Archive | Stay of execution

23 February 2015 ~ Comments Off on Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Stays Execution of Rodney Reed

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Stays Execution of Rodney Reed

Today the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted the execution of Rodney Reed, which was scheduled to take place on March 5th.  The court issued the stay to consider new evidence that may establish Reed’s innocence in the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites.

Here’s a statement from Reed’s lawyer, Bryce Benjet, a staff attorney with the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law:

We’re extremely relieved that the court has stayed Mr. Reed’s execution so there will be proper consideration of the powerful new evidence of his innocence. We are also optimistic that this will give us the opportunity to finally conduct DNA testing that could prove who actually committed the crime.

The new evidence includes affidavits that confirm Reed’s romantic relationship with Stites and statements from three forensic examiners who reviewed the case and believe Stites was likely killed hours earlier than previously thought, challenging the timeline of her death as presented at Reed’s trial.

Six judges on the Court of Criminal Appeals agreed to the stay, which is “pending further order of this court.”

Read more about today’s ruling from the Texas Tribune and the Austin American-Statesman.

A copy of the court’s order is available at

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05 February 2015 ~ Comments Off on State of Texas executes Donald Newbury; Supreme Court stays execution of Lester Bower

State of Texas executes Donald Newbury; Supreme Court stays execution of Lester Bower

Last night the State of Texas carried out its third execution of the year, putting Donald Newbury to death for the 2000 murder of Irving Police Officer Aubrey Hawkins.  Newbury was serving a 99-year sentence for aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon when he and six other inmates broke out of the Connally Unit near Kenedy, Texas on December 13, 2000. The “Texas Seven” made their way to North Texas, where on Christmas Eve they robbed a sporting goods store at gunpoint and killed Officer Hawkins.

Two of Newbury’s co-defendants have already been executed, one committed suicide, and three others remain on death row. Read more from the Texas Tribune.

Texas accounts for three of the seven executions to date in the United States this year.

*Breaking news* The U.S. Supreme Court has issued a stay of execution to Lester Bower “pending the disposition of the petition for a writ of certiorari.” Bower was scheduled to be executed next week on February 10th for the shooting deaths of four men at an ultralight airplane hangar near Sherman in 1983.  Bower, a former chemical salesman with no prior criminal history, has consistently maintained his innocence.  He has spent more than 30 years on death row in Texas.

According to KXII News 12 in Sherman, attorneys for Bower presented three arguments to the Justices:

1. Whether the former Texas special issues for death penalty sentencing allowed the jury to consider mitigating evidence of good character;

2. Whether evidence disclosed by the state after the trial that the rare specialty ammunition prosecutors said Bower used to commit the murders was not really all that rare constitutes a due process clause violation of the 5th and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution; and

3. Whether executing a defendant whom has served more than 30 years on death row constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the 8th and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

Bower’s trial took place before a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case of Johnny Paul Penry, which determined that jurors must be given an opportunity to consider mitigating evidence in the punishment phase of death penalty trials.  Dozens of people on death row in Texas have received new sentencing hearings as a result of that ruling.

Read more from KXII.

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27 January 2015 ~ Comments Off on Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halts execution of Garcia White, denies appeal of Robert Ladd

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halts execution of Garcia White, denies appeal of Robert Ladd

Earlier today, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued a reprieve to Garcia White. White was scheduled to be put to death on January 28th for the 1989 stabbing deaths of Bonita Edwards and her 16-year-old twin daughters, Annette and Bernette, in their Houston home. He was convicted by a Harris County jury in 1996.  The court did not provide a reason for the stay of execution.  Read more from the Associated Press via the Huffington Post.

Also today, the state’s highest criminal court denied the appeal of Robert Ladd, who is scheduled to be executed on Thursday for the 1996 murder of Vicki Ann Garner in Tyler (Smith County). According to a press release from the ACLU, Ladd, who has been diagnosed with an I.Q. of 67, “doesn’t meet the Texas courts’ standards to determine whether a person is intellectually disabled, which were drawn in part on the character Lennie Small in Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.”  Read more from the ACLU.

