deth penalty news- TEXAS… Darlie Routier, Charles Dean Hood, Cost of Wrongful Conviction, Ronnie Joe Neal

June 19


Darlie Routier talks of new hope from death row

A Rowlett mother placed on death row for the murder of her 2 sons has
expressed hope that new DNA tests will clear her name.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled Wednesday that Darlie Routier,
who has always claimed a home intruder was the true killer, will be
allowed to re-conduct DNA testing on items from the scene of the crime.

Routier’s night shirt and a tube sock found in the alley are among the
items that have been cleared for testing.

In an original test on the blood-stained tube sock, blood was determined
to be from the boys. A third stain on the sock yielded no results.

Routier said she hopes the DNA tests will find another source of blood,
other than her’s or her two sons’.

But Routier will not be allowed to test a bloody palm print that was found
on the coffee table, or the blood stains on the butcher knife
investigators have said was the murder weapon.

Routier was convicted more than 10 years ago.

Talking from jail, Routier said that new technology will prove that she is
not a killer.

“Well, do you have that much time?” said Routier when asked how so many
people, and the justice system, could have been wrong in her case.

When Rowlett police arrested Routier in 1996, they were certain they had
it right. The prosecution said Routier stabbed her children, Devon and
Damon, and then stabbed herself to cover it up. The jury agreed.

“I was there,” she said. “I know that I didn’t murder my children. I know
I did not attack myself.”

Wednesday, a judge ruled Routier’s legal team can take a fresh look at
hair and blood evidence. All that will be tested is evidence that, at the
time, could not be linked to anyone in the house.

“Everything that I’ve said is a truth,” Routier said. “And it’s right
there. It’s just a matter of a person taking the time to really look at

The judge denied a request to a bloody fingerprint that could not be
linked to anyone during original testing. Routier said there are 2 such

“To me, when you have 2 bloody finger prints that are found at a crime
scene that don’t belong to anybody that worked on the crime scene and
don’t belong to anybody that lived in the home, it pretty much tells you
that somebody else was in the home that committed that crime,” Routier
said. “And for me, why am I still here?”

The judge’s ruling said the case against Routier is still strong. But if
new testing supports Routier’s claim, it might be enough to sway a jury.

(source: WFAA News)


Rowlett mom on death row Darlie Routier granted DNA testing

Convicted child killer Darlie Lynn Routier won the right from the state’s
highest criminal appeals court Wednesday to use DNA to test her contention
that an unidentified intruder murdered her young sons in their Rowlett

Reversing a Dallas judge’s decision, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
ruled unanimously that Mrs. Routier, 38, is entitled to have more
sophisticated genetic testing performed on a few pieces of hair and blood
evidence collected from the 1996 crime scene.

State District Judge Robert Francis denied Mrs. Routier’s request for
testing last year after concluding it could not exonerate her. But the
Austin court said Judge Francis had misinterpreted the 2001 law that
permits genetic tests for inmates.

District Attorney Craig Watkins predicted the Austin court’s ruling would
have no effect on Mrs. Routier’s capital murder conviction and death

“This administration has reviewed the case, and we have no doubt about
Mrs. Routier’s guilt,” Mr. Watkins said in a prepared statement. “We are
confident that the new testing will reaffirm the jury’s decision.”

Mr. Watkins, who inherited Mrs. Routier’s case when he took office last
year, has made DNA testing a hallmark of his administration. His office
had been discussing an agreement to grant testing but this week rejected
it, Mrs. Routier’s attorney said.

Mrs. Routier’s family hailed the decision as a breakthrough in a 12-year
effort to prove her innocence in the stabbing death of her 5-year-old son,
Damon. She was also accused in the death of a 2nd son but never tried on
that charge.

“This is a 1st step and major win for Darlie and a major win for others,”
said Mrs. Routier’s mother, Darlie Kee. “People have been exonerated
because of DNA, and we believe that will hold true for Darlie.”

Steve Cooper, a Dallas attorney for Mrs. Routier, said he was pleased the
court agreed to order genetic testing but was cautious about his clients
chances of winning a new trial.

“It’s not a long shot,” he said, “but it’s certainly not more likely than

The outcome hinges on connecting at least 2 pieces of biological evidence
to the same person who is not a member of the Routier family, Mr. Cooper

The appeals court said that while prosecutors presented sufficient
evidence to convict Mrs. Routier of stabbing her son to death, biological
evidence of an uninvited person in the home could have raised enough doubt
among jurors to acquit her.

