This is the fifth episode in the Last Meals series by Historydojo. Please find the fourth installment here. Also please find the first installment in the series here.
Danny Harris and his brother Curtis Harris are one of only a few brother in history to both be given the death sentence. They were convicted for murdering Timothy Merka, who stopped to help them when their truck broke down by the side of the road in Brazos County, Texas.
The murder was committed in front of witness, James Manuel and Valarie Rencher. When Timothy Merka stopped to help the group, they couldn’t get their truck started. After about thirty minutes, Merka was able to start the truck for them, and then Merka was attacked.
It boggles the mind why this happened. Why would anyone reward a good samaritan for going out of his way to help with murder? The killing was obviously unplanned, not unlike other death row stories.
Danny Harris help Merka on the ground and Curtis beat him to death with the car jack. The chosen weapon suggests a random selection, because a car jack would not seem to be the most obvious selection for a murder.
Something happened in the time between the arrival of Merka and his death by car jack. Since it seems logical that Merka could not have known the Harris brothers before stopping, the motive for the killing becomes even more difficult to imagine. The mysterious way that this friendly assist became a gruesome and brutal death remains
hard to fathom.
Merka was reportedly pleading for his life before the final death blow was administered. His murder was dubbed “The Good Samaritan Slaying” by the news media.
The Good Samaritan is a reference to the Bible story of a man lying near death beside the road. Travellers pass by, not wanting to stop and help. Some are too busy, some are too afraid to get involved. A traveller some Samarra stops and helps the stranger, inspiring compassion and service in others. In this example, Merka is the “Good Samaritan.”
Both Danny and Curtis Harris were teenagers when they killed Merka. Teenagers are notorious for their lack of long term thinking skills. Teens see clearly the immediate gratification of actions, but often get into trouble because they can’t anticipate the consequences of risky behavior in the medium and long term. This is why teens will more often commit petty crimes, drive drunk, experiment sexually and with drugs.
This does not forgive what Danny and Curtis Harris did that night. It does offer context to comprehend how it might have happened. As teens, they may have been acting impulsively. Beating Merka may have been the initial plan in their minds. After he was dead, the boy did take his wallet and steal his truck. The motive may have been a robbery all along; a crime of opportunity.
When he was executed by lethal injection, Danny was 32. When he killed Merka, he was just 18. So much happens to the human mind from the age of 18 to 32. The final mental development of the front lobe is usually completed by 27. By 32, Danny Harris had come to accept the consequences for his actions. As a teenaber, he mostlikely could not have comprehended how his actions that night would have unfolded, even if he had know in advance that he was going to rob Merka.
He declined any food for his last meal. Many prisoners discover religion while in prison. Many prisoners on death row decline a last meal, saying that Jesus did not have a last meal before he was put to death on the cross.
His final statement to the world was:
“I would like to tell my family I love them very dearly, and I know they love me. I love all of the people who supported me all of these years. I would like to tell the Merka family I love them, too. I plead with all the teenagers to stop the violence and to accept Jesus Christ and find victory. Today I have victory in Christ and I thank Jesus for taking my spirit into His precious hands. Thank you, Jesus.”
Executed July 30, 1993. “God’s saving grace, love, truth, peace and freedom.”
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