Execution warrant orders Joseph Ray Ries to death by lethal injection Sept. 18 for 1999 murder of Cumby man

By FAITH HUFFMAN, News-Telegram News Editor

May 18, 2008 - The "order setting execution" and a death warrant have been issued for Joseph Ray Ries, convicted in Hopkins County in 1999 for the murder of Robert Lee Ratliff in his home in Cumby.

The order and warrant were signed Friday by 8th Judicial District Judge Robert Newsom. The order states that after the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals denied Ries' appeal request and ruled his "petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus has no merit," he has "exhausted his appeals."

The order states that the Director of the Institutional Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Huntsville is to keep Ries in custody until Thursday, Sept. 18, "upon which day, at any time after the hour of 6:00 p.m. in a room arranged for the purpose of execution." The prison director is then "commanded to carry out this sentence of death by intravenous injections of a substance or substances in a lethal quantity sufficient to cause the death of Joseph Ray Ries, and until Joseph Ray Ries is dead."

The order was delivered to the Hopkins County sheriff Friday, along with a death warrant specifying the director or warden or "such person appointed by the Board of Directors" of TDCJ, in the event the director dies, is disabled or has to otherwise be absent, "execute the judgment and sentence."

Officials said that while they are uncertain whether he's the first, Ries will definitely be the first in decades to be put to death following a capital murder conviction by a Hopkins County jury.

Joseph Ray Ries and Christopher Lee White were convicted in 1999 in separate trials for the capital murder of Robert Lee Ratliff, 64, who was found dead in bed at his home on FM Road 3134 north of Cumby on Feb. 23, 1999, by his wife and son. Ratliff had suffered three gunshot wounds: one in his back, another in his neck and a third in the head. Ratliff's pickup truck was found submerged in his pond, and his 1991 Lincoln was missing.

Ries and White were apprehended Feb. 26, 1999, in Lawton, Okla. At the time of their arrest, Ries and White were in Ratliff's 1991 Lincoln. Both were interviewed Feb. 27, 1999, and the tapes were played at the two trials.

Ries had previously stayed with Ratliff and was familiar with his home. Ries is alleged to have shot Ratliff with the victim's gun three times, the last shot Ries said was to end Ratliff's suffering. Ries stole items from Ratliff's house before he and

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