Just two months after his 40th birthday, Dallas County resident Douglas Feldman, rode his motorcycle up next to the cab of an 18-wheeler and fired a half-dozen rounds into the passenger area, killing 36-year-old driver Robert Everett.
Reportedly, Feldman was riding his Harley-Davidson on Dallas’ Central Expressway in August 1998 when Everett sped up next to him and then abruptly changed lanes in front of Feldman, nearly clipping him. Feldman was enraged, according to court records, pulled out a pistol and fired several rounds into the back of the truck before reloading the weapon and speeding up to parallel with the cab to shoot Everett. Feldman then fled. Less than an hour later, and about 11 miles from the scene of Everett’s murder, Feldman passed an Exxon service station, where 62-year-old Nicolas Velasquez, a tanker driver, was replenishing the station’s gas supply. Feldman rode into the station and fired two rounds into Velasquez’s back, killing him; the sight of the man next to the truck sent him back into a rage, he testified at his 1999 trial. More than a week later Feldman shot Antonio Vega, as Vega stood next to an 18-wheeler outside a Jack in the Box restaurant; again, Feldman said the sight of the truck was what compelled him to shoot. Vega survived. A bystander to the Vega shooting called in Feldman’s license plate number and police were able to match Feldman’s gun to all three shootings. Feldman was arrested and charged with capital murder.
Feldman admitted to police that he was responsible for the shootings, and at trial testified in his own defense, “noting that he had not forgiven Mr. Everett for his trespasses,” reads a Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals opinion in the case. “Feldman explained that he had shot Mr. Velasquez because the man was standing beside an [18-wheeler], which caused Feldman to ‘explode again in anger.'” Feldman was convicted and sentenced to die. On July 31, he will become the 503rd inmate put to death in Texas since reinstatement, and the 11th inmate killed by the state this year.
On appeal, Feldman argued that qualified jurors had been improperly excluded from the jury pool, that his attorney failed to present evidence that he suffered from bipolar disorder as possibly mitigating evidence, and that his trial judge erred by not allowing jurors to consider a lesser charge of murder (which would spare Feldman’s life), among other arguments. According to Feldman the murders arose out of a “sudden passion” and thus mitigated his culpability. “Even though sudden passion arising from an adequate cause is not a legally valid defense to capital murder under Texas law, it is definitely a factually valid rational explanation of the causal events leading up to the offense,” Feldman argued in a subsequent, handwritten appeal he filed on his own with the Fifth Circuit. That appeal, too, has been rejected, clearing the way for Feldman’s execution at the end of the month.