death penalty news—-TEXAS

June 11


Hours Before Texas Gets Back in the Execution Business, a Small Protest

Ex-con Andres Latallade, also known as Capitol X, at the protest in front
of the Crowley todayHours before Karl Eugene Chamberlain is scheduled to
be executed for the rape and murder of Felecia Prechtl in Dallas in 1991,
a small group of protesters gathered on the steps of the Frank Crowley
Courts Building to condemn the practice of putting people to death as a
matter of public policy. Chamberlain will be the 1st execution in the
state since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of lethal
injections in April.

Dr. Rick Halperin, director of SMU's Human Rights Education Program, went
so far as to voice optimism about the end of executions in the state
that's most fond of them. "I tell you as sure as the sun comes up
tomorrow," he said. "We are going to live to see the end of this horror in

How might that happen? Halperin said his hope lies with legislators, such
as Houston State Senator Rodney Ellis, who fought to end executions of the
mentally retarded, as well as with the Dallas County District Attorneys
Office and the Innocence Project of Texas.

"The D.A. here has set a healthier tone," Halperin says, referring to
Craig Watkins' relationship with the Innocence Project and its efforts to
use DNA evidence to exonerate the wrongly convicted. We have people on
Death Row in this county who have strong claims of innocence."

He also pointed out that juries in Texas and nationwide are becoming less
likely to endorse death sentences. The number of annual death sentences
issued across the country dropped from more than 300 4 years ago to 114
last year, Halperin said. Juries — and Americans in general — he
insists, are coming around to the idea that lengthy sentences are an
effective means of securing public safety without taking a life. Besides,
he adds, it's widely accepted knowledge that it costs taxpayers roughly
half the money — $1 million — to house a prisoner for life than it does
to execute him (including appeals, the price tag is around $2.3 million).

Also rallying this morning was Andres Latallade, a New York man who served
some 13 years in prisons in the Northeast and recently walked from New
Jersey to Austin to protest the death penalty on behalf of a group called
Journey of Hope.

"I woke up one day and thought, 'I'm walking to Texas," he said. "I felt
like the opinion of the death penalty was tipping in our favor, so maybe
if I could educate a couple thousand people we could really tip it." The
trek took him 55 days — about 35 miles per day, he said, showing the
bulging calves he developed along the way.

His next stop is Huntsville, where Karl Chamberlain is scheduled to be put
to death before sunrise.

(source: Dallas Observer)


Accused Serial Killer Paul Devoe Appears In Texas Court

A man accused of killing a Greencastle woman during a killing spree was in
court Monday.

Prosecutors say Paul Devoe killed Betty Dehart of Greencastle, then stole
her car and was caught by police in New York. Investigators also say he
killed 5 people in Texas prior to that.

A Texas judge said he will allow statements Devoe made after his arrest in
New York in Devoe's death penalty trial.

Prosecutors said Devoe made a written confession to police saying he found
Dehart in her Greencastle home hiding under her bed covers where he killed

His Texas trial is scheduled to begin in September.

(source: Your4State)


Blair granted retrial after DNA analysis

Collin County granted convicted killer Michael Blair a retrial after new
DNA evidence showed no link between him and 7-year-old Ashley Estell.

"Although Mr. Blair has not been exonerated, I believe the evidence as it
now stands meets the criteria for relief under the law, said John R.
Roach, Collin county criminal district attorney. "There is no good faith
argument to support the current conviction in light of the facts and the
law as they now exist. Therefore, under my duty to not only uphold the
law, but to see that justice is done, the State is joining today with the
defense team in its request for relief."

Blair was convicted with the abduction and killing of 7-year-old Ashley
Estell in 1993.

Philip Wischkaemper, a Lubbock district attorney who represented Blair in
the appellate courts, said he believes law enforcement was under
tremendous pressure to solve this high-profile case quickly.

"Collin County's case against Michael Blair is no better than before, it's
worse" Wischkaemper said. "They've admitted and stipulated there is no DNA
evidence to link Michael Blair to Ashley Estell."

Wischkaemper could not speculate when Blair's re-trial will take place,
but said he hopes something will happen soon. "DNA evidence not linking
Michael Blair to the crime has been coming back for 10 years,"
Wischkaemper said. "DNA evidence was around at the time of the trial, but
it was not what we needed. The mitochondrial DNA used now is more accurate
compared to the microscopic DNA that convicted Michael Blair of the

Roach said the expert hair comparison testimony in trial that connected
Ashley Estell and Blair has been disproved by DNA testing of a type that
was not available at the time of the trial in 1994.

"None of the hairs belong to either Ashley Estell or Mr. Blair," Roach
said. "No other credible, individualized forensic evidence connects Ashley
Estell and Mr. Blair."

Roach said in November 2006, he assembled a select group of investigators
and prosecutors from his office and assigned them the task of
re-investigating the Blair capital murder case.

Since then, the team has expended more than 5,000 hours, interviewed more
than 50 witnesses and spent more than $47,000 on its investigation.

"They exhaustively reviewed records, files and evidence related to the
case as well as tracking down new leads and information, Roach said. DNA
testing was performed on a number of items of evidence that had never
before been DNA tested. The result: the team discovered no new evidence
connecting Mr. Blair to Ashley Estell as well as no new evidence
demonstrating Mr. Blair's guilt."

He said the team identified at least one other person of interest during
their investigation.

"This person not only exhibited suspicious activity after the murder, much
as Mr. Blair did, but this person cannot be scientifically excluded as a
contributor to a piece of DNA evidence in the case, Roach said.
"Unfortunately, despite strenuous efforts, the team has been unable to
eliminate or conclusively connect this person to the offenses."

Even if the courts decide to overturn Blair's murder charge, Wischkaemper
said he will still serve his 3 consecutive life sentences for child sex
crimes he admitted to in 2004.

"The most important part of this case is getting Michael Blair off death
row and this new evidence could do that," Wischkaemper said.

(source: Plano Star)