The court did not grant Mrs. Routier all the tests sought by her attorney,
but it did declare that she had met the legal standard to test pubic and
facial hairs and bloodstains from clothing that was previously tested but
yielded no clear results.

“If we get, for instance, a bloodstain,” Mr. Cooper said, “we know it had
to occur that night. And we get a facial hair from the same person and
it’s not a Routier, then we as the court says have gone a long way to
proving the intruder theory.”

The grisly murders of Damon Routier and his older brother, Devon, while
they slept inside their home the night of June 6, 1996, were headline
news. Their mother, who had knife wounds she blamed on an intruder, was
arrested in the killings 12 days later. She was tried and convicted only
in the murder of Damon.

The state’s case against Mrs. Routier was circumstantial. Prosecutors
contended she murdered her boys to salvage a lavish lifestyle in decline.

The defense blamed the killings on an unidentified intruder who attacked
when he was discovered.

The jury deliberated nine hours before convicting Mrs. Routier of killing
Damon and another 4 hours before sentencing her to die by lethal

She remains on the state’s death row for women in Gatesville.

Twice, the Austin court has rejected appeals to overturn her conviction.
The ruling on DNA tests did not state any conclusions about her guilt or

The judges found that both the state’s theory and the defense’s version of
what occurred the night of the attacks had strengths and weaknesses.

We think that adding DNA evidence that would corroborate the appellants
account of an unknown intruder to the evidentiary mix could readily have
tipped the jurys verdict in the appellants favor, Judge Tom Price wrote
for the court

The court rejected defense requests for DNA analysis of untested evidence
or tests that had already yielded results. But it declared that the law
allowed for retesting with technology not available at the time of the
original trial.

Brian Wice, a Houston attorney who argues frequently before the Court of
Criminal Appeals, said its decision was notable but not extraordinary.
“It’s certainly not something along the lines of Halley’s Comet,” he said.

Greg Davis, who was the lead prosecutor in Mrs. Routier’s case, said the
Austin court was “bending over backward” to give Mrs. Routier a chance to
make her argument. But he said he was not concerned that testing would
alter the outcome.

“At this point,” Mr. Davis said, “I favor the testing because it’s going
to resolve any doubts that anyone has about this case.”

Mrs. Kee said she believes the tests will ultimately free her daughter.

“I’m looking forward to the day that Darlie shakes hands with Craig
Watkins,” she said. “I believe that day will come.”


Timeline: Darlie Routier case

June 6, 1996: Routier brothers Damon, 5, and Devon, 6, are found stabbed
to death in the family’s Rowlett home. Darlie Routier, 26, has cut and
stab wounds on her neck and upper body. Husband Darin Routier, 28, and son
Drake, 8 months, are unharmed.

June 18, 1996: Mrs. Routier is arrested on capital murder charges.

February 1997: After a change of venue, jurors in Kerrville convict Mrs.
Routier of capital murder and sentence her to death for killing Damon.

May 21, 2003: The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals upholds the conviction
and sentence.

Dec. 1, 2004: The Court of Criminal Appeals denies a writ of habeas

Jan. 25, 2007: Dallas Judge Robert Francis denies Mrs. Routier’s request
for DNA testing.

June 18, 2008: The Court of Criminal Appeals overrules Judge Francis and
grants limited DNA testing.


Execution delay in Collin County case started long night of legal

The morning after the clock dramatically ran out on Charles Dean Hood’s
death warrant, weary prosecutors and defense attorneys girded themselves
for more legal sparring as soon as they figure out the options in the
confusing case.

In the meantime, both sides are ratcheting up the rhetoric in an appeal
that is attracting national attention because of its sensational claims
that Mr. Hood, who was convicted of killing two people in Plano in 1989,
did not receive a fair trial because of an alleged intimate relationship
between the trial judge and the district attorney who prosecuted the case.

“What’s important to know about yesterday was that we saw an unprecedented
level of aggression by the prosecutors in particular, but also endorsed by
the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, to carry out this execution,” said
Andrea Keilen, executive director of the Texas Defender Service, which is
representing Mr. Hood.

“It is outrageous that in the face of such clear and compelling evidence
of an improper relationship between the judge and the prosecutor that
there would be such relentless pushing for the execution to proceed,” she

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Chief Justice Sharon Keller denied there
was any rush to judgment or effort to avoid the issue. “Not at all,” she
said of what she termed a “wild” night. “I can’t say much more than that
because the case is still going to be pending.”

