Riley Dobi Noel
Riley Dobi Noel (May 22, 1972 – July 9, 2003) was a murderer executed for the June 5, 1995 murder of Marcell Young, 17, Malak Hussian, 10, and Mustafa Hussian, 12 – all siblings – in Varner, Arkansas.
In the early morning hours of June 5, Marcell Young, Malak Hussian, and Mustafa Hussian were shot and killed while their mother, Mary Hussian, wrestled with another gunman in a separate part of the house.
On July 5, 1995, the prosecutor charged Riley Noel with the capital murders of the three children and the attempted capital murder of Mary Hussian. On June 4, 1995, Noel, appellant Carroll, Curtis Lee Cochran, and Tracy Trinette Calloway were riding around Little Rock in Cochran's car, "getting high" on drugs. Noel believed that another child of Mary Hussian, a daughter, had been involved in his brother's death. Noel apparently believed one of Hussian's daughters had set up his brother's death in a drive-by shooting, which had occurred about a week earlier. Noel told three children in the residence to get down on the floor, and Calloway testified that she told them to do what Noel said. Calloway watched Noel shoot each of the children in the head and kill them.
A co-defendant tried to shoot the mother with a shotgun but it jammed, and she was able to wrestle it away, records state. Prosecutors argued that Noel, 24, killed the children to avenge his brother's slaying.
Noel’s Prior Convictions were:
Theft By Receiving 02/13/1990 Pulaski County (5 Yrs);
Battery-1st Degree 02/13/1990 Pulaski (5 Yrs);
Robbery 02/13/1990 Pulaski (15 Yrs);
Escape-2nd Degree - Habitual Offender 09/11/1996 Pulaski (120 Mo).
Noel's supporters felt that Noel had a very strong case for appeal or clemency. The main reasons cited were:
1) He was mentally retarded;
2) Scientific evidence, unavailable at trial, indicates that severe brain damage hinders his ability to control his behavior;
3) The victim’s mother, Mary Hussian, who initially supported the death penalty for Noel at his trial, has since decided to support his bid for clemency.
Supporters claim that Noel’s IQ was measured at 69, which is below the standard benchmark of 70 for determining mental retardation. In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court banned the execution of people with mental retardation in Atkins v. Virginia, ruling that the practice constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. However, Court records show that Noel’s most recent tests placed his score at 80. His defense lawyers argued that, despite tests showing an IQ of 80, Noel had a brain disorder and that executing him would have violated a U.S. Supreme Court directive. The lawyers also argued that medical tests not developed by the time of Noel’s 1996 trial might have revealed more about his mental health. It was argued that psychologists and neurologists learned significantly more about Noel’s brain damage since his trial, and have established strong connections between his neuropsychological deficit and his aggressive, impulsive behavior. Medical experts diagnosed him with Attention Deficit Disorder, poor abstract thinking skills, mental confusion, and serious visual-motor problems at an early age. When he was 13 years old, experts determined that he had a developmental age of 7. One psychological examiner observed that he was “extremely slow” in processing basic information. At trial, the jury heard that Noel had likely suffered “minimal” brain damage. Medical evidence showing the possibility that he suffers from severe brain abnormalities, were discussed in his appeals and clemency petition.
However on March 6, 2003, in Noel v State the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, ruled that Noel scientific evidence was not substantially better than the evidence of brain abnormality that he produced at the sentencing phase of his trial, and that even if Mr. Noel currently had substantial evidence that he had a brain abnormality, his claim would necessarily fail whatever the nature of that abnormality.”
Also at trial, Hussian, the victims’ mother, supported the death sentence, and gave a powerful victim impact statement. However, she has had a change of heart, and is now supporting Noel’s clemency petition. She argued that the state should consider this – the same way the jury considered her trial testimony – when deciding on his clemency petition. However, Governor Mike Huckabee signed his death warrant June 1, 2003.
Kyle Jones of Miami, who had been Marcell Young's fiance, was one of the victims' family witnesses who viewed the execution on closed-circuit television. "He chose to make the decision to take their lives," Jones said after the execution. "Today the state of Arkansas chose to take his and I'm happy with it. I can move on knowing I won't have to live with this again."
Kelly Kissel, The Associated Press' Arkansas news editor, was one of three media witnesses to the execution. He said that within 20 seconds of the injection, Noel's chest heaved "fairly violently." Kissel added that Noel's reaction to the injection was probably the most intense of the seven executions he has witnessed. "Within the first 20 seconds, it was clear that something was happening," Kissel said. Kissel said Noel stared at the ceiling without blinking. "(He) died with his eyes open," Kissel said.
His Final meal was Fried chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, hot rolls, a green garden salad with ranch dressing, Kool-Aid and cookies.
His final words were "I want my family to know I love them. I want my kids to know I love Jesus."
Noel was executed by lethal injection at 9:07 p.m at the Cummins unit of the Arkansas Department of Corrections on Wednesday, July 9, 2003. Noel was the 25th person executed by the state of Arkansas since Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972), after new capital punishment laws were passed in Arkansas and that came into force on March 23, 1973.