by his adoptive father. "No one should have to live the live that Travis
Mullis has lived and then die and go to hell for it," Bourque said. "his life is broken through no fault of his own."

Special prosecutor, Lyn McClellan urged jurors to ignore the defense. McClellen reminded jurors that Mullis had
attempted to molest two children in Alvin, had molested his 8-year old cousin in a Baltimore suburb when he was
13 and had bragged about molesting three boys after he was confined to the Jefferson School for emotionally
disturbed juveniles.

"Hit list" requested

The first two questions the jury had to answer was whether Mullis was a future danger to society. A no answer
automatically would require a sentence of life imprisonment. The jury answered yes, requiring jurors to decide
whether there are any circumstances that would spare him the death penalty. Jurors answered no.

Jurors also asked for a photo of the "hit lit" with initials of allegedly intended victims Mullis wrote on the wall of
his cell in Galveston Country Jail, and a list of exhibits.

Before the closing arguments, state District Judge John Elisor removed a female juror who the defense accuse
of violating the judges order by discussing the case with other jurors before deliberations began. A woman
alternate replaced her

After the verdict, Loper asked that each juror be asked if they agreed with the verdict. All agreed.

An appeal is automatic.

Mullis refuses to appeal sentence for slaying son
By Christ Paschenko
The Daily News
Published September 22, 2011

GALVESTON - A death-row inmate's decision not to appeal a capital murder conviction could put his execution
on a fast track.

If Travis Mullis passes a psychological examination, then the earliest he could be put to death for the Jan. 29,
2008, stomping death of his 3-month old son, Alijah, would be April, the inmate said during a Wednesday
interview at the Galveston County Jail.

Mullis described the moment he sexually assaulted his son and stomped the life from him as a selfish impulse. A
sightseeing couple found Alija's lifeless body on the Galveston seawall berm near East Beach.

"The way it ended was not intended," Mullis said. "It was just more of a holy...Look what I just did. How am I going
to clean this up?"

Mullis left Galveston but surrendered on Feb. 1, 2008, and confessed to Philadelphia police that stomped Alijah
until he felt the infant's skull collapse. It was the only way to stop Alijah from crying, he said. Evidence in his
punishment hearing reveled Mullis sexually assaulted Alijah before killing him.

There was no thought process, Mullis said during the video conference interview with The Daily News. "Then
flight took over after that," he said.

A jury convicted Mullis of the capital murder in Galveston's 122nd District Court and affirmed the death penalty
sentence in March. The $168,843. combined fee approved for two defense lawyers, Robert K. Loper and Gerald
Bourque, was approved, and an appeals attorney was appointed.

"Eye For An Eye"

"I've accepted the consequences the jury gave me," Mullis said. "I've accepted the verdict ... I don't feel it's
necessary to go through it again.

Mullis doesn't want to drag his relatives or anyone else through another trial, if it came to that, he said. "I have a
religious and moral belief of an eye for an eye", Mullis said. "I think the punishment is justified for the crime".

Is Mullis ready to die?

"I won't say I want to, but it is the consequence of my actions, and I'm accepting that," Mullis said.

Mullis urged anyone with emotional instability to seek help.

"Don't think you can handle it alone, because I couldn't," Mullis said. "I could have just the sexual assault charges,
and that by itself. It was unnecessary for any of it to happen."

If Mullis won't appeal, the Texas State Of Court of Criminal Appeals still would review the trial for constitutional

Hearing Set Oct. 11

In court documents, Mullis decided to represent himself on appeal. He has not filed any briefs in the case, First
Assistant District Attorney Donna Cameron said. Mullis said he doesn't intend to.

The court of Judge John Ellisor set a hearing for Mullis for Oct. 11 after a doctor has been able to evaluate Mullis
for his competency.

"When I waive my habeas, they're still going to do the constitutional review on direct appeal," Mullis said.
"Because I'm not filing anything, my habeas will expire Dec. 23. That's my deadline."

Anytime after that, Ellisor could affirm his sentence, Mullis said.

Once it's affirmed, the judge sets my date, and I can be executed roughly no early than 90 days," Mullis said.
"Which, depending on the court, could be as early as April of next year."

Mullis explained what it's like being on death row.

"Despite what I've heard from other people, my personal take on it is that it's really not that bad," Mullis said.
"When I first got there, I had people giving me all kinds of stuff."

Mullis told them that he couldn't afford to pay them back.

"They're like, "Hey id doesn't matter," Mullis said. "The next guy that comes to death row with nothing, make sure
he has something."

In his more than three yeas of jail and stated prison, what does Mullis miss the most?

"My son," he said.

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