[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Oct 2 16:25:37 CDT 2007
TEXAS----impending execution----foreign national
Honduran Set to Die in Texas Appeals
Lawyers for a Honduran man facing execution this week in Texas filed
appeals late Monday based on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to review
similar lethal injection procedures in another state.
Heliberto Chi, 28, is to die in Huntsville on Wednesday, a week after the
Supreme Court said it would look at whether lethal injection in Kentucky
is unconstitutionally cruel. The two states use the same procedures.
Attorneys for Chi, who fatally shot the manager of an Arlington clothing
store during a robbery 6 1/2 years ago, filed appeals in his trial court
in Fort Worth and with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
The attorneys want the execution delayed until the high court resolves the
Kentucky case, where two inmates are challenging the lethal injection
A similar argument Thursday persuaded the Supreme Court to stop the
execution of another Texas prisoner, Carlton Turner Jr.
State officials, including Gov. Rick Perry, have said there are no
problems with the Texas execution procedures. Chi is 1 of 4 Texas inmates
with execution dates extending into next year.
Also on Monday, the Supreme Court refused to hear Lawrence Russell
Brewer's appeal of his death sentence for the dragging death of a black
man in Jasper in East Texas 9 years ago.
Brewer, whose execution date has not been set, was 1 of 3 white men
convicted of chaining James Byrd to the back of a pickup truck and
dragging him along a country road near Jasper, about 115 miles northeast
of Houston in a hate crime that shocked the nation.
The high court also declined Monday to review the case of Christopher
Scott Emmett, a Virginia man set to die Oct. 17 for the 2001 bludgeoning
of a co-worker. Emmett's attorneys are seeking a stay in his case pending
the Kentucky ruling as well.
Lawyers for Honduran man file appeals to stop execution
Lawyers for a condemned Honduran man facing execution this week in Texas
filed appeals late Monday to keep him alive in light of a U.S. Supreme
Court decision to review lethal injection procedures in another state.
Heliberto Chi, 28, is scheduled to face execution Wednesday in Huntsville
- a week after the Supreme Court said it would look at whether lethal
injection in Kentucky is unconstitutionally cruel. The two states use the
Chi's attorneys filed appeals in his trial court in Fort Worth and with
the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, asking the execution be delayed until
the high court resolves the Kentucky case, where two condemned inmates are
arguing the lethal injection process is unconstitutionally cruel.
A similar argument Thursday stopped an execution of another condemned
Texas prisoner, Carlton Turner Jr.
State officials, including Gov. Rick Perry, have said there are no
problems with the Texas execution procedures and will examine each case
individually. Chi is 1 of 4 Texas inmates with execution dates extending
into next year.
As part of the appeal process, the motions first go to the trial court,
then get transferred to the Austin-based appeals court. If the appeals
court rejects the appeals, the case then could go to the Supreme Court.
The Court of Criminal Appeals decided against Turner in a 5-4 ruling and
the Supreme Court stopped his punishment.
"I'm cautiously optimistic," Wes Ball, Chi's lawyer, said Monday night.
Chi was condemned for fatally shooting the manager of an Arlington
clothing store during a robbery 6 1/2 years ago.
Turner's reprieve on Thursday came 2 days after the Supreme Court allowed
another Texas inmate, Michael Richard, to die. Richard's execution came
just hours after the justices announced their intentions with the Kentucky
case, and lawyers involved in death penalty litigation said they believed
the lack of time in developing Richard's appeal was responsible for his
punishment being carried out.
Chi's lawyers also have requests before state officials contending he
should be spared because he was not allowed to contact someone from the
Honduran government, a violation of an international treaty, after he was
arrested for the slaying of Armand Paliotta in March 2001.
Several officials of the Honduran government have met with Perry legal
advisers to advocate a reprieve for Chi, who was in the United States
illegally at the time of the slaying.
(source for both: Associated Press)
Texas DA says he won't seek death penalty until justices rule
The Nueces County district attorney said his office won't seek the death
penalty until the Supreme Court rules on a challenge that claims lethal
injection is cruel and unusual.
"Until we can get some direction from the Supreme Court we will waive the
death penalty and seek life in prison," District Attorney Carlos Valdez
The Supreme Court agreed last week to review the method of lethal
injection used in Texas and most other states.
