Texas Death Penalty News

Started by Jeff1857, April 17, 2008, 12:17:51 AM

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April 17, 2008, 12:17:51 AM Last Edit: May 26, 2008, 04:41:46 AM by Jeff1857
Last October, Texas death row inmate Carlton Turner said he was ready to die.

What the ruling means to Harris County cases Soon, that statement could be true.

That's because on Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Kentucky's use of death by lethal injection.

It ruled that is not cruel and unusual punishment.

The action ends a challenge that had placed executions on hold in states like Texas.

For death penalty opponents, it's just another blow in their efforts to prevent states from ever taking a life.

"We could see what I call another Texas blood bath as a result of this decision," said Dave Atwood who opposes the death penalty.

Victim's advocates call Wednesday's decision "justice delayed".

There are six Harris County cases that are now likely to move forward.

"For the families that do have loved ones that were brutally murdered by individuals on death row, today is a smile day," said victim's right activist Andy Khan.

It is also a day closer to the last day for inmates like Turner.

About 30 cases statewide are affected. One half dozen of those cases are in Harris County including the Jose Medellin case.

He's one of the gang members convicted in the notorious rapes and murders of two teenaged girls in T.C. Jester Park.

Also affected it he Eric Nenno case.

He's the man from Hockley who murdered a 7-year-old girl and hid her body in his attic.

Now the Harris County DA must go to court once again to schedule new execution dates for each of those killers.
Actually this article is kinda incorrect. It's closer to 40ish.


The Supreme Court has upheld the use of lethal injections, clearing the way for the death penalty to resume after more than half a year with no executions in the United States.

The family of a murdered firefighter hopes the ruling means the end of delays that have allowed the killer to remain alive.

"This was taken the second time he was firefighter of the year," says Willie Ryman, Junior.

Willie Ryman, Jr. is talking about his son Willie Ryman the Third.

He was Port Arthur's firefighter of the year three years in a row.

"All he ever wanted to be was a fireman," says Ryman.

The wall in this room is filled with mementos of Ryman's son, he was murdered ten ago by Elroy Chester.

"He bragged about it, he liked it. He liked what he was doing and he made it very clear he had no intention of stopping," says Ryman.

Billy, as his father calls him, went to his sister's home to check on his nieces.

Elroy Chester was already inside and had attacked them.

He shot and killed Ryman.

Chester later admitted to four other murders, three sexual assaults and dozens of burglaries.

In August of 1998, a jury found him guilty of capital murder in Ryman's killing. It took the jury only 12 minutes to sentence Chester to die.

Ten years later, he's still alive and on death row.

Ryman's father supports the Supreme Court decision upholding the death penalty.

"Shot with the liquid they use now, I don't see how they can get any easier and I don't see why they should," says Ryman.

"It seems almost silly if you look at it that you're going to hurt someone a little before you take their life," says Tom Maness.

District Attorney Tom Maness says the ruling came as no surprise to him.

He believes whatever pain lethal injections might cause is not enough to violate the constitution.

"Based on evidence there is not such a pain that is inflicted that would render it to be unconstitutional," says Maness.

Ryman says he doesn't care how the state executes Chester.

"I was waiting to go up there and watch them execute him myself," says Ryman.

He and his other son are still ready, all they're waiting for is a new execution date.
He should get one soon and justice can be served for this family and for Mr Ryman.
In 1999, a statue of Ryman was placed in front of fire station number one in Port Arthur.


Its about damn time....I hope we can have a record year this year in Texas...I was very disappointed in the delay.  I am feeling better hope this momentum continues.


I´m sure the Texas Corrections can work verys efficient... ;-)

I´m not sure if there´s a hell, but I believe in executed murderers.


Buoyed by the U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding lethal injection's constitutionality, Harris County prosecutors pledged Wednesday to move forward in seeking execution dates for six local killers.

Among them are a man who stabbed a 72-year-old woman 15 times after a failed rape attempt and another who raped and strangled two teenage girls in a Houston park.

The men, whose state and federal habeas corpus appeals have been denied, likely would be among the first to die at the state's Huntsville death house, where executions came to a halt in September after the high court agreed to hear a Kentucky challenge.

