Terry Clark was convicted of kidnapping and raping a six-year-old girl from Roswell, New Mexico in 1986. Pending appeals in that case, he was released on bond. While he was out on bond in that case, nine-year-old Dena Lynn Gore of Artesia, New Mexico was raped and killed on July 17, 1986. Dena’s bound and decomposing body was found partially buried on a nearby ranch on July 22, 1986. Gore had been shot three times in the back of her head. A few days later, Clark was taken into custody and he confessed to a minister while in jail. In 1986, public defenders Sheila Lewis and Steve Aarons were assigned to represent Clark. In a rare legal maneuver, Clark pled guilty to first degree murder in hopes of being sentenced before Governor Toney Anaya completed his term of office. However, district judge Stanley F. Frost refused to hold a sentence hearing before Anaya’s last day in office. As a result, Clark was not among the five men on death row whose death sentences were commuted by Anaya to life in prison without possibility of parole. The following year, a jury in Tucumcari, New Mexico returned with a death sentence against Clark. In 1994, the New Mexico Supreme Court overturned that sentence, found reversible error related to the first jury’s understanding of the meaning of life in prison, and mandated a new sentencing hearing.
In 1996, prominent New Mexico capital defense lawyer Gary Mitchell represented Clark at his retrial in Silver City, New Mexico. Aarons and Anaya were among dozens of witnesses who testified on behalf of Clark. Anaya explained why he would have commuted Clark’s sentence if he had the legal authority to do so. The second jury also returned a death sentence. Clark waived his appeals in 1999 and was executed on November 6, 2001. This made him the first inmate in New Mexico to be executed in 41 years and the only one to be executed by lethal injection. On March 18, 2009, Governor Bill Richardson signed a death penalty abolition bill into law. He had been a supporter of capital punishment for years, but said that he lacked confidence in the current system to make the final decision on who lives and who dies.
- May, 17, 1956
- November, 06, 2001
- New Mexico
Cause of Death
- execution by lethal injection