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Not in My Name

...but they're dead just the same...

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#134 - Mikel James Derrick - TX - 7/18/1990
You're a male prostitute.  You go home with this guy.  Then you stab him 19 times because he made a homosexual advance?  What am I missing here?

Victim:  Edward Sonnier (32)        10/11/1980

Derrick was executed for the 1980 stabbing and robbery of a Houston boat builder he had gone home with. He said he stabbed the victim 15 times after Sonnier made a homosexual advance.

Derrick, who had moved to Houston from the Hardin area and was working as a male prostitute, stole Sonnier's car, which he later stripped with the help of friends. Police had no suspects in the slaying until Derrick, in prison serving four 10-year terms for aggravated robbery, wrote Harris County District Attorney John B. Holmes Jr. saying, "I killed a man to get his car." He wrote that he had heard one of his brothers might be wrongly charged in the theft of Sonnier's car. But Derrick's brother, who was caught with parts stolen from the car, implicated him and split a $1,000 Crime Stoppers reward with other family members, Derrick claimed.

Derrick's attorney, Will Gray of Houston, had appealed the conviction, claiming the trial attorney had been ineffective. The court rejected the claim, noting, the "substantive and procedural weakness of (Derrick's) position - a sordid and brutal stabbing confessed to both orally and in writing."

Derrick had a lengthy criminal history that dated to his youth. Derrick said his troubles with the law began at age 12 when he served time in a juvenile detention center for petty theft.

Following his release, he went to Missouri to live with his mother, but she refused to accept him. He was convicted of auto theft in Beaumont and placed on four years probation.

Law enforcement records showed Derrick had a conviction for prostitution in New York.

In an interview from death row, Derrick said he was on his way home from a downtown labor pool when Sonnier picked him up and drove him to Sonnier's Montrose-area apartment, where they smoked marijuana. "I killed him," Derrick said. "I openly admit that." But Derrick said he did not pull a knife on Sonnier until the victim threatened him. He said he warned Sonnier three times to stop and then Sonnier attacked him. "On the third time, I realized there was no way to get away," Derrick said. "So I just whipped out a knife and stabbed him across the side thinking that was going to stop it." He said Sonnier got up, however. Derrick said he realized "there was no getting out of there that easy, so I guess I more or less kind of went off and it just took place."

Testimony at his trial, however, indicated that Derrick had stabbed Sonnier 19 times. Testimony indicated that any one of 16 stab wounds could have been fatal. Sonnier was stabbed eight times in the back and seven times around the heart, according to court records.

Houston attorney Kay Burkhalter, who prosecuted Derrick, disputed his version of how things happened. She said Sonnier likely was not Derrick's only victim, although it was the only murder for which he was tried. Derrick, she said, was a male prostitute who would lure men to his apartment, kill them and take their property.

Derrick's family members testified against him at his trial.

Derrick said he was not worried about facing death and wasn't bitter, although he said his family "sunk the ship" by testifying against him. "They're not deterring crime by this," he added. "The only thing they're stopping is the fact that I won't be able to get back out there myself and show them I can be a citizen again. Each time they execute one guy, they've got four or five capital cases waiting right behind. And it ain't going to stop."

In his final statement he said, "I just ask everybody I ever hurt or done anything wrong to, to just forgive me for whatever wrongs I done to them."