The court's 7-2 ruling was a blow to death penalty opponents who had hoped justices would invalidate the lethal three-drug cocktail used by Kentucky and 35 other states, including Texas.

In his ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts, joined by Justices Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy, wrote that Kentucky's execution protocol is "believed to be the most humane available."

The Kentucky case was brought by killers Ralph Baze and Thomas Bowling, who contended the administration of an anesthetic followed by a muscle relaxant and a drug to stop the heart violates the constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Key to their petition was the assertion that the second and third drugs could cause excruciating pain if the first failed to render an inmate unconscious.

Justices David Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented, with Ginsburg calling for safeguards to prevent severe discomfort in the inmate's final moments of life.

'Delayed justice'
In Texas, Gov. Rick Perry hailed the court's decision, saying that "Texas is a law-and-order state, and I stand by the majority of Texans who support the death penalty as it is written in Texas law. It is an appropriate response for the most violent crimes against our fellow human beings."

Jerry Strickland, spokesman for Attorney General Greg Abbott, said recent lawsuits have "delayed justice" for crime victims and their families.

Scott Durfee, spokesman for Harris County District Attorney Kenneth Magidson, said execution dates for the first six Harris County killers would be sought "in due course."

A 45-day waiting period is mandated for killers receiving their first death date; 30 days are mandated for those receiving subsequent execution dates.

Among Harris County killers likely headed to the death house are Charles Douglas Raby, 38, who in October 1992 repeatedly stabbed 72-year-old Edna Mae Franklin, then cut her throat, after his rape attempt failed. Also facing execution is Jose Ernesto Medillin, 33, who in June 1993 kidnapped, raped and strangled Elizabeth Pena, 16, and Jennifer Ertman, 15, when they stumbled into a gang initiation rite at T.C. Jester Park.

Does ruling settle issue?

Jordan Steiker, a University of Texas law professor who argued a death penalty case before the Supreme Court last year, said the court's ruling doesn't necessarily slam the door on appeals against lethal injection.

"The opinion leaves open the possibility of challenging execution protocols, but it requires increased evidentiary support as well as showing that a clear alternative is available," Steiker said.

Richard Dieter, executive director of the nonprofit Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center, said the "narrow" ruling does not settle the question of which execution method states should use.

"The opinion," he said, "doesn't ... even provide the states with a road map to follow."

University of Houston law professor David Dow, an attorney with the Texas Innocence Network, argued that just because the Kentucky death row inmates didn't meet the standard of a "substantial risk or significant harm" doesn't mean Texas inmates can't qualify.

"Kentucky was the worst state for this case," Dow said. "It had executed exactly one inmate by lethal injection."

Texas, which has put more than 400 people to death by lethal injection since 1982, would offer a much bigger sample. "If you could identify 10 cases where there has been some sort of error in implementation, is that a substantial risk? I don't know. That's something the courts in evaluating the protocols in Texas will have to grapple with."

David Atwood, director of the Houston-based Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, expressed disappointment in the court's decision.

"I don't know that it would have had a big impact on Texas anyway," Atwood said, "because we are so determined to go forward with executions in this state."

Diane Clements, director of Justice for All, a crime victims' advocacy group, said the ruling "settles the issue once and for all."

"Another obstacle is down, and execution is still in place. Lethal injection is not cruel and unusual."
I guess I missed Raby somewhere along the road. He wasn't in the 40ish that I had up. Line them up!!!!


The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way Wednesday for lethal injections to resume by declaring that Kentucky's lethal injection process was not cruel and unusual punishment.

The 7-2 ruling was unusual in that seven different justices issued written opinions on the case. Some say the fractured ruling may reignite the debate over the constitutionality of the death penalty itself, which was not at issue in this case.

Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins said he was particularly interested in a concurring opinion by Justice John Paul Stevens, who seemed to indicate that he no longer supports the death penalty.

"The time for a dispassionate, impartial comparison of the enormous costs that death penalty litigation imposes on society with the benefits that it produces has surely arrived," Justice Stevens wrote.

"All of this is really getting us closer to having this honest conversation about the death penalty," said Mr. Watkins. "It's time," he said, adding that he thinks the spark for the debate is "going to come from someone in a district attorney's seat."