The ACLU has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay of Robert Ladd’s execution, based on evidence of his intellectual disabilities. Attorneys also have asked the Justices to review the decision of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Their certiorari petition, stay motion, and other documents are available here:


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03 December 2014 ~ Comments Off on 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Stays the Execution of Scott Panetti

5th Circuit Court of Appeals Stays the Execution of Scott Panetti

BREAKING: The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has stayed the execution of Scott Panetti, who had been scheduled for execution in Texas tonight at 6 p.m. CT.

Below is a statement from Mr. Panetti’s legal team, Greg Wiercioch of University of Wisconsin Law School and Kathryn Kase of Texas Defender Service, followed by background about the case.

“We are grateful that the court stayed tonight’s scheduled execution of Scott Panetti, a man who has suffered from schizophrenia for three decades, for a careful review of the issues surrounding his competency. Mr. Panetti’s illness, schizophrenia, was present for years prior to the crime, profoundly affected his trial, and appears to have worsened in recent years. Mr. Panetti has not had a competency evaluation in seven years, and we believe that today’s ruling is the first step in a process which will clearly demonstrate that Mr. Panetti is too severely mentally ill to be executed.

“We would like to remember the Alvarado family today and express our deepest sympathies for the loss of Amanda and Joe Alvarado.

“We believe that people who live with severe mental illness should have treatment options to keep themselves and others safe. When people who have severe mental illness enter our criminal justice system, the system has a moral obligation to respond appropriately to the limitations and deficits presented by mental illness.”

-Greg Wiercioch and Kathryn Kase, attorneys for Scott Panetti

-December 3, 2014

The Fifth Circuit Stay Order can be accessed here:

Mr. Panetti’s Opening Brief at the Fifth Circuit and Request for a Stay of Execution can be accessed here:


Three-Decade History of Severe Psychosis and Delusions

Mr. Panetti has suffered from extreme mental illness for over 30 years. He was hospitalized a dozen times for psychosis and delusions in the six years leading up to the crime for which he was convicted and sentenced to death.

The first time Mr. Panetti showed signs of being afflicted with a psychotic disorder was in 1978, over 14 years before the crime. During his multiple hospitalizations, doctors diagnosed him with chronic schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder and proscribed antipsychotic medication.

In 1986, Mr. Panetti first succumbed to the delusion that he was engaged in spiritual warfare with Satan. In an affidavit his first wife signed to have him involuntarily committed, she testified that he was obsessed with the idea that the devil was in the house. He engaged in a series of bizarre behaviors to exorcize his home, including burying his furniture in the backyard because he thought the devil was in the furniture.

Two years before the crime for which he was convicted and sentenced to death, Mr. Panetti was involuntarily committed for homicidal behavior and was found to be suffering from delusions and psychotic religiosity.

The crime for which he was convicted and sentenced to death also had the hallmarks of a severely disturbed mind. While off his antipsychotic medication, Mr. Panetti shaved his head and dressed in camouflage fatigues before going to his in-laws’ home and committing the offense for which he was convicted and sentenced to death.

Detailed information about Mr. Panetti’s medical history can be found in this mental illness timeline starting in 1978 that shows how Mr. Panetti’s mental health degenerated over the years, including how in 1986, the Social Security Administration made a determination that Mr. Panetti was so disabled from schizophrenia that he was entitled to government benefits:

Mr. Panetti’s Trial: ‘A Miserable Spectacle’

Despite being a paranoid schizophrenic, Mr. Panetti represented himself at his capital murder trial in 1995. Wearing a cowboy costume with a purple bandana and attempting to call over 200 people to the witness stand, including the Pope, John F. Kennedy, Jesus Christ and his own alter ego, Mr. Panetti was found guilty and sentenced to death.

Mr. Panetti’s statements in court, at both the guilt and sentencing phase, were bizarre and incomprehensible. He took the witnesses stand and testified about his own life in excessive and irrelevant detail.

Mr. Panetti announced that he would assume the personality of “Sarge” and recounted the gruesome details of the crime in the third person. He gestured as if pointing a rifle to the jury box (visibly upsetting the jurors) and matter- of-factly imitated the sound of shots being fired.

