AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Wednesday upheld the capital murder conviction and death sentence for Henry Lee Lucas, the one-eyed drifter who once claimed to be America's most prolific serial killer.
Lucas, 55, was sentenced to die for the Oct. 31, 1979, rape-slaying of an unidentified woman whose body was found along Interstate 35 near Georgetown in Central Texas. The victim became known as 'Orange Socks' -- based on the only article of clothing she was wearing at the time of her death.
Lucas once claimed to have killed 600 people in a nationwide murder spree in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but he later recanted most of his confessions. Still, authorities in 26 states closed the books on a number of murder cases based on Lucas's claims, which became the basis for the documentary movie 'Henry.'
Lucas said he confessed to the killings to avoid being executed in the Texas case and to embarrass law enforcement authorities.
Richard Allen, Lucas's Fort Worth attorney, claimed that Lucas's confession in the Orange Socks case was part of the hoax.
In 1986, Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox released a comprehensive report that concluded the Texas Rangers and other law enforcement agencies mishandled the Lucas investigation and his bogus confessions of mass murder.
The report said Lucas could not have committed many of the crimes to which he confessed and cast doubt on his lone capital murder conviction in the Orange Socks case. However, the prosecutor in the case, Williamson County District Attorney Ed Walsh, said he was convinced that Lucas killed the woman and as many as 100 other people.
Lucas recanted most of his confessions of murder, except that of his mother, Viola Lucas, 74, who he was convicted of stabbing to death in Michigan in 1960. He was in and out of prison and mental hospitals until 1970, when he was released on parole.
Lucas, a native of Blacksburg, Va., was sentenced to life in prison in 1984 for the murder of Becky Powell, 15, his common-law wife; and was given 75 years for the murder of Kate Rich, 80, of Ringgold in Montague County.
In the Orange Socks case, defense attorneys argued that Lucas did not receive a fair trial.
They said he was deprived of due process of law when the trial court failed to instruct the jury on how to apply mitigating circumstances of mental illness and disease. Without such instruction, they said, the jury could not give a 'reasoned moral response' to the evidence in rendering its sentence.
The mitigating factors included evidence of Lucas's mental disease and defect, a distressed childhood of emotional, mental and physical abuse and the fact that he surrendered in the case, volunteered to take a polygraph test and was released on a $2,000 personal recognizance bond while the investigation was pending.
A psychologist testified that Lucas's intellectual functioning was in the 'low-average to low-normal range,' with an IQ score of 84, that he tended to misperceive aspects of reality and suffered from chronic schizophrenia.