TEXAS—-stay of impending execution
Killer of South Texas sheriff wins reprieve
A condemned inmate set to die next week for fatally shooting a South Texas
sheriff almost 20 years ago won a reprieve Thursday from the Texas Court
of Criminal Appeals.
Jose Briseno, 51, was scheduled for lethal injection Tuesday for gunning
down Dimmit County Sheriff Ben "Doc" Murray at the 68-year-old sheriff's
home in Carizzo Springs, about 140 miles southwest of San Antonio.
Briseno has been on death row for 17 years.
The state's highest criminal court, acting on an appeal filed by Briseno's
attorneys, agreed to look at whether the trial jury in Laredo deciding his
punishment never received proper instructions about how to consider
mitigating evidence of Briseno's unstable family, troubled background,
limited intellectual ability and poverty.
"The Texas courts have wrestled with this issue in numerous cases since
1989, when the Supreme Court first addressed this problem with the Texas
capital sentencing procedure," Richard Burr, Briseno's lead lawyer, said.
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2004 in another Texas capital case appeal
that focused on punishment instructions "has given the Court of Criminal
Appeals reason to revisit this issue in cases involving crimes that
occurred before September 1991," he said.
Murray, who had been sheriff for 20 years, was killed in January 1991.
Briseno originally was scheduled to die in January but a state judge reset
the date to Tuesday so a disabled friend from England could make
arrangements to come to Texas and visit him on death row.
Burr had argued in 2002 that Briseno was mentally retarded and ineligible
for the death penalty under Supreme Court rules and won a reprieve for
Briseno less than 4 hours before he could have been put to death.
Murray had arrested Briseno in the past and authorities speculated the
killing could have been out of revenge. At the time of the slaying,
Briseno had been on parole almost a year.
A visitor to the sheriff's home found his body the morning of Jan. 6,
1991. Murray had been shot with his own gun and a butcher knife was left
buried in his chest. By that evening, Briseno and a companion, Albert
Gonzales, were under arrest.
Blood samples taken from the carpet at the sheriff's house matched
Briseno's blood and the sheriff's blood was found on Briseno's clothing.
After his arrest, Briseno and 2 other inmates broke out of the Zavala
County Jail in Crystal City and remained at large for a couple of days.
Gonzales, who lived next door to the sheriff, received a life prison term.
Briseno got the death penalty.
Briseno would have been the 13th Texas inmate executed this year in the
nation's most active death penalty state.
Scheduled next to die, on April 15, is Michael Rosales, 35, convicted of
the murder of 67-year-old Mary Felder during a burglary of her Lubbock
home in 1997. Felder was stabbed more than 100 times with a steak knife, a
2-pronged kitchen fork and a pair of needle-nose pliers.
(source: Associated Press)
Impending Texas execution schedule # since 1982 # under Perry
15 Michael Rosales 436 197
30 Derrick Johnson 437 198
19 Michael Lynn Riley 438 199
2 Terry Hankins 439 200