The jab from the defense elicited a terse response from the normally
close-mouthed prosecutor, Collin County Assistant District Attorney John

“That’s unworthy of response,” he said.

Mr. Rolater said his office would file a motion with the clerk of the
trial court seeking a new execution date.

Tuesday afternoon, the judge sitting in the original court vacated the
death warrant less than two hours before the scheduled execution, then
abruptly recused himself from the case. He requested that the regional
administrative judge, John Ovard, assign a new judge.

When the prosecution appealed, the Court of Criminal Appeals initially
ruled it couldn’t do anything because of the recusal. After the
prosecution appealed again, the court ordered Judge Ovard to reinstate the
death warrant.

Judge Ovard was at home watching a video with his wife when he was
surprised, first by a call from the prosecution, then from a staff
attorney at the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Because he didn’t know the assistant district attorney or the court’s
staff attorney, he asked “to speak with someone from the court that I know
… at which point they put me in contact with Chief Justice Sharon

Judge Ovard also spoke with a defense attorney.

After reading the order from the Court of Criminal Appeals and researching
the issue, he said he didn’t think he had any choice but to follow the
order, so he assigned himself to the case and reinstated the death

He did not feel pressured by Justice Keller, he said, but “the order
stated bluntly they were ordering me to do this,” he said. “It wasn’t like
‘we suggest’ or ‘consider doing’ [this].”

Justice Keller said she did not pressure Judge Ovard. “He called me,” she
said. “He wanted to make sure that he understood exactly what was going on
and that this was a valid order of the court.”

While the prosecution prepared to reschedule Mr. Hood’s execution, the
defense was pondering its next move.

The defense has a motion pending for discovery of evidence about the
relationship between the judge and prosecutor in the case. Although the
defense would like to find new evidence, Ms. Keilen said its current claim
of judicial bias, based on an affidavit from a former assistant district
attorney who said the relationship was “common knowledge,” has not been to
the U.S. Supreme Court.

If an intimate relationship existed, she said, it should result in a
reversal of Mr. Hood’s conviction and sentence.

Larry Fox, an expert on legal ethics who has joined the defense request
for a review of the issue, said the defense faces an uphill battle
“because of the procedural posture of the case.”

While attorneys in McKinney, Austin and San Francisco furiously worked the
phones and fax machines to judges in Dallas, Austin and Washington, it was
the director of the state’s prison system who stopped the execution.

“There were various appeals and rulings that were going on throughout the
night,” said Jason Clark, public information officer for the Texas
Department of Criminal Justice. “After all the appeals were exhausted,
there simply wasn’t enough time to follow the proper execution protocol.”

Death row delay in Huntsville

The crime: Charles Dean Hood, now 38, was convicted in 1990 of robbing and
shooting Ronald Williamson and his girlfriend, Tracie Lynn Wallace, at Mr.
Williamson’s home in Plano in 1989.

The punishment: Mr. Hood was set to be executed at 6 p.m. Tuesday in

The delay: The execution was postponed as a flurry of last-minute appeals
kept attorneys and judges filing and responding to legal motions late into
the night.

The postponement: The way was finally cleared for his execution about 11
p.m., but “time became an issue,” said Jason Clark of the Texas Department
of Criminal Justice. The execution has to be carried out by midnight, when
the death warrant expires, so prison officials decided to call it off. Mr.
Clark said it takes varying amounts of time to get the condemned man out
of his cell and into the death chamber or to find a vein for the needle.

The aftermath: Mr. Hood was returned to his cell on death row to await a
new sentencing date while legal wrangling continues. The relatives of
victims Mr. Williamson and Ms. Wallace could not be reached for comment.

(source for both: Dallas Morning News)


Court’s actions are ‘outrageous,’ Hood attorney says—-Prosecutors to
seek new execution date for man guilty of double slaying.

Defense lawyers have accused Texas’ highest criminal court of conducting
an unseemly if ultimately unsuccessful rush to execute Charles Dean
Hood, who was spared lethal injection when a chaotic flurry of court
filings and rulings led to the expiration of his death warrant at midnight

On Tuesday night, the Court of Criminal Appeals issued a ruling allowing
Hood’s execution to proceed without hearing defense arguments. “In rapid
litigation like this, to act without getting input from both sides is
outrageous. It’s not judicious,” Hood lawyer Gregory Wiercioch, with the
nonprofit Texas Defender Service, said Wednesday.