The high court has never before addressed whether the three drug cocktail
consisting of an anesthetic, a muscle paralyzer and a substance to stop
the heart violates the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual
punishment. The case the court is considering stems from a challenge by 2
inmates on death row in Kentucky.
Under Texas law, a capital murder conviction is punishable by either death
or life in prison without parole.
10 of the 37 states that use the three-drug cocktail have suspended its
use after opponents alleged it was ineffective and cruel, according to the
Death Penalty Information Center.
Texas officials, including Gov. Rick Perry, have said there are no
problems with the state's execution procedures and will examine each case
individually. 26 people have been executed by lethal injection in Texas
Valdez said his new policy is a precaution to avoid cases being returned
for new punishment hearings.
The 14 pending capital murder cases in Nueces County won't be affected
because Valdez's office had already decided not to seek the death penalty.
The policy also won't affect the 4 men from Nueces County who are already
on death row.
(source: Associated Press)
'We Closed at 5'
What's 20 minutes to you? 2 miles on the expressway during rush hour? Time
to slurp a latte on the way back to the office? About the time it takes to
scan the newspaper you're reading now? To Michael Richard, 20 minutes was
probably the difference between life and death.
The Texas death-row inmate's lawyers petitioned for a stay of execution
after the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to review the constitutionality of
lethal injection. Irving killer Carlton Akee Turner won a last-minute stay
from the high court. Mr. Richard's lawyers were working on his petition
when their computer crashed. They phoned the Texas Court of Criminal
Appeals, informed its personnel of the computer problems and asked them to
stay open long enough to accept the paperwork.
Forget it, replied the court. Time thus ran out for Mr. Richard, who died
on the gurney. A court official later said, "I advised the parties that
called that we closed at 5." Just like that.
That is unconscionable.
You might not lose sleep over the fact that the court wouldn't stay open
for 20 minutes to help a convicted rapist-murderer's attempt to evade the
needle a bit longer. You should think again.
When the state takes the life of a condemned criminal, it must do so with
a sense of sobriety commensurate with its grave responsibility. Hastening
the death of a man, even a bad one, because office personnel couldn't be
bothered to bend bureaucratic procedure was a breathtakingly petty act and
evinced a relish for death that makes the blood of decent people run cold.
(source: Editorial, Dallas Morning News)
Let condemned suffer
Re: "Court halts execution Irving killer gets reprieve days after
justices set lethal injection review," Friday news story.
I find it bewildering and infuriating that our Supreme Court is actually
reviewing whether lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment for a
convicted murderer who shot both of his parents in the head.
Can someone tell me why we should care about the suffering of these
I imagine the blood that runs in their veins must be cold enough to numb
them from any pain they may possibly feel while dying. If anything, they
don't suffer enough.
Jennie Holden, Dallas
(source: Letter to the Editor, Dallas Morning News)
Widow takes stand as trial opens in Dallas officer's death ---- Dallas:
Prosecutor describes events; DPD colleagues set to testify
Testimony began Monday in the capital murder trial of a man accused of
killing a Dallas officer when police responded to a domestic disturbance.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty if Juan Lizcano is convicted of
killing Officer Brian Jackson in November 2005.
Officer Jackson's widow, Jo-Ann Jackson, wiped tears from her eyes several
times during Monday's opening statement by prosecutor Patrick Kirlin as he
described the events surrounding the officer's death.
Mrs. Jackson later choked back tears on the witness stand when Mr. Kirlin
asked her to look at an autopsy photo of her husband.
She testified that on the night Officer Jackson was killed, she did not
know anything except that he had been shot. But as she walked down the
hallway of Baylor Medical Center, which was filled with police officers,
"no one would look at me."
She stopped near her husband's room and an officer told her, " 'He didn't
make it.' I remember screaming, 'What do you mean, he didn't make it?' "
Officer Jackson, 28, was shot as he and other officers searched for Mr.
Lizcano outside the home of Mr. Lizcano's ex-girlfriend, Marta Cruz, in
Old East Dallas. Ms. Cruz called police twice that night because Mr.
Lizcano had threatened her with a gun, she said.