Executions across the country, including Texas, have been halted in a de facto moratorium since the high court accepted the Kentucky case last fall.

But Texas' execution chamber, the busiest in the nation, probably won't open for business again until a similar case, involving Heliberto Chi, who was convicted of killing a store clerk in Arlington, is resolved by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

"It's a procedural hurdle that still has to be cleared," said Edward Wilkinson, assistant chief of the appellate section of the Tarrant County district attorney's office.

Mr. Chi's execution was stayed by the Texas court in October after the Supreme Court had agreed to hear the Kentucky case.

The Court of Criminal Appeals received briefs in the Chi case in January. The Chi case involves not only the drugs used in executions, but also other protocol issues such as training of the person who administers the drugs.

In the Kentucky case, Baze vs. Rees, attorneys argued that the combination of drugs and administration of lethal injections caused the inmate to suffer unnecessarily, violating the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

Texas uses the same drug cocktail in executions, but David Dow, law professor at the University of Houston, said the process in Texas is less transparent than the process in Kentucky, so, "It is possible that lethal injection challenge will get some traction in Texas."

Mr. Dow is assisting in the Chi case.

The Supreme Court's 7-2 decision in the Kentucky case was not unexpected - but the division among justices arriving at the decision was. Though Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the deciding opinion, it was joined completely by only two other justices.

The inmates' attorneys "pretty much knew from the outset that they would lose it," Mr. Watkins said.

Rob Owen, a law professor at the University of Texas, agreed that while the final decision of the Supreme Court wasn't a surprise, "the number and variety of questions raised by the separate opinions was unexpected."

"There is still an open question about how to evaluate the system in a particular state. The most I think that can be said for the decision in Baze is that it says Kentucky's system passes constitutional muster. And it leaves open, I think, the question of other states and how they implement the lethal injection."

The court ruled that anyone challenging the method of execution must show a "substantial risk of significant harm" and identify an alternative method that reduces that risk, Mr. Dow said. That opens the door for other inmates to challenge the protocol in their state.

Texas is particularly ripe for such a challenge because of "sheer sample size," Mr. Dow said.

While Kentucky has executed only two people since the reinstatement of capital punishment in 1976, Texas has executed 405. With such an extensive track record, there is a greater chance of meeting the "substantial risk" standard set by the court, Mr. Dow said.

Even if the Chi case is decided immediately, it would be several weeks before any executions resume in Texas.

Inmates must be given at least 45 days notice if it is their first time to have a date set, or 30 days notice if they have had previous execution dates, said Michelle Lyons, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Judges can set execution dates pending the outcome of the Chi ruling, but those cases are likely to also be put on hold by the state's top criminal court.

The last Texas inmate with an execution date was Karl Chamberlain of Dallas, said Ms. Lyons.

Mr. Chamberlain, who was convicted in 1997 for the sexual assault and murder of a Dallas woman in 1991, had been scheduled for lethal injection in February. Mr. Watkins' office withdrew its request for his execution date pending the Supreme Court's decision.

"Obviously, from a legal standpoint, yeah, we have to go forward" with Dallas death penalty cases, he said. But Mr. Watkins said "it weighs on my mind."

In light of the Supreme Court's decision, "I have no choice. I'm not thrilled. I'm not thrilled."

Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins on his struggles with the death penalty:

"I sit here and I see the worst, the worst of what humans can do. And when you sit here and see that, the only logical conclusion that you can come to is we have to seek the ultimate punishment.

"But when you go home, sit with your family in day-to-day chores, you look at morality and religion and think about the course of life. Then you start to question, 'Am I putting myself in that same position as that person [who] for whatever reason decided to take a life?'

"Now, I represent the government and I am in the position to do the same that they do. I struggle with that. As a district attorney, I'm here to uphold the law and protect the society I have been elected to represent. So the question I have for myself is: 'If I don't pursue these crimes that are so heinous with ultimate punishment, am I living up to my ultimate responsibility?'

"But my other side of me is not only to protect society but to make society better. If I do the death penalty, am I doing that?"
Watkins is a scumbag. I feel sorry for the city of Dallas having a DA like this one.


