Arizona executed an inmate Thursday for killing a Scottsdale man while robbing
his home in 1991 — the 2nd death sentence carried out in the state in 8 days.
Robert Charles Towery, 47, was declared dead at 11:26 a.m. following an
unspecified delay at the state prison in Florence. He spent nearly 20 years on
death row for killing Mark Jones.
Towery's attorneys made several unsuccessful last-minute arguments in an effort
to spare him, including a request on Wednesday with the Arizona Supreme Court
to reduce his sentence to 25 years to life in prison because Towery's
accomplice spent less than 10 years behind bars.
Randy Allen Barker, the other man convicted, was given a plea deal for
testifying against Towery and was released in 2001.
Towery's lawyers argued that although Towery strangled Jones, Barker was
holding the gun, watched the prolonged killing and "exhibited extreme
indifference to human life."
"Mr. Barker was present while Mr. Towery choked Mr. Jones, walking in and out
of the bedroom," according to the filing. "He could have stopped Mr. Towery.
... Mr. Towery was unarmed, and had neither physically assaulted nor threatened
Given Barker's lenient sentence, putting Towery to death would be grossly
disproportionate, the attorneys argued.
The court turned them down less than 2 hours after receiving the filing. The
U.S. Supreme Court also denied a review of the case and a stay of execution.
The attorneys said that after the killing, both men disposed of Jones' car,
split the cash they had stolen, and that Barker gave most of the stolen items
to family and friends.
In other filings, Towery's attorneys argued that the trial court failed to
consider so-called mitigating factors that merited a sentence of life in prison
over the death penalty, including an extremely difficult childhood that
included abuse at the hands of his mother and longtime drug abuse.
Towery himself asked the state's clemency board last week to show him mercy and
give him a sentence of life in prison. He also apologized to Jones' family for
"I have the deepest regrets for what I did and I'm truly sorry for their loss,
for what I did to them," he said. "It's a terrible thing that I did and it
should never have happened. ... I can only pray that they will find peace and
that someday they'll be able to forgive me."
He said that he and Barker decided to rob Jones because Towery knew he had
money and that they discussed killing him beforehand.
At Towery's trial, the state's case rested on Barker's testimony.
Barker testified that he and Towery had discussed robbing Jones for several
weeks before they went to his home on Sept. 4, 1991, with a made-up story that
their car had broken down and they needed to use his phone. Jones, who had met
Towery before, agreed.
Barker said that Towery then pulled a gun on Jones and Barker handcuffed him.
The two loaded Jones' Lincoln Continental with electronics, jewelry, credit
cards and cash from the home, before they took him to his bedroom at gunpoint.
Towery had Jones lay face-down with his hands tied behind his back and then
tried to inject his arm with battery acid, Barker said. When that had no
apparent effect, Towery then made a noose out of plastic ties and tried to
strangle Jones, Barker testified.
Barker said Jones didn't put up a struggle but made choking and gagging noises.
Because Towery didn't believe Jones was dead, he made another noose and choked
him again, Barker said.
Jones' body was found the next day.
Barker and Towery were arrested after a security guard identified them from a
photo lineup. He reported seeing the 2 ditch the Lincoln at an apartment
Towery said at trial that he wasn't in Jones' home at all when the killing
occurred and that Barker must have done it.
On Feb. 29, Arizona executed Robert Henry Moormann for killing and dismembering
his adoptive mother. Moormann was the 1st Arizona inmate executed with 1 lethal
drug, as opposed to the state's long-standing 3-drug protocol. The same method
was used with Towery.
The Arizona Supreme Court will consider whether to approve death warrants for 2
other inmates on March 20.
Online: Arizona Death Row: http://1.usa.gov/osOcN2
Towery becomes the 2nd condemned inmate to be put to death in Arizona this year
and the 30th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1992.
Towery becomes the 8th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA
and the 1285th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.
There are at least 6 more scheduled executions across the country this month.
(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)