Outside her home, police officers were combing the nearby yards and alleys
for Mr. Lizcano. Mr. Kirlin told jurors that Mr. Lizcano fired shots at
three officers, but they were not struck.
A short time later, a single bullet entered Officer Jackson's underarm, an
area not protected by his bulletproof vest.
The bullet pierced his lungs and heart and lodged in his back, Mr. Kirlin
said. The officer returned fire with three shots and then lost
The injuries were so severe that "nobody could have done anything for
Officer Brian Jackson," Mr. Kirlin told jurors.
But defense attorney Brook Busbee told jurors in her opening statement
that the defense would call witnesses who "may cast an entirely different
light" on the details they hear from prosecutors.
She did not elaborate.
The defense contends Mr. Lizcano is mentally retarded and has scored low
on IQ tests. They asked for a pretrial hearing to determine whether he is
competent. But they withdrew that request after a court-appointed
psychologist found him competent.
Mr. Lizcano appeared to stare straight ahead throughout Monday's
testimony. He wore a tan suit that was several sizes too big for him.
Mr. Lizcano came to the U.S. from Mexico illegally about five years ago.
Five weeks before Officer Jackson was killed, Mr. Lizcano was arrested on
a misdemeanor charge of making a terroristic threat after being accused of
threatening his girlfriend with a knife.
Days later, he was arrested on a charge of driving while intoxicated.
Officials at the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency have
said Mr. Lizcano was not flagged for deportation because the charges were
not serious enough to come to the attention of agents at the jail.
Prosecutors introduced more than 150 pieces of evidence Monday, including
dozens of photos, Officer Jackson's uniform and rifle, and the gun they
say Mr. Lizcano used.
This is the first death penalty case in Dallas County since District
Attorney Craig Watkins took office in January. The last death penalty case
was in October 2006, when a man was sentenced to death for the slaying and
sexual assault of an 11-year-old girl.
Testimony in Mr. Lizcano's case will resume this morning, with several
Dallas police officers expected to take the stand.
(source: Dallas Morning News)
Texas executions could be put on hold
Executions in Texas and around the country could be halted until the U.S.
Supreme Court hears a Kentucky case that challenges the constitutionality
of lethal injections.
The question is whether the drugs cause enough suffering to be considered
cruel and unusual punishment.
"How likely is it? Is it very likely, highly likely, substantially
likely?," said University of Texas law professor Rob Owens.
The case thrusts the hot-button issue back onto the frontburner.
"There's no state in the country at this time that comes anywhere close to
executing as many prisoners as Texas does," said Owens.
Unlike other states including California, Texas courts have not opted to
stop scheduling executions until the Supreme Court takes up the lethal
"As far as the governor is concerned, executions from here on out will
continue to take place," said Krista Moody, a spokesperson for Governor
But inmates can request a stay of their executions until the issue is
The U.S. Supreme Court already granted a stay last week for Texas inmate
Carlton Turner, and the high court is expected to consider another request
this week from another Texas inmate.
"If the Supreme Court grants a stay in that case, assuming the lower
courts grant a stay, that would be a very strong signal that the court
doesn't intend to let any other executions go forward as long as this case
is pending," Owen said.
About 450 inmates are on Texas death row. The state executes about 30
inmates a year.
(source: KVUE News)
5th Circuit Judicial Council Reprimands and Admonishes U.S. District Judge
The Judicial Council of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Friday
issued an order reprimanding and admonishing U.S. District Judge Samuel B.
Kent of Galveston, Texas.
The order relates to a complaint of judicial misconduct lodged against the
judge on May 21 alleging sexual harassment toward an employee of the
federal judicial system.
A former case manager for Kent, Cathy McBroom confirms she filed a
complaint against the judge. She declines further comment. McBroom
currently works in the clerk's office in the Houston Division of the
Southern District of Texas.
Fifth Circuit Chief Judge Edith Jones, who signed the order dated Sept.
28, wrote that a Special Investigatory Committee appointed to investigate
the complaint expanded the original complaint under Rule 9(A) of the Rules
Governing Complaints of Judicial Misconduct or Disability, and
investigated other "instances of alleged inappropriate behavior toward
other employees of the federal judicial system."
