February 1, 2021
The longest-serving inmate on death row should be given a new punishment hearing, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced Monday.
In a response filed with the Court of Criminal Appeals last week, Ogg agreed with defense attorneys that 70-year-old Raymond Riles, a truck driver sentenced to die for a 1974 capital murder, is entitled to the same legal protections now afforded to defendants in 2021.
“Death penalty law has evolved and now requires jurors to be able to meaningfully consider and weigh mitigation evidence about an offender such as childhood abuse and trauma,” Ogg said. “In 1976, Riles’ capital murder jury was not given this opportunity.”
In December 1974, Riles, then 24, and another man murdered 31-year-old John Thomas Henry at John Henry Motors, a car lot he owned in the 8500 block of Irvington. Riles and his co-defendant, Herbert Washington, went to the car lot to confront Henry over the condition of a car purchased there and shot him while demanding the money back. Washington was also sentenced to death, but his sentence was overturned, and he later pleaded guilty to two related charges, receiving 50 and 25 year sentences.
“Our prosecutors notified the crime victim’s son, and these cases are heartbreaking because the process takes so long that laws can and sometimes do change, and it just prolongs justice and healing for the families of the dead. Nevertheless, we believe the law requires a new punishment hearing for Riles.”
Under Texas law, although prosecutors and defense counsel agree, that decision ultimately remains with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals where a ruling is pending.