McKINNEY, Texas -- Prosecutors aren't happy to be dusting off a 13-year-old murder case against a former death row inmate dubbed 'Excell the Executioner,' but they feel they can win another death sentence.
Testimony was scheduled to begin today in the retrial of Robert Excell White, who was convicted in 1974 of capital murder but has been granted a new trial because of a 1981 Supreme Court ruling.
A jury of eight men and four women will hear the case against White, dubbed 'Excell the Executioner' by lawmen for his alleged role in the deaths of four people in McLennan and Collin counties on May 9-10, 1974.
White, 49, spent 12 years on death row, more time than any other man in Texas, and escaped two execution dates before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned his capital murder conviction on March 11.
'I'm not really excited about retrying it,' Collin County District Attorney Tom O'Connell said before jury selection began. 'But there was never a doubt that we would. We've expected this and have been recontacting witnesses.'
O'Connell said he was confident of winning another conviction in the trial, which is expected to last two to three weeks.
The appeals court granted White a new trial because of testimony from two psychiatrists in his 1974 trial. Both failed to warn White before interviewing him that his comments could be used in court.
Such warnings by non-law enforcement officials were not required in 1974. But in 1981, the Supreme Court made warnings mandatory and said the decision could be applied to past cases.
Jurors are expected to hear a statement White gave to investigators. Defense attorney George Roland tried to prevent the statement from being admitted as evidence, but state District Judge John Roach ruled against him last week.
White is being retried in the deaths of McKinney shopkeeper Preston Broyles, 73, and customers Gary Coker and Billy St. John, both 18 and of Princeton, who were killed during a $60 holdup at the Hilltop Grocery in McKinney.
The three were killed with a converted machine gun stolen a day earlier from Waco gun collector Roy Perryman, 53, who was found stabbed to death in his garage apartment.
White told police in 1974 that the killings took place after an evening at a bar and while he was under the effects of alcohol and a drug used to treat epilepsy. Two other men were convicted in the deaths, but White told investigators he killed all four victims.