The committee recommended a reprimand "along with the accomplishment of
other remedial courses of action," and by a majority vote the judicial
council accepted the recommendations.
The council concluded the proceedings "because appropriate remedial action
had been and will be taken, including but not limited to the judge's
4-month leave of absence from the bench, reallocation of the
Galveston/Houston docket and other measures."
In August, Hayden Head, chief judge of the Southern District of Texas,
signed an order noting that Kent would be absent from the bench from Sept.
1, 2007, to Jan. 1, 2008, and U.S. District Judge John Rainey of Houston
would take over Kent's portion of the Galveston docket. In May, Head
issued another order -- with Kent's consent -- that randomly reassigned 30
% of Kent's docket to Rainey and U.S. District Judge Gray Miller of
As described in the Order of Reprimand and Reasons issued Friday, the
council reprimanded Kent for the conduct described in the special
committee's report. It also admonished Kent on the ground the actions
described in the report violate the mandates of the Canons of the Code of
Conduct for United States Judges and are "deemed prejudicial to the
effective and expeditious administration of the business of the courts and
the administration of law."
Jones wrote in the order that the special investigatory committee's
Report, Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Recommendations, and the
Response to the Report are confidential and will not be disclosed.
A home telephone number for Kent in Galveston could not be found, and a
message left on the voice mail of Kent's assistant at his office at the
U.S. District Courthouse in Galveston was not immediately returned.
Kent was nominated for the bench in 1990 by former President George H.W.
According to the 5th Circuit rules, anyone can file a complaint against a
circuit, district, bankruptcy or magistrate judge, as long as the
complaint isn't associated with a judge's court rulings, which are better
dealt with in a mandamus action or on appeal.
Complaints can be filed with the clerk of the court and then are forwarded
to the chief judge of the 5th Circuit. The chief judge can decide to
dismiss the complaint for various reasons or appoint a special committee
to investigate the complaint. The special committee consists of the chief
judge and circuit and district judges and may hold hearings, take
testimony and review evidence associated with the complaint. The committee
gives notice of any hearings to the judge mentioned in the complaint and
that judge can represent himself or have counsel represent him during
The special committee then issues a report concerning the complaint to the
Judicial Council of the 5th Circuit. The Judicial Council can dismiss the
complaint or can issue an order of corrective action against the judge.
The Judicial Council can censure a district judge publicly or privately or
can stop the new assignment of cases to the judge for a period of time,
among other things. The council is not limited to those corrective
Disciplinary actions against federal judges are rare, says Tom Alleman, a
shareholder in the Dallas office of Winstead who represented a party in an
unrelated action against a federal judge in the late 1990s.
"This is an extraordinarily unusual situation," Alleman says. "The number
of conduct problems on the federal bench is infinitesimal compared to the
number of people who do that job." *******************
Supreme Court Stays Execution Of Confessed Killer
Capital punishment faces an uncertain future in Texas, after the U.S.
Supreme Court halted an execution last Tuesday.
The high court took up the legality of lethal injection as a possible form
of cruel and unusual punishment. That decision came too late for Michael
Richards, a Texan executed that evening.
Since Tuesday's decision, however, another Texas inmate is in luck. The
Supreme Court stayed the execution of Carlton Turner Jr.
The 28-year-old death row inmate confessed to killing both of his adoptive
parents in 1998.
KXAN Austin News had an exclusive interview with Turner a couple months
ago about his motivation behind the killings.
The interview came before Turner had any clue the highest court in the
country could decide to save his life.
"I've been through situations in the street where I pretty much accepted
that when I do this, I'm going to die," Turner said.
Turner confessed to killing his adoptive parents in Irving when he was 19
years old. He shot them both several times in the head, dragged their
bodies to the garage and then had friends over for a party that weekend.
"It just didn't seem like there was any way I could escape the situation I
was in," Turner said. "I felt trapped."
He said the shootings came after years of physical abuse, including a
broken leg and mental torture.
"You wish somebody would come help you out but nobody ever comes, right?"
Turner said. "That's why when you read a comic book, you think you can
call out to the superhero, and the superhero will come and rescue you,
right? But, it doesn't happen."
