death penalty news—-TEXAS

Jan. 23

TEXAS—-death sentence overturned

Man's death sentence overturned

A Galveston man convicted of capital murder in the brutal killing of a
college instructor in 1993 will remain on death row while prosecutors
decide whether to appeal the reversal of his death sentence.

Gaylon George Walbey Jr., 34, was sentenced to die in the May, 4, 1993,
slaying of Marionette Beyah, who had been his foster mother in 1988 and
1989. Police found Beyah, 46, bludgeoned to death inside her island home.
Police said she interrupted Walbey's burglary of her residence.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued an opinion Monday
reversing Walbey's death sentence, citing ineffectiveness of council
during his punishment hearing. As the reason for the reversal, the court's
opinion states defense attorney Roger Ezell failed to investigate
mitigating circumstances of Walbey's mental state, childhood and a host of
other potentially mitigating circumstances.

Ezell, who works for the appellate division of the Galveston County
District Attorney's Office, said Thursday he disagreed with the court's
decision and would have no part in the state's proceedings regarding

Reasons For Reversal

The court stated Ezell waited until the week before the hearing to prepare
for Walbey's punishment phase and only skimmed the records provided by the
district attorney on Walbey's background.

Ezell failed to contact potential witnesses, namely Walbey's mother, and
others who had direct knowledge of Walbeys "troubled" childhood, the
opinion states.

Ezell also didnt probe Walbey's relationship to Beyah, even though there
were no impediments to conducting an investigation or to hiring a
mitigation expert, the opinion states.

The appeal of Walbeys death sentence has been ongoing for 14 years, and
the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and a federal appeals court judge
upheld the death sentence, Ezell said.

Guilty Plea Withdrawn

Walbey originally agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence,
but changed his mind, Ezell said.

"There was a prisoner from death row at the court house for a hearing, and
they put him in the same holding cell with the prisoner," Ezell said. "The
guy talked him (Walbey) into rolling the dice. That prisoner now of course
has been executed."

The appeals court ordered a new punishment phase of Walbey's capital trial
or the imposition of the appropriate noncapital alternative sentence.

Joel Bennett, 1st-assistant criminal district attorney for Galveston
County, said no decision has been made on whether to appeal to the U.S.
Supreme Court.

The state has 14 days to decide whether to ask the appeals court to
reconsider its opinion or 90 days to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review
the case, said Tom Kelley, a spokesman for the Texas Attorney General.

(source: Galveston Daily News)