But Judge Cheryl Johnson, who was in charge of Hood’s case for the
nine-member appeals court, said defense lawyers were given ample
opportunity for input. “They said they needed one hour, but three hours
later we had no response,” Johnson said. “We waited.”

Lawrence Fox, former chairman of the American Bar Association’s ethics
committee, is also troubled that the court issued its writ of mandamus
without hearing from Hood’s defense. “The writ only issues to prevent
irreparable injury,” he said. “There is no irreparable injury in not
executing him; you can always execute him tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, Collin County prosecutors vowed Wednesday to seek a new
execution date for Hood, convicted of a double killing in Plano in 1990.
“I don’t know when we’ll file the motion seeking it,” said John Rolater,
an assistant district attorney.

Defense lawyers vowed to pursue accusations that Hood’s trial judge and
trial prosecutor were engaged in a secret romance the crux of Hood’s
last-minute appeals.

The accusation strikes at the heart of American jurisprudence: the concept
that criminal trials must be conducted by an impartial judge who must make
dozens of decisions, from what evidence can be introduced to which
questions can be asked, untainted by bias. The standard is so important
that even the appearance of bias can force a judge off a case.

But appeals courts operate along narrowly defined avenues of state law,
and the Court of Criminal Appeals rejected the appeal, saying accusations
of a relationship between former District Judge Verla Sue Holland and
then-District Attorney Tom O’Connell should have been raised in an appeal
filed in 1997. “We’re always accused of being callous and bloodthirsty,
when what we are doing is what the Legislature requires us to do,” Johnson

Still, the relationship argument gained traction Tuesday about 2 hours
before Hood was to be executed at about 6 p.m. during a 15-minute hearing
by telephone with District Judge Curt Henderson.

Wiercioch asked the judge to withdraw Hood’s death warrant to allow time
to investigate the alleged Holland-O’Connell relationship. Henderson
agreed, over prosecutors’ objections.

Collin County prosecutors spent the next seven hours working to undo
Henderson’s order finally prevailing when the Court of Criminal Appeals
ruled that Henderson did not have the authority to halt the execution.

But the appeals finished too late for prison officials, who determined
that there was not enough time to get the lethal chemicals flowing before
the death warrant expired at midnight.

(source: Austin American-Statesman)


CCA Jump-Starts the Death Machine

Tom PriceIn 2 opinions issued June 9, the state Court of Criminal Appeals
cleared the way for executions to resume in Texas, after an 8-month hiatus
imposed by federal legal challenges to lethal injection as an inhumane
method of execution. 2 days later, the state executed its 1st inmate since
September, Karl Chamberlain, for a 1991 murder in Dallas. Another dozen
inmates are currently scheduled for execution this year.

Ruling on challenges to the method of execution, filed by inmates John
Alba and Heliberto Chi, a plurality of the court, led by Judge Barbara
Hervey, ruled in Chi’s case that Texas’ tri-chemical method of lethal
injection is “materially indistinguishable” from that used by the state of
Kentucky, which the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year ruled does not
violate the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments. The issue
in that case (Baze v. Rees) was, in essence, whether “maladministration”
of 1 of the 3 chemicals that make up the lethal injection cocktail would
expose an inmate to unwarranted and excruciating pain. In that case based
on a full review of case and evidence record the Supremes concluded that
the “risks of maladministration [the inmates] have suggested such as
improper mixing of chemicals and improper setting of IVs by trained and
experienced personnel cannot remotely be characterized as ‘objectively
intolerable.'” Without similarly reviewing any evidence that the Texas
experience with the tri-chem method of execution might be different from
that in Kentucky, a CCA plurality adopted the language of the Supremes,
opining that the Baze ruling applies equally in Texas. That allowed the
court to conclude that Chi’s claim to the contrary “has no merit” and
therefore that he “cannot establish that he has a clear right to …

In ruling against the challenges brought by both Alba and Chi, the court
also opined that inmates have no right to challenge the method of
execution using the state’s habeas corpus law. A habeas claim “must
challenge the judgment against the applicant or seek to change his
sentence,” Judge Lawrence Meyers wrote for a plurality of the court in
Alba’s case and challenging lethal injection doesn’t qualify. The court
agreed with the argument of the Texas attorney general that because
neither inmate is “contesting the validity of his conviction or his death
sentence” and instead seeks “only to challenge a circumstance of his
conviction, habeas corpus cannot provide a remedy.” (The U.S. Supreme
Court in the past has allowed a challenge to execution method via a habeas
writ but in recent years has suggested such challenges should be brought
instead as civil rights claims.) Further, the CCA agreed with the state
argument that because the Legislature granted authority “to determine the
specific lethal-injection process” to the state’s Department of Criminal
Justice, challenging the process is “outside the scope of habeas corpus,”
Meyers wrote.