For Turner, that superhero may be the U.S. Supreme Court. The decision to
halt his execution came down on Thursday, 2 hours before his death warrant
would have expired, in what could be the first of many stayed executions
"The governor, like most Texans, is an adamant supporter of execution,"
said Allison Castle, spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry. "He supports
execution as a punishment for these cruel and vicious crimes."
As for Turner, the governor's office said it will abide by whatever the
Supreme Court decides.
"I used to think that I couldn't change," Turner said. "That's what I used
to think. I told them that. I told them that I won't change, but I've
changed a lot. I've come to terms with what life is."
Turner's stay will remain in effect until the Supreme Court can consider
further arguments and decide whether to review the case.
(source: KXAN News)
'I killed her. ... She deserved it,' suspect says in taped
confession----Travis County seeks death penalty for Selwyn Davis in
killing of Regina Lara.
Selwyn P. Davis, 25, made a chilling confession during his interview with
Austin police, according to videotape played on Monday, the 1st day of his
capital murder trial.
"I killed her. And I ain't glad I did it, but I did it because she
deserved it," Davis said in the video, in which police asked him about the
death of his girlfriend's mother, 57-year-old Regina Lara. "I left the
knife at the house, didn't I? You gonna find the prints."
Davis is accused of killing Lara on Aug. 22, 2006, at her apartment on 38
Prosecutors played the tape during opening statements Monday morning;
defense attorneys declined to present opening statements in the trial.
According to court documents, Lara's killing was part of a two-day crime
spree during which Davis broke his ex-girlfriend's jaw, sliced his uncle
with a knife and sexually assaulted a teenager.
Lara was a mother of three and a grandmother of eight who worked as a
child care provider in East Austin. In his videotaped confession, Davis
said he killed Lara because she was trying to interfere with his
relationship with her daughter, Linda Martinez. "She wanted to destroy
everything we were building together," Davis said.
Martinez said in court Monday that she met Davis when she was working at a
Dollar General store and dated him for about two years. Davis eventually
moved in with her and her four children, who also spent part of the time
living with their grandmother. Martinez said Davis started out as a loving
boyfriend and surrogate father, often reading the children poetry and
passages from the Bible.
But Davis rarely worked and eventually became violent and started using
crack cocaine, Martinez testified. Martinez told the court that Davis and
her mother rarely got along.
Shortly before the killing, Davis beat Martinez so badly that she was
hospitalized with a broken jaw and a crushed eye socket, she testified.
She told the court: "He said if I left him, he'd kill my mom."
Davis also is accused of raping a teenager at Lara's home shortly before
Lara was killed. "He said, 'If you cry, I will beat you up,' " the girl
testified. "He told me, 'Now, you're gonna have my baby.' "
Lara came home while Davis was inside the apartment, the girl testified
Monday. When the girl noticed that a large knife was missing from the
kitchen, she ran outside to call for help and tried to get Lara to leave
with her. As she called Lara's family and police, the girl said, she heard
Lara screaming. When Lara's relatives and police officers arrived, they
found her on the floor, covered in blood.
Prosecutor Jim Young said Davis probably will not be charged with sexual
assault or other crimes because he is on trial for capital murder.
"If he's convicted, he's either going to get life without parole or the
death penalty, so he's not going anywhere," Young said.
Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, Travis County has sent 15
people to death row.
(source: Austin American-Statesman)
New trial ordered in wife-killing case----Federal judge faults
authorities' treatment of evidence, suspected triggerman
Citing what she describes as "constitutionally inadequate testimony," a
federal judge has ordered a new trial for Robert Fratta, the former
Missouri City public safety officer sentenced to death for masterminding
the 1994 fatal shooting of his wife.
Laying fault with the practices of Harris County prosecutors and
detectives, U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon stated prosecutors
"misused" hearsay evidence and investigators "blatantly violated" the
suspected triggerman's civil rights in order to obtain a confession.
In 1996, Fratta was convicted of arranging the contract murder of his
wife, Farah, then 33. Prosecutors contend that Fratta had his wife killed
after she filed for divorce and demanded he pay child support for their 3
children. Fratta also told several people that he wanted to have his wife
murdered. Additionally, he tried to collect on his wife's $235,000 life
insurance policy days after her death. Fratta and his 2 alleged
accomplices were all sentenced to death.
