As Mark Anthony Stroman faces execution Wednesday for the killing of an Indian man in revenge for the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, one of the jurors who sentenced him to death and one of his surviving victims are among those calling on Texas officials to spare his life.
Stroman, 41, made national headlines after he fatally shot Vasudev Patel during a shooting rampage after the 9/11 attacks. An admitted white supremacist, Stroman targeted those he believed were Middle Eastern in revenge for the attacks. A Pakistani man, Waqar Hasan, was also murdered, and a Bangladeshi man, Rais Bhuiyan, was seriously wounded.
“I cannot tell you that I am an innocent man. I am not asking you to feel sorry for me, and I won’t hide the truth,” Stroman told CNN in a recent interview.
“I am a human being and made a terrible mistake out of love, grief and anger, and believe me, I am paying for it every single minute of the day.”
The Supreme Court denied a stay of execution for Stroman last month. His supporters are urging the governor and the state Board of Pardons and Parole to grant clemency. He also has another request pending before the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the execution. Barring a last-minute reprieve, he is set to die at 6 p.m. (7 p.m. ET).
On September 15, 2001, Stroman shot Hasan in the head while the man was grilling hamburgers in his convenience store. The 46-year-old Pakistani native had moved to the Dallas area that year to start a new life with his family.
Six days later, Stroman shot Bhuiyan in the face while he manned the counter at a gas station. Bhuiyan survived, but was left blind in one eye.
Then, on October 4, Stroman attempted to rob the Mesquite, Texas, gas station operated by Patel. Surveillance tapes showed the suspect waving a .44-caliber chrome-plated pistol at the clerk and demanding, “Open the register or I’ll kill you.” The 49-year-old Patel, a Hindu, tried to reach for his gun hidden under the counter, but Stroman shot the man in the chest. He left without taking any cash and was arrested the next day.
It was for that crime that Stroman was prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to death. During the sentencing phase, he made an obscene hand gesture to Hasan’s relatives.
Stroman claimed his sister was on a top floor of the World Trade Center’s North Tower when it and the adjacent South Tower collapsed after airliners were deliberately crashed into the buildings. But that claim was never substantiated during his murder trial and was not raised by his appellate attorney.
In a recent posting on his prison blog, Stroman says the 9/11 attacks sparked something inside him.
“Let’s just say that I could not think clearly anymore and I am sorry to say I made innocent people pay for my rage, anger, grief and loss,” he wrote.
Citing his own statements to fellow inmates, a federal appeals court, in denying his claims, concluded that Stroman believed that the U.S. government “hadn’t done their job, so he was going to do it for them” by retaliating.
The man told his lawyers he once belonged to the Aryan Brotherhood, a white supremacist prison gang, and has a long criminal history of burglary, armed robbery and theft.
Of the 19 9/11 hijackers, 15 were from Saudi Arabia, two were from the United Arab Emirates, one was Lebanese and one was Egyptian, according to federal authorities.
Although he testified against his attacker, Bhuiyan has campaigned against Stroman’s execution. A devout Muslim who came to the United States to pursue his education, Bhuiyan was working an extra job a decade ago and was about to be married.
He said a large “angry” man wearing a bandanna, sunglasses and a baseball cap approached him in the store and asked, “Where are you from?” Confused, Bhuiyan asked, “Excuse me?” Immediately afterward, he remembered being shot, “the sensation of a million bees stinging my face, and then heard an explosion.”
But Bhuiyan has created a website, worldwithouthate.org, to urge Texas to spare Stroman’s life. He also filed a “friend of the court” brief last week in the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, supporting Stroman’s requested stay of execution.
“I — and here I act as a spokesperson for the other victims’ families as well — have been denied our proper voice in the proceedings,” Bhuiyan said in the court documents. “We do not wish to see Mark Stroman executed for his crimes. For myself, it is clear that nothing would cause more devastation and pain to the life I struggled to rebuild after the attack than for Mark Stroman to be killed.”
“In order to live in a better and peaceful world, we need to break the cycle of hate and violence. I believe forgiveness is the best policy, which helps to break this cycle,” Bhuiyan said last week, calling himself a victim of a hate crime. “I forgave Mark Stroman many years ago. I believe he was ignorant and not capable of distinguishing between right and wrong. Otherwise he wouldn’t have done what he did.”
He said he would like to meet with Stroman before it’s too late.
“His attorney gave him the message that one of your victims is running this campaign to save your life,” he said. “He was reduced to tears. He couldn’t believe one of his victims would come forward and try to save his life.”
In addition, juror Jenifer Sheehan is asking Texas Gov. Rick Perry to spare Stroman’s life, according to the British anti-death penalty group Reprieve.
“When I walked into that courtroom to serve as a juror, I believed in the death penalty, but as time has passed I have come to deeply regret my decision to sentence Mark to death,” Sheehan said in a statement released by Reprieve. She said she was “misled” by prosecutors into believing that Patel’s death was a capital crime, but she knows “now that Mark did not go into the gas station to rob Mr. Patel. … His crime did not warrant the death penalty.”
She said if she had known that Bhuiyan and other victims did not want Stroman executed, she would not have voted for him to receive the death penalty. “I made the wrong decision,” she said.
Although he now claims remorse for his actions, Stroman was in a different mood a year after the killings.
Writing on his blog, he said, “This was not a crime of hate but an act of Passion and Patriotism, an act of country and commitment, an act of retribution and recompense. The was not done during Peace time but at War time. I, Mark Anthony Stroman, felt a need to exact some measure of equality and fairness for the thousands of victims of September 11th, 2001.”
Stroman says his biggest regret is leaving his four children behind and says that being a capital inmate is a “nightmare come to life.” Prisoner No. 999-409 also claims to be a changed man.
“I have destroyed my victims’ families as well as my own,” Stroman wrote. “Out of pure anger and stupidity I did some things to some men from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia. And now I sit on death row awaiting execution. And by no means am I proud of what I have done.”
After his arrest, Stroman bragged that he had committed other, similar attacks on men he thought were Muslim, for which he was suspected but never charged. His writings appear to reference one such attack, on a Saudi Arabian victim.