Rapper set to die for killing studio owner

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HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — Barring a last-day court reprieve, a former San Antonio rap musician was set to die by lethal injection Wednesday for a knife attack and robbery more than 15 years ago that left a 33-year-old recording studio owner dead.

Ray Jasper, 33, faced injection with a lethal dose of pentobarbital for the November 1998 stabbing death of David Alejandro. The inmate acknowledged that he slit Alejandro’s throat to steal equipment from the San Antonio studio, but insisted that a partner was responsible for Alejandro’s fatal stab wounds.

Jasper would be the third Texas prisoner executed this year. Another is set for next week in the nation’s most active death penalty state.

Lawyers for Jasper, who is Black, argued that a review of juror questionnaires that they say only became available recently showed that a Black potential juror at Jasper’s San Antonio trial in 2000 was questioned and disqualified improperly.

“It is now plain that the prosecution excluded (him) because of his race,” attorney John Carroll said in a filing Wednesday that was rejected by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

He then took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

State attorneys argued that the juror questionnaires long had been accessible and that race was not a factor in jury selection. State courts and a federal judge earlier this week rejected appeals from Jasper. The jury selection argument also failed in appeals years earlier, although Carroll argued that those proceedings were defective because they did not include information from the questionnaires.

A Bexar County jury deliberated only 15 minutes before convicting Jasper of Alejandro’s slaying. The panel then took less than two hours to decide he should be put to death.

The Netherlands-born Jasper, whose father was in the U.S. Air Force, was 18 at the time of the November 1998 attack and had a criminal record beginning about age 15 when his family moved from California to San Antonio.

Jasper had previous dealings with Alejandro, who was the lead singer of a San Antonio Christian-based music group in addition to running his recording studio.

“I just want you to know from me personally that I did not kill David Alejandro,” Jasper testified during the punishment phase of his trial.

He disclosed, however, that he had “cut” Alejandro’s throat.

Jeff Mulliner, one of the prosecutors at Jasper’s trial, said Jasper was the mastermind of the robbery and killing.

“He methodically planned it out and he took the first step of slicing David’s throat,” Mulliner said.

Mulliner said evidence showed that a week before the attack, Jasper purchased large bags to hold stolen studio gear worth as much as $30,000, then recruited two friends, Steven Russell and Doug Williams, brought two vans to the studio and reserved time under the pretense of a recording session.

As their session was ending, Jasper grabbed Alejandro from behind and slashed his throat from ear to ear with a knife he pulled from his jacket. Testimony showed Jasper then held Alejandro while Russell stabbed him some two dozen times, leaving the knife buried to its hilt in their victim’s body.

They were loading recording equipment when an off-duty officer unexpectedly showed up and questioned the activity. Jasper fled on foot, was arrested a few days later and confessed. His girlfriend testified he’d told her days earlier that he planned to steal the equipment and kill Alejandro.

DNA evidence and fingerprints also tied Jasper to the slaying scene. The gear they’d hoped to sell was left behind.

Williams, now 35, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Russell, 34, also is serving life after taking a plea deal.

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