On Monday, Farah's father, Lex Baquer, said he and his wife were "shocked"
by Harmon's ruling. "This has brought a lot of pain to our family."
The evidence against Fratta included a confession from Howard Guidry, whom
prosecutors said was the shooter. Guidry had been arrested following a
bank robbery and was discovered to have a pistol that was traced back to
Guidry's lawyers claimed that during the interrogation investigators
falsely told him they received permission from his attorney to question
him. Guidry then confessed to shooting Farah Fratta - a job for which he
had been promised $1,000 but had never received.
Harris County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Danny Billingsley, the lead
investigator in the Fratta case, on Monday denied any wrongdoing by
"That is blatantly untrue," Billingsley said. "The man was (advised) of
his rights no less than 5 times."
In her tersely worded 49-page opinion, Harmon stated that "police
deception alone secured Guidry's cooperation."
Harmon was also skeptical of the circumstances of the confession of Joseph
Prystash, who was convicted of being the middleman in the murder-for-hire
scheme. While in custody, Prystash confessed to being the getaway driver,
after being confronted with Guidry's confession linking him to the
In her opinion, Harmon wrote that both Prystash's and Guidry's confessions
"laid heavy blame on Fratta and strongly implicated him in the capital
murder while minimizing (their own) involvement and intent."
"The content of the statements ... does not lead to a high level of
confidence," Harmon stated.
Nor, in the judge's estimation, did the testimony of Prystash's
girlfriend, Mary Gipp, concerning statements Prystash made to her about
the killing, including that he had gone to get $1,000 from Fratta. The
judge described as "hearsay-laden" and "inadmissible" the testimony given
by Gipp - testimony that the prosecution had labeled as crucial during the
opening arguments of Fratta's trial.
"The improperly admitted testimony more than superficially impacted the
jury's consideration of whether the alleged Fratta-Prystash-Guidry plot
involved a murder for remuneration," wrote the judge.
In other words, that evidence was so critical to the trial, "it tainted
it," said Phillip Hilder, one of Fratta's attorneys.
Harmon's ruling is the second time the federal courts have found that
elements of the Fratta case did not pass constitutional muster. In 2005,
the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out Guidry's conviction. The
court, like Harmon, cited questionable investigative tactics and hearsay
In February, Guidry was convicted a second time and again sentenced to
death. Fratta's attorneys say prosecutors had other evidence linking
Guidry to the slaying.
"(The prosecution) only had to show at trial that Guidry was the
triggerman, and he was found with the murder weapon on him,"said James
Rytting, another of Fratta's appellate attorneys.
If there is a retrial of Fratta, Harmon's ruling will make it much more
difficult to prove that there was a murder-for-hire, his attorneys said.
The Fratta trial was originally prosecuted by assistant district attorneys
Casey O'Brien and Kelly Siegler. O'Brien has since retired. Siegler
declined to comment, saying that she had not yet reviewed Harmon's
While Harmon was critical of the methods of both prosecutor and
investigators, she also called Fratta "far from sympathetic."
"The trial evidence showed Fratta to be egotistical, misogynistic, and
vile, with a callous desire to kill his wife," Harmon wrote. "The evidence
strongly suggested that Fratta was somehow involved in his wife's death.
Nevertheless, the Constitution places high demands on a state's ability to
carry out the ultimate punishment - and those standards have not been met
in this case."
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Jasper dragging death killer loses appeal in Supreme Court
Convicted murderer Lawrence Russell Brewer, condemned for the heinous
dragging death of a black man in Jasper in East Texas 9 years ago, lost a
U.S. Supreme Court appeal Monday.
The Supreme Court's refusal to hear his case would appear to move Brewer,
40, closer to an execution date, although the prospect of continuing
executions in Texas is in doubt.
The court last week agreed to consider the constitutionality of lethal
injection in Kentucky, then halted a lethal injection last week in Texas.