Supreme Court ruling puts Texas inmates closer to execution

The question for some condemned Texas inmates lately has not been if they would face execution, but how.

The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that lethal injection is not unconstitutionally cruel answered the question of how, and it also brought execution dates considerably closer for prisoners in the nation's busiest capital punishment state.

"It's going to be real crazy," Kevin Watts, sentenced to die for the slayings of three people during a robbery at a San Antonio restaurant 5 years ago, said from a small visiting cage at the prison unit where the state's 360 condemned men are housed.

Watts, 26, is among dozens of inmates whose appeals have been exhausted since Sept. 25. That's when the high court decided to take up a challenge from Kentucky prisoners who contended the lethal injection procedure used in that state, similar to the one employed in Texas and other states, violated constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

The justices, in a 7-2 vote announced Wednesday, upheld the process, clearing the way for capital punishment to resume. In Texas, where 405 inmates have been put to death since 1982, that number could begin rising as early as a month from now.

Prisoners who had execution dates but whose punishments were stopped for additional reviews are eligible to die within 30 days. For inmates who will get their first dates, execution could be held in 90 days.

The Texas Attorney General's Office, which handles capital case appeals once they get into the federal courts, called the hiatus in executions since last fall "delayed justice for crime victims and their families." The office will "take the legal action necessary to bring closure to these victims," spokesman Jerry Strickland said.

"The way the courts are ruling, I lost all hope," said David Lewis, who was convicted of killing a Lufkin woman during a burglary 21 years ago.

Like Watts, Lewis in January had his case rejected by the Supreme Court, clearing the way for his likely death.

"Look at history," he said. "They'd just find something else. We all know it."

"I'm not concerned if they put a bullet between the eyes," added 70-year-old Jack Smith, the state's oldest condemned prisoner. "Dead is dead, no matter how you go about it."

Smith, on death row for some 31 years for a fatal shooting during a Houston robbery, said lethal injection would always provoke controversy and was merely the progression from other methods.

"You had the electric chair, hanging at the gallows, now this," he said. "They're always going to try to find another method."

Smith lost his appeal before the justices in February.

"I'll contest them any day of the week," said Smith, who maintains his innocence of the slaying where authorities said $90 was taken in the robbery. "The courts, the D.A., they can squash your case and sit on it hoping I'll die of old age."

That may not happen.

Harris County Assistant District Attorney Roe Wilson, who handles capital case appeals for the state's most active death penalty county, said Thursday that Smith is likely to among several Harris County inmates to get an execution date imminently.

One problem may be the volume of cases and coordinating them with the attorney general's office, she said.

"We're just going to have to get the dates and stagger them," she said.

Besides Smith, others are likely to include Derrick Sonnier, who was scheduled to die in February for the 1992 rape-slaying of an Humble woman. Sonnier won a reprieve because of the Kentucky case. Another is Jose Medellin, condemned for the rape-slayings of 2 Houston teenagers 15 years ago.

Medellin and Cesar Fierro were among seven Mexican-born inmates on Texas death row who last month lost their bids for appeal before the Supreme Court in a case where the justices said President Bush overstepped his authority trying to reopen their cases.

"If I die, this could be the best thing to happen to me," said Fierro, 51, convicted of the 1979 robbery-slaying of an El Paso taxi driver. He's been on death row more than 28 years but says he's innocent.

"Nobody cares," he said bitterly. "It doesn't matter. Death is the best chance to get out of this place."

Watts said he'd be expecting an execution date, which would be a "real low blow."

"I don't put my trust in no judge," he said. "They make mistakes, just like we do. ... I don't believe the state of Texas has the right to murder anyone."

Smith was equally critical of the justice system.

"They're all crooks," he said. "If you show me one honest one, I'll show you 10 that ain't. it's all a buddy system. And when you get hung up in it, there's not much you can do. They're hoping I'll keep my mouth shut and die, but since I'm about dead anyway, I won't shut up."

Smith, whose fellow inmates call him "Old Man," also said the ruling wasn't all bad news.

"I've been blessed in a way," he said, "I could have been out on the streets and been run over.

