death penalty news—-TEXAS

April 8


Murderer aims to speed up execution—-Selwyn Davis expected to pursue
only a required appeal.

In a move that could trim his stay on Texas' death row from the norm of
about 10 years to less than 2, condemned killer Selwyn P. Davis wants to
waive most of his appeals, according to his lawyer.

Ariel Payan, Davis' appeals lawyer, declined to say why Davis doesn't want
to carry out all of his appeals.

During his October trial in Travis County, Davis' lawyers said he conceded
that he fatally stabbed Regina Lara, his ex-girlfriend's mother, at her
381/2 Street apartment. But they argued that his crime was not committed
in the course of a burglary and robbery, as charged, and that therefore it
didn't fit Texas' definition of capital murder.

Davis killed Lara during a 2-day crime spree that began when he beat his
ex-girlfriend, fracturing her eye socket, and poured rubbing alcohol over
her head and threatened to set her on fire, according to testimony. During
the capital murder trial, Davis stuck his middle finger up at Lara's

It is uncommon for death row inmates to waive their appeals, and some
defendants who initially say they don't want to appeal change their minds,
according to death penalty lawyers. These include William Murray, a North
Texas man condemned in 1998.

Murray, convicted of killing an elderly woman in Kaufman, said in 1999
that he wanted his execution expedited. He is still on death row after
years of appeals, including a legal fight to reinstate his appellate

Just over a year after Angel Maturino Resendiz was sentenced to death in
2000 for killing a Houston doctor, the confessed serial killer
acknowledged his guilt and said he wanted to waive his appeals in the
case. But his mental competency to do so was questioned, and a series of
appeals was eventually filed on his behalf. He was executed in 2006.

The average stay on Texas' death row is 10 years and 3 months, according
to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Since Texas reinstated the
death penalty in the early 1980s, the inmate with the shortest stay on
death row before execution was Joe Gonzales, who was executed in 1996
after eight months there. Gonzales, a roofer, was convicted in Potter
County of the murder and robbery of his boss in Amarillo and waived his

Davis, 26, was sent to death row in Livingston from Travis County on Oct.
17, 2007, two days after his death sentence was announced. On Nov. 20, he
wrote the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals a letter.

"I would like to cancel my appeals," the letter said, in part. "All of

Last month, the court entered an order stating that Texas law guarantees a
review by the Court of Criminal Appeals of a death penalty conviction and
sentence. Payan said Davis has agreed to cooperate in that so-called
direct appeal. But Payan said that Davis wants to waive his right to file
applications for writ of habeas corpus in federal and state courts, the
process by which inmates can challenge the legality of their

That process, which takes years to run its course, can be waived.

Once briefs are filed by Davis and the state in the direct appeal, the
Court of Criminal Appeals is under no time limit to issue an order. Payan
said some decisions are reached within months and others take years. He
estimates the quickest Davis' case could be disposed on appeal and ready
for an execution date would be in a year and a half.

Executions in Texas have been on hold since September as the U.S. Supreme
Court considers the constitutionality of lethal injection. A decision is
expected this summer.

Davis is in the Travis County Jail and will appear Friday before state
District Judge Julie Kocurek, who presided over his trial. The Court of
Criminal Appeals ordered Kocurek to question Davis on a series of issues
related to his appeals, including whether he wants to waive any rights,
and if so, whether he makes that waiver knowingly and intentionally.

Even if he did waive his right to appeal, the court would examine the
trial record in its own review of the case, said University of Texas law
professor Rob Owen, co-director of the school's Capital Punishment Clinic.

"There is a very strong public interest in ensuring that the Court of
Criminal Appeals reviews every death penalty at least once to ensure
conformity with basic fundamental rights," Owen said.

Owen said that Davis' history of mental problems his lawyers argued in
trial that he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder coupled with the
"dehumanizing conditions" on death row could have led to Davis' decision.

Owen said that Kocurek will need to learn whether Davis' "decision or this
desire was a product of a rational thought process or an unfettered will"
before allowing him to waive any rights.

(source: Austin American-Statesman)