The court’s reasoning was rejected in 2 strongly worded dissents one
filed by Judge Cheryl Johnson (joined by Judge Charles Holcomb), the other
by Judge Tom Price. In her opinion, Johnson concluded that the plurality
was wrong to merely adopt the Supremes’ ruling in Baze with no other
inquiry or review. “The federal courts have returned this case to us so
that [Alba] may exhaust his state remedies on a claim of an Eighth
Amendment violation,” she wrote. “Our response is to close all avenues for
review. When a claim of constitutional dimension is raised, there simply
must be a mechanism for considering it on its merits.”

In his even more scathing dissent, Price accused the plurality’s rejection
of the use of habeas corpus to challenge lethal injection as effectively
“withholding the rudiments of due process.” Price said the ruling reflects
an “unseemly haste to crank the machine back up” and declared, “I cannot
go along with this.” State habeas should be available to an inmate seeking
to assert the “one substantive constitutional right he unquestionably
retains … the right, when the time comes, to be executed in a humane
manner,” Price wrote. “I cannot accept that the Great Writ should not be
an available remedy for the applicant to raise an Eighth Amendment
challenge … on the ground that it does not impact the ‘fact or length,’
of his confinement,” Price continued. “Apparently the Court will not
tolerate actual litigation of the issue if that means the death machine
meanwhile must stand idle,” he wrote. “But we cannot fix the machine while
the cogs are turning.”

(source: Austin Chronicle)


Wrongful convictions an expensive proposition

You can argue that it’s morally outrageous when individuals lose days,
months or years of their lives in prison after being wrongly convicted of
committing a crime.

Imprisonment, after all, is meant to hold lawbreakers responsible for
their own actions and to deter other wrongdoing by demonstrating that
offenders will be caught and punished.

You can argue that it’s legally absurd to lock up someone who didn’t
actually do the deed.

The legal system exists, after all, to find the truth and to enforce the
rules fairly, accurately and appropriately. When the system fails, its
credibility suffers — and public confidence is essential.

You can argue that it threatens public safety to consider a criminal case
closed when the accused who’s been convicted and sentenced is not the real

The public depends, after all, on the proper incarceration of dangerous
individuals. If the criminal justice system figuratively washes its hands
once someone is found guilty, actual offenders remain free or

But for those who still aren’t convinced by those worthy arguments that
Texas needs more safeguards against wrongful convictions, there’s still
the bottom line.

And here’s the black and white from the Texas comptroller’s office: 45
people have been paid almost $8.5 million since 2001.

Under current law, a convicted individual who has been pardoned because of
a wrongful conviction or has been declared actually innocent can apply to
the Texas comptroller’s office for compensation of $50,000 per year of
imprisonment, $100,000 per year if in on a death sentence. (Before last
year, it was $25,000 a year, up to $500,000.)

Among the 45 listed by the comptroller’s office — see the partial list
that accompanies this column — are 19 of the 35 Tulia residents whom Gov.
Rick Perry pardoned in 2003 after an undercover agent whose testimony was
used against them on drug charges was discredited. Their payments range
from $14,500 to more than $106,000.

The problem with money is that it can’t make up for lost time and the
other life disruptions that accompany being wrongly accused, convicted and
imprisoned. That’s a whole other story.

Nor does the compensation that the state has paid account for what
taxpayers put in on the front end of those prosecutions or to house
prisoners who don’t belong there.

You can make lots of arguments for improving the system. It’s hard to
argue against it.


These are the top 10 amounts cited by the Texas comptroller’s office:

$1,000,000 — Larry Charles Fuller, Dallas County: Spent almost 20 years
in prison, convicted of a 1981 rape based on the victim’s identification.
Exonerated through DNA testing in 2007.

$608,333 — John Michael Harvey, Tarrant County: Served almost 13 years of
a 40-year sentence, convicted of molesting the 3-year-old daughter of a
former girlfriend. Found actually innocent by courts after the girl
recanted the accusation, released in 2004.