"I'm old. I'm ready."
There's a whole lot of us ready too!!!  ;D ;D ;D

ScoopD (aka: Pam)

I bet his victims famly members are ready too, I can't imagine the hell they have been through having these appeals drag on for 30 years..   >:(
<br /><br />If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace. -Thomas Paine<br /><br />My reason for supporting capital punishment: My cousin 16 yr. old Amanda Greenwell was murdered in March of 2004 at the hands of serial killer Jeremy Bryan Jones.


AUSTIN -- Less than a week after upholding the constitutionality of lethal injections, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday gave Texas and two other states the go-ahead to resume executions after a seven-month hiatus.

But until the state's highest criminal court resolves questions about Texas' use of lethal injections raised in an appeal by an Arlington killer, the death chamber in Huntsville will likely remain quiet a little longer, a prominent defense lawyer said.

"I expect it will be Katie bar the door when it comes to judges setting execution dates in Texas," said David Dow, who runs the University of Houston Law Center. "But until the Court of Criminal Appeals issues its ruling on whether the Texas protocol [for administering lethal injections] holds up, I doubt we'll see any executions go forward."

Last year, less than two weeks after the Supreme Court announced that it would review the way Kentucky administers lethal injections, the Texas criminal appeals court served notice that it would review Texas' method. Although all the states that employ lethal injections use the same combination of drugs, the dosage and delivery may vary.

Viewed narrowly, the Supreme Court's 7-2 decision in the Kentucky case still gives lawyers for condemned inmates in other states a window to challenge the procedure. At issue is whether a drug used in the lethal cocktail paralyzes the inmate's body and makes him incapable of feeling excruciating pain.

Arlington case

Dow also represents Heliberto Chi, condemned for the 2001 shooting death of an Arlington clothing store manager. Dow said that even though the court's ruling Monday specifically allows Texas, Alabama and Mississippi to set execution dates, Death Row lawyers will likely invoke the same appeals on behalf of their clients that he made in October for the Texas court to spare Chi.

The appeals court has asked the Texas attorney general's office, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the Tarrant County district attorney's office to submit arguments on why they believe that the lethal injection process used in Huntsville does not violate the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

A spokesman said it was not clear when a ruling could be expected from the nine-member court.

Chi's execution, scheduled for Oct. 3, was among at least half a dozen in Texas that were set aside after the Supreme Court signaled that it would review lethal injection. Dale Scheanette, condemned for the 1996 rape and killing of Wendie Prescott, a 22-year-old Mansfield teacher's aide whose body was found in a bathtub in her Arlington apartment, also was spared his Nov. 27 date with death.

The Tarrant County district attorney's office did not return calls Monday about its plans to have the execution dates reset. But Roe Wilson, head of Death Row prosecutions for the Harris County district attorney's office, said she expects to be in court Wednesday seeking the reinstatement of an execution date for one killer in her jurisdiction who was spared last year. "We intend to start right back up," she said. "We do have a number of other cases in the pipeline that we will be proceeding with."

Gearing back up

Steve Hall, who heads the anti-death-penalty StandDown Texas Project, predicted that the pace of executions will meet or exceed the average of about 30 a year that Texas has seen since the mid-1990s. The state leads the nation with 405 executions in the modern application of the death penalty.

"I think you are going to see prosecutors ask for dates and you're going to see judges set dates," Hall said. "The question we have to ask ourselves is: What kind of strain will that put on prosecutors, the defense and on TDCJ, which has to carry out all these executions?"

The Texas case before the Supreme Court on Monday involved Carlton Turner of Irving, who was condemned for the August 1998 slaying of his adoptive parents. Lisa Smith, a Dallas County assistant district attorney, told The Associated Press that the execution date will likely be set for summer.

"It's not going to be within 30 days, although technically we could," she said.
We might can expect something from the TCCA in the Wednesday orders. You know if David Dow Scumyer cum laude is talking about lots of executions it's definitely gonna happen!!!  ;)


April 23, 2008, 11:33:50 AM Last Edit: May 26, 2008, 04:46:35 AM by Jeff1857
So, let´s see if there´ll by much work for all the antis during the next months. Hopefuly they know all the actions (urgent actions, ailings, letters, demonstrations, ..) after this (too) long break.   ;D

I´m not sure if there´s a hell, but I believe in executed murderers.