Fixed Delusion that Texas is Trying to Kill Him for Preaching the Gospel

In 2004, Texas tried to execute Mr. Panetti, but a federal judge court stayed the execution and the United States Supreme Court ultimately found the Fifth Circuit’s standard for determining competency to be executed unconstitutional in Panetti v. Quarterman, 551 U.S. 930 (2007). Notwithstanding that decision, Texas continued to contest Mr. Panetti’s competence to be executed. In 2013, the Fifth Circuit again found him competent to be executed – despite the District Court’s findings that he has a severe mental illness and suffers from paranoid delusions.

If his execution date is not withdrawn, he will go to the execution chamber convinced that he is being put to death for preaching the Gospels, not for the murder of his wife’s parents, and the retributive goal of capital punishment will not be served.

Widespread Support for Clemency

On November 12, 2014, Mr. Panetti’s attorneys filed a clemency petition with Governor Rick Perry and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles along with letters supporting clemency from the leading Texas and national mental health organizations and professionals such as the American Psychiatric Association, Mental Health America and Disability Rights Texas; criminal justice and legal professionals including former Texas Governor Mark White, state Attorneys General and former judges and prosecutors; 55 Evangelical leaders from Texas and nationally and 7 retired and active Bishops from the United Methodist Church and other faith leaders; Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation and the American Bar Association, among others.

On November 18, 2014, worldwide support for Scott Panetti reached a groundswell with new calls for clemency from prominent individuals and organizations from across Texas and the world, including the nation’s largest grassroots advocacy organization on mental illness, National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI); NAMI’s Texas affiliate; ten legislators from Texas; former U.S. Representative Ron Paul; several more Evangelical Christians; and the European Union, which represents twenty-eight nations.

The clemency petition can be accessed through Texas Defender Service’s web page on the case:

To access the letters supporting clemency, additional legal documents and other case resources, including a video, please go to:

Additionally, a petition started by Mr. Panetti’s sister, Vicki Panetti, has been signed by over 95,000 concerned individuals.

To speak with Mr. Panetti’s attorneys, Kathryn Kase of Texas Defender Service and Greg Wiercioch of Texas Defender Service and University of Wisconsin Law School, or if you would like to speak with mental health and other experts, please contact Laura Burstein, Laura.Burstein@Squirepb.com202-626-6868 (o); 202-669-3411 (c).


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14 October 2014 ~ Comments Off on Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Stays Execution of Larry Hatten

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Stays Execution of Larry Hatten

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has stayed the execution of Larry Hatten, which was scheduled to take place on Wednesday, October 15, 2014.  According to the Associated Press and reposted by KVUE, the court issued Hatten “a reprieve to resolve a 1997 filing with his trial court in Nueces County. The judges said Monday in a three-page ruling that the filing never was decided by the trial court and was never properly forwarded to the appeals court.”

The appeals court has given the trial court six months to resolve the claims in the in filing.

A Nueces County jury sentenced Hatten to death for the 1995 shooting death of 5-year-old Isaac Jackson in Corpus Christi. Jackson was killed while in bed with his mother, Tabatha Thompson, who was also severely injured. Hatten reportedly suffers from mental illness and has been forcibly medicated at times while incarcerated.  Earlier this year he decided to forego any further appeals in his case.

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13 May 2014 ~ Comments Off on 5th Circuit Grants Stay of Execution to Robert Campbell

5th Circuit Grants Stay of Execution to Robert Campbell

BREAKING: The Fifth Circuit has just stayed tonight’s scheduled execution of Robert Campbell.
The Court’s order is here:
Below is a statement from Robert C. Owen, one of Mr. Campbell’s attorneys:
“Today the Fifth Circuit has ruled that Texas may not proceed with the scheduled execution of Robert Campbell, a man whose lifelong mental retardation was not proven until new evidence, long hidden by prosecutors and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, very recently came to light.
‘The Fifth Circuit’s decision today creates an opportunity for Texas to rise above its past mistakes and seek a resolution of this matter that will better serve the interests of all parties and the public. Mr. Campbell has been fully evaluated by a highly qualified psychologist – a member of the Texas Board of Examiners of Psychologists, appointed to that post by Governor Rick Perry – who confirms he is a person with mental retardation. Therefore, according to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2002 decision in Atkins v. Virginia, he is ineligible for the death penalty.  Given the state’s own role in creating the regrettable circumstances that led to the Fifth Circuit’s decision today, the time is right for the State of Texas to let go of its efforts to execute Mr. Campbell, and resolve this case by reducing his sentence to life imprisonment.  State officials should choose the path of resolution rather than pursuing months or years of further proceedings.”  
-Robert C. Owen, Attorney for Robert Campbell, May 13, 2014