Kentucky's lethal injection procedures, virtually the same as those in
Texas, are being reviewed after 2 inmates there argued they are
Brewer was 1 of 3 white men convicted of chaining James Byrd to the back
of a pickup truck and dragging him along a country road near Jasper, about
115 miles northeast of Houston. Brewer and John William King were
sentenced to death for the racial hate crime that shocked the nation. A
3rd man, Shawn Allen Berry, received a life prison term.
Brewer's rejection by the Supreme Court came in a lengthy list of cases
similarly rejected by the high court as it began a new term Monday,
including another Texas death-row inmate, Stephen Moody, convicted of a
1991 slaying in Houston.
The Supreme Court did not explain its reasons for rejecting Moody's and
Last December, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans
refused to rehear Brewer's appeal. His lawyers argued he improperly was
ordered to submit to a psychiatric examination before any psychiatric
evidence was presented at his trial. His attorneys said his rights then
were violated when prosecutors offered psychiatric testimony to a jury
before Brewer presented any of his own.
His lawyers also argued evidence at his trial may have been
constitutionally insufficient to support a kidnapping and murder charge.
The kidnapping element made it capital murder, making Brewer eligible for
the death penalty.
Brewer, King and Berry were portrayed as white supremacists who offered
the 49-year-old black man a ride in Berry's pickup in the early morning of
June 7, 1998. Instead, Byrd was chained by his ankles to the bumper of the
truck, then was dragged for 3 miles, his body dismembered as it bounced
along a rutted dirt path and bumpy asphalt road outside Jasper.
Brewer's trial was moved from Jasper, where King was tried and convicted
first, to Bryan, about 150 miles to the west. A pathologist testified at
Brewer's trial that Byrd was alive during the ordeal until his head was
severed when it slammed into a culvert as the truck rounded a curve in the
Brewer testified he got into the truck after fighting with Byrd and didn't
realize Berry had chained their victim to the bumper. He also insisted he
knew nothing about a kidnapping, never intended to hurt Byrd and was
convinced Byrd died when he said Berry slashed Byrd's throat with a knife.
Prosecutors told jurors Brewer was a leader, or "Exalted Cyclops," in his
supremacist prison gang, known as the Confederate Knights of America.
Brewer first went to prison with a burglary conviction and was paroled in
1988. A year later, he was returned with a new conviction and 15-year
sentence for cocaine possession but was paroled after serving only 2
years. In 1994, he was sent back to prison as a parole violator, then
released in September 1997 on mandatory supervision. Byrd was killed 9
Appeals for King, who also had a prison history before the dragging death
case, remain unresolved in the courts.
In the other Texas case rejected Monday by the court, Moody was condemned
for the October 1991 shooting death Joseph Hall, 28, during a robbery at
Hall's home in Houston. Hall was described at Moody's trial as a drug
dealer doing business out of his home when he was gunned down. Moody had
at least 5 previous convictions before he was convicted of capital murder.
(source: Associated Press)
Wilkinson resigns as Municipal Judge
City of Greenville Municipal Judge Toby Wilkinson reportedly resigned
Monday evening, following a special meeting of the City Council which had
been scheduled to discuss his position.
The Council met in an executive session in the Municipal Building for
about 90 minutes Monday, under Section 551.074 of the Texas Government
Code, which includes meetings, "involving the appointment, employment,
evaluation, reassignment, duties, discipline, or dismissal of a public
officer or employee or to hear complaints or charges against a public
officer or employee."
Wilkinson met with the Council for about 40 minutes, then left, telling
the Herald-Banner, "I think they are going to fire me."
Following the closed-door session, the Council convened in open session
then passed an ordinance accepting Wilkinson's resignation, effective
It was not immediately known what prompted the meeting, although the
Austin American Statesman newspaper recently published an article in which
2 Austin attorneys alleged Wilkinson performed shoddy work in representing
inmates on Texas death row on appeal.
Wilkinson was reappointed by the Council in December 2006 to a 2-year
contract, which is not scheduled to expire until January 2009. Wilkinson
was first appointed as municipal judge in 2005 and earns $32,462.56 per
year, plus benefits.
A statement issued after the meeting indicated the Council would take
steps soon to name an interim Municipal Court Judge until a permanent
appointment can be made. Former Hunt County Justice of the Peace Gloria
Peters serves as the City of Greenville Assistant Municipal Court Judge.
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