AG says injection question settled----Supreme Court in April upheld execution method killer is contesting

The Texas Attorney General's office filed its response to appeals that led to this week's last-minute stay of execution of a convicted capital murderer, arguing that the U.S. Supreme Court already upheld the lethal injection process.

The attorney general also said 11th-hour legal filings to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, like the one that halted Tuesday's execution of Derrick Juan Sonnier, should be discouraged.

A Texas Defender Service lawyer filed appeals hours before Sonnier was to be put to death, arguing that death by lethal injection violates Eight Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment. The Court of Criminal Appeals has not yet ruled in two cases making similar claims. Sonnier's lawyers also argued that Texas prison officials had made changes to its execution protocol that have not been reviewed by any court.

The Court of Criminal Appeals halted Sonnier's execution about two hours before he was to enter Texas' death chamber. He would have been the state's first inmate executed since the Supreme Court upheld the lethal injection process in a Kentucky case in April.

Sonnier was condemned for the 1991 rape and stabbing death of Melody Flowers, 27, and her son Patrick, 2.

The Eighth Amendment argument Sonnier raised was "fully disposed" of by the Supreme Court when it upheld the 3-drug procedure used in Kentucky, the Attorney General's Office argued in its response.

The only issue left is whether Texas' execution protocol mirrors Kentucky's, the attorney general argues. A chart included in the filing indicates similar doses of the lethal drugs are administered in both states.

David Dow, Sonnier's appellate attorney, said Friday that the issue is not that clear-cut.

"It's a misstatement that Kentucky's protocol is exactly like Texas'," said Dow, of the Texas Defender Service.

A spokeswoman for the AG's office declined comment.

Sonnier was returned to death row in Livingston soon after he received word of the court's stay.
Hopefully the TCCA will resolve this quickly.


Texas gets off to slow restart on executions----Despite delays, experts predict state will lead nation once again

Of the 3 inmates who had dates with death this year, only one was sent into Texas' death chamber and executed, an uncharacteristic start for a state that consistently leads the nation in executions.

Controversy swirled around the state's last execution in September and re-emerged once the death chamber reopened after the lifting of a de facto moratorium, imposed as the U.S. Supreme Court considered a challenge to the lethal injection process.

The Court of Criminal Appeals and the Attorney General's Office worked until almost midnight Tuesday to ensure that Charles Dean Hood's execution would be carried out. But in the end, after a volley of appeals, state prison officials had to scrub the execution as the midnight expiration of the death warrant neared.

On June 10, the state carried out its 12st execution of the year, putting to death Karl Chamberlain. His attorneys later complained that they were in the process of filing an appeal when he was executed.

The 1st inmate to face execution this year, Derrick Sonnier, received a last-minute reprieve June 3. It came about 2 hours before he was set to enter Texas' death house.

Despite the sluggish start, experts predict Texas likely will remain the nation's death penalty capital.

"By the end of 2008, Texas will have the most executions of any state, as it has for many other years," predicted Richard Dieter, director of the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center. "It certainly overall is a leader in executions."

Swift execution pace

To some, the state appears unchastened by last year's firestorm when attorneys were unable to file appeals before Michael Richard was put to death in September.

He was the last inmate executed before the hiatus began. In his case, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller refused to allow the court clerk's office to remain open after hours so attorneys could file an appeal after experiencing computer problems.

In April, the high court upheld the lethal injection process, and executions resumed.

Since then, 7 have been carried out across the nation.

Dieter believes Texas will ultimately resume its swift execution pace, given an aggressive schedule that far outpaces other states'.

Fourteen inmates are set to be put to death through October, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's Web site.

Last year, Texas accounted for 26 of the 42 executions carried out across the country.

Hood, whose execution had been scheduled for last week, had argued in his appeal that the judge and prosecutor in his trial reportedly had a romantic relationship. The Court of Criminal Appeals rejected the appeal on procedural grounds. His attorneys, however, persuaded a state district judge to vacate his death warrant. The state appellate court subsequently ruled that the judge had no authority to do so and ordered the warrant reinstated. With the death warrant set to expire, the prison system took the unprecedented step to stop the execution.