(Fuller and Harvey won’t receive half their money until later this year
because the law requires payment in 2 installments.)

$500,000 — Billy Wayne Miller, Dallas County: Served more than 22 years
of a life sentence, convicted of 1984 sexual assault. Exonerated through
DNA testing in 2006.

$452,083 — Arthur Merle Mumphrey, Montgomery County: Served 18 years,
convicted of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl at knifepoint in 1986.
Exonerated through DNA testing and pardoned in 2006.

$435,416 — Carlos Lavernia, Travis County: Served 17 years of a 99-year
sentence, convicted of aggravated sexual abuse largely on the victim’s
identification. Exonerated through DNA testing in 2000.

$429,166 — Ernest Ray Willis, Pecos County: Served 17 years on death row,
convicted of deliberately setting a fire in which 2 women died. A federal
judge ruled that the state withheld evidence and improperly drugged Willis
and that his lawyer was ineffective. A new investigation found the fire
wasn’t arson. Charges were dropped.

$391,666 — Victor Larue Thomas, Ellis County: Served more than 15 years,
convicted of raping a store clerk at gunpoint in 1985. Exonerated through
DNA testing in 2001.

$387,499 — Wiley Edward Fountain, Dallas County: Served 15 years,
convicted of aggravated sexual assault in 1986. Exonerated through DNA
testing in 2002. (CNN reported recently that he had become homeless and
could not be found.)

$385,416 — David Shawn Pope, Dallas County: Served 15 years of a 45-year
sentence, convicted of raping a Garland woman at knifepoint in 1985.
Exonerated through DNA testing in 2001.

$374,999 — Calvin Edward Washington, McLennan County: Served almost 15
years of a life sentence, convicted of raping and killing a woman in 1986.
Exonerated through DNA testing in 2001.

(source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram)


Court rejects appeal of man who killed Heights teacher

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday upheld the conviction and
death sentence of Ronnie Joe Neal, found guilty two years ago of raping,
robbing and killing a beloved Alamo Heights schoolteacher for whom he had
once worked.

In its ruling, the state’s highest criminal court rejected Neal’s 26
points of error, affirming the trial court’s judgment that Neal was
responsible for fatally shooting Diane Tilly, whose disappearance during
the 2004 Thanksgiving holiday gripped the city until her body was found in
an empty Schertz field.

“We’re pleased with this decision, First Assistant District Attorney Cliff
Herberg said. “The case against Neal was very strong and we expected it to
be upheld.”

Neal’s attorney for the appeals process did not return calls seeking

Neal, 35, had been a lawn man for Tilly, the founding teacher at Robbins
Academy. He introduced her to his daughter Pearl Cruz, 15 at the time, who
later was the 1st to enter Tilly’s home, holding the teacher at gunpoint
as Cruz waited for her father.

Neal then raped Tilly as he held a sheet over her head, used her ATM card,
stole other valuable possessions, and eventually drove Tilly to the field
where she was shot.

In Neal’s trial, Cruz testified against him, offering disturbing details
not only of Tilly’s last hours but also of Neal’s abusive relationship
with Cruz, which included a sexual relationship that led to the teen’s
pregnancy. She was sentenced to 30 years in prison for her role in the

In its ruling Wednesday, the court rejected an array of issues raised by
Neal’s attorneys, including whether testimony from a cellmate should have
been admitted, whether officers had enough probable cause to search his
car and his motel room, and whether jurors were properly instructed on how
to decide his guilt.

6 of his points related to a contentious issue raised during Neal’s
punishment phase when he claimed he has mental retardation a condition
that would have made him ineligible for the death penalty after a 2002
U.S. Supreme Court ruling that banned executions of those with mental

It was the 1st time Bexar County jurors were forced to confront the

Because Texas has no law dictating how to make that diagnosis, it’s up to
each court to decide. In what he then called an abundance of caution,
District Judge Sid Harle elected to not only make his own ruling, but also
punted it to jurors. Both decided Neal does not have mental retardation.

Neal argued, in part, that the trial court erred when it did not order a
separate jury to determine whether he has mental retardation. Though the
court rejected that claim, Justice Lawrence E. Myers wrote in a concurring
opinion that a jury that has already convicted a defendant may not be in
the best position to decide whether he has mental retardation. He favored
a separate panel to decide the issue prior to the trial.

In Neal’s case, however, he said he did not dispute the jury’s findings.

(source: San Antonio Express-Mews)

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