Texas death row inmate loses appeal at 5th Circuit
A federal appeals court has upheld the conviction and death sentence of a
Houston man tied to at least 4 slayings during a six-month crime wave.
The ruling from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals moves Franklin
Dewayne Alix, 33, a step closer to execution for fatally shooting Eric
Bridgeford, 23, during a robbery after abducting and raping Bridgeford's
Attorneys for Alix, described in his 1998 trial as a drug addict, had
argued at his trial that the sex with Bridgeford's sister was consensual
and that the shooting was in self-defense.
In his appeal to the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit, Alix was seeking
permission to move forward with appeals contending a lower federal court
should have allowed him an evidentiary hearing before rejecting his
appeal. He also claimed a medical examiner improperly testified against
him, Harris County prosecutors knew that testimony was improper, DNA
evidence excluding him from the slaying improperly was withheld by
prosecutors and that his trial lawyers were deficient.
In its ruling late Monday, the 5th Circuit rejected the claims and denied
Alix what's known as a certificate of appealability.
Alix does not yet have an execution date.
During his trial, prosecutors showed the 10th-grade dropout was
responsible for the slayings, which all occurred in Houston. He was
charged but not tried for at least one of the other slayings.
According to trial testimony, Alix abducted Bridgeford's sister, raped
her, forced her into the trunk of a car and drove her back home. As he was
ransacking her apartment, Bridgeford came home, saw Alix with a gun and
ran off but was shot in the back. Alix drove away in a stolen car and was
arrested a few days later.
During closing arguments in the punishment phase of his trial, Alix became
belligerent and had to be removed from the courtroom. Prosecutors told
jurors of his involvement also in at least 2 rapes, 2 attempted murders,
abductions and at least 8 robberies.
DNA evidence used during his trial surfaced in a scandal involving the
Houston Police Department's crime lab when retests discredited the initial
The 5th Circuit panel noted that a federal district judge, in rejecting
Alix's appeal, said the DNA evidence presented at his punishment phase was
part of a "larger body of proof," including Alix's long history of
violence, that showed jurors he posed a future danger and should be
sentenced to death.
In his federal appeal, Alix also contested the medical examiner testimony,
arguing the deputy examiner who conducted the autopsy wasn't licensed, and
that the district attorney's office knew and suppressed the information.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said a medical examiner may delegate
duties to a deputy who is not licensed. And the 5th Circuit said even if
the state court was wrong, there was no constitutional violation for
evidence improperly admitted under state law.
The appeals court also said Alix's lawyers were diligent in their defense,
that they were aware the Harris County Medical Examiner's Office was under
investigation for its practices and had questioned the coroner about the
investigation in their cross-examination at trial.
(source: Associated Press)