Murder of Texas real estate agent

Back in 2006, Chanthakoummane was sentenced to death after stabbing a Dallas real estate agent to death. He stabbed the agent, Sarah Anne Walker, in the face and neck in a model home in what his defense attorney called a robbery gone-wrong.

But went wrong is an understatement. A medical examiner testified at Chanthakoummane’s trial that Walker was beaten, bitten and stabbed, according to an article by Tom Steele for The Dallas Morning News. Of her 33 stab wounds, 10 were deemed fatal wounds. The jewelry she had been wearing was stolen.

The murder occurred on July 8, 2006, and Chanthakoummane was received on death row on October 18, 2007.

Now, 10 years later, he will face lethal injection. But what has he done with his life the past decade? Alex Hannaford wrote an article titled Letters from Death Row: Books Behind Bars for the Texas Observer. In it, he questions death-row inmates about their taste in books.

Chanthakoummane wrote a letter to Hannaford answering his questions and stating that most of the books he wanted to read have been censored by the TDCJ Director’s Review Committee—the body tasked with hearing appeals related to rejected correspondence and publications.

From the article:

Chanthakoummane wrote that he “will likely receive 60 – 70% of my magazine subscriptions,” and said that among the titles periodically censored were GQ, Vogue and Popular Mechanics. He wrote that censorship was “limited to a handful of reasons, which are conservative in their nature.”

Chanthakoummane also claimed that publications and periodicals “targeting African Americans are more closely and often censored [including] King, Jet [and] Diva magazines … it’s blatant racism / sexism at the root of censorship.”

However, TDCJ Spokesman Jason Clark clarified that publications are rejected because of sexually explicit images, the break-down or manufacture of weapons, depictions of drugs, alcohol and information deemed a security threat.

After being convicted of murder, Chanthakoummane even tried to file in the court of appeals, however he was unsuccessful. Here was the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit’s response:

Petitioner now seeks a COA to appeal the district court’s dismissal of his federal petition on two grounds: (1) his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to sufficiently investigate, develop, and present mitigating evidence and (2) his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge whether the murder was United States Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit committed during the commission of a robbery. After careful consideration of his arguments and the record, we deny his application for a COA.