No such late-night legal wrangling occurred before Sonnier was granted a stay. The following week, however, the Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed his claims. He now has a July 23 execution date.

Another execution date has to be set for Hood.

"These last two cases or stays are unusual," said Dieter, of the Death Penalty Information Center. "Generally, when dates are set in Texas, those executions go forward."

Last-minute appeals

David Dow, an attorney in the Hood and Sonnier cases, said the state, more than ever, appears to possess a "lust" for executions.

"The Court of Criminal Appeals couldn't have been more transparent in the way they helped the state try to get an execution," he said, referring to last week's maneuvering.

The Attorney General's Office, Dow said, has become less patient when it comes to last-minute appeals. Attorneys typically notify officials when appeals are in the works. State attorneys previously were willing to await filings and delay executions.

Now, Dow said, it seems that if appeals have not been filed and none is pending in any court, prison officials are allowed to begin the execution process.

That is what happened in Chamberlain's case, Dow said.

The Attorney General's Office insists that no policy change has occurred.

Legal issues

"When the court-ordered execution time arrived," a spokesman for the Attorney General's Office said, "Chamberlain's attorneys had yet to file an additional last-minute appeal, nor had they provided any specific information to the state or the courts about when any further appeals might be filed."

Jim Marcus, a University of Texas law professor, said the state should weigh the legal issues -- and not technicalities -- in Hood's and Sonnier's cases.

In Sonnier's appeal, his attorneys argued that changes to the state's death penalty protocol had not been reviewed by a court. Prison officials said changes were made simply to clarify executioner training and other issues raised in the Supreme Court case.

The Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed the claim, citing the Supreme Court's decision that upheld Kentucky's 3-drug protocol, the same used in Texas and other states. The Texas court determined that the state's procedure is substantially similar to Kentucky's.

But Marcus believes that a thorough review of the protocol should be conducted.

"If the state courts continue to bury their heads in the sand, the federal courts will probably step up," Marcus said.

(source: Houston Chronicle)


AUSTIN -- Attorneys seeking a stay of execution for condemned inmates must now file their motions at least 48 hours before a scheduled execution, under a new rule adopted by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

The rule allows for late filings if lawyers can show "good cause" that meeting the deadline was "physically, legally or factually impossible."

The court generated controversy last September when Presiding Judge Sharon Keller ordered the court clerk's office closed at 5 p.m., though a condemned inmate's lawyers asked for more time to file an appeal after having computer troubles.

The inmate, Michael Richard, was executed for a Harris County murder later that night.

Following that incident, the court announced it would accept emergency e-mail filings in death penalty cases. Presumably, that wouldn't be changed by the new rule, provided attorneys demonstrated "good cause" if the e-mail filing were after the 48-hour deadline.

Keith Hampton, a spokesman for the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, said most filing delays are "generated by the process itself."

That is, a lawyer can't file for a stay with the Court of Criminal Appeals until after a lower state court or a federal court has ruled. Hampton said he hopes the "good cause" exception would apply in those cases.

" 'What is good cause?' would be the next question," he said.


Granny B

AUSTIN -- Attorneys seeking a stay of execution for condemned inmates must now file their motions at least 48 hours before a scheduled execution, under a new rule adopted by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

HOORAY!!! (Doing somersaults) 8)

This means that in the future, when we drive all those hundreds of miles all the way to the unit to watch her execution, we won't have wonder until 5 minutes before it occurs, if it will be halted and we will have to go through this all over again. 

This is great news for Texas MVS.  (Big Grin) :-*
" Closure? Closure is a misused word in the English language.  There is no such thing as closure for the family of a murder victim.  There will never be any closure for the death of our loved ones until we are dead ourselves.  The families have a lifetime sentence of anguish and sadness." 
Susan Levy

ScoopD (aka: Pam)

<br /><br />If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace. -Thomas Paine<br /><br />My reason for supporting capital punishment: My cousin 16 yr. old Amanda Greenwell was murdered in March of 2004 at the hands of serial killer Jeremy Bryan Jones.

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