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02 April 2014 ~ Comments Off on Federal Judge Stays Executions, Orders Release of Drug Supply Source to Attorneys; Case Now Heads to U.S. Supreme Court

Federal Judge Stays Executions, Orders Release of Drug Supply Source to Attorneys; Case Now Heads to U.S. Supreme Court

Update 4/3/14: Yesterday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice must disclose the source of its new drug supply to attorneys for two inmates facing imminent execution.  The case now heads to the U.S. Supreme Court on appeal.  Read more from the Houston Chronicle.

Earlier today, a federal judge temporarily halted the executions of Tommy Lynn Sells and Ramiro Hernandez Llanas – scheduled for April 3 and April 9, respectively – “declaring that the state’s prison system must disclose to defense attorneys more information about the supplier of a new batch of lethal-injection drugs.” (“Judge halts Texas executions over drug secrecy,” Associated Press, April 2, 2014)

According to the AP, “[U.S. District Judge Vanessa] Gilmore ordered the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to provide defense attorneys with information about the supplier and how the drug was tested.”   Officials with TDCJ have refused to identify the source of the newly obtained supply of pentobarbital, the sole drug now used in Texas’ lethal injection protocol.

The state reportedly plans to appeal Judge Gilmore’s ruling.

Here’s a statement from attorneys Maurie Levin and Jonathan Ross, attorneys for the Plaintiffs (Tommy Lynn Sells and Ramiro Hernandez Llanas):

“The District Court’s Order honors and reflects the crucial importance of transparency in the execution process.  We hope that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice will finally decide to comply with the law, and cease attempting to shroud in secrecy one aspect of their job that, above all others, should be conducted in the light of day.  It is TDCJ’s attempt to manipulate the system and evade accountability and the rule of law that compelled this last minute litigation, and the need for a stay of execution to permit Plaintiffs and the courts to review the constitutionality of the means and methods by which Texas intends to carry out their execution.”

— Maurie Levin and Jonathan Ross, attorneys for the Plaintiffs | April 2, 2014

Read more about today’s developments from the Associated Press (published in the Houston Chronicle) and the Austin American-Statesman.  Links courtesy of Steve Hall at StandDown Texas.

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31 October 2013 ~ Comments Off on Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Orders Competency Hearing for Marcus Druery

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Orders Competency Hearing for Marcus Druery

On October 30, 2013, in a unanimous decision, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) ruled that death row inmate Marcus Druery is entitled to a hearing to determine his mental competency to be executed.  Last year, the CCA granted Druery a stay just days before his scheduled execution on August 1, 2012; he was convicted and sentenced to death for the 2002 murder of Skyler Browne in rural Brazos County.

On July 27, 2012, the CCA stayed his execution to consider his appeal for a hearing to determine whether his psychotic disorder renders him incompetent. The case is now remanded for competency proceedings to the 85th Judicial District Court in Brazos County.

Kate Black, attorney for Mr. Druery, issued the following statement in response:

“We are pleased that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals found sufficient evidence of Marcus Druery’s severe mental illness to warrant competency proceedings. Much of the evidence of Mr. Druery’s mental illness comes from the State’s own mental health professionals, who have repeatedly diagnosed Mr. Druery as schizophrenic, paranoid and delusional. A full hearing is critically important to establish that Mr. Druery lacks a rational understanding of his execution. We are confident that the Brazos County District Court will give Mr. Druery’s case the thorough and fair consideration it deserves in order to ensure that Texas does not execute a severely psychotic man.”

 Kate Black, Attorney for Marcus Druery
October 30, 2013

View in-depth coverage of the ruling from in Bryan/College Station.

Previous posts on the case of Marcus Druery are available on the TCADP blog here, here,  here, and here.

Link to CCA Ruling:

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