On Friday, May 27, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) granted a stay of execution to Charles Flores, who was scheduled to be put to death Thursday, June 2 for the 1998 murder of Elizabeth Black in Dallas County. Flores’ conviction hinged largely on an eyewitness whom police hypnotized and whose testimony placed him at the crime scene. Casey Tolan of Fusion reports:
No physical or DNA evidence placed Flores at the scene of the crime. The only eyewitness who testified that she saw him there was hypnotized by police officers—yes, actually hypnotized—to help her recover her memory, in a procedure that violated state standards on hypnosis by law enforcement. Meanwhile, Flores’ court-appointed trial attorneys didn’t present a single witness in his favor during his sentencing.
The CCA is sending Flores’ case back to the trial court to examine the use of hypnosis. In their appeal, his attorneys included testimony from psychology professor Steven Lynn:
Clearly, the techniques that were used to refresh Ms. Bargainer’s memory would be eschewed today by anyone at all familiar with the extant research on hypnosis and memory.
Flores has spent more than 17 years on death row. The codefendant in the case, Richard Childs, pled guilty to murder and was recently paroled after serving 17 years of a 35-year-sentence.
The State of Texas has put six people to death in 2016. There have been 14 executions nationwide. At this time, there are seven additional executions scheduled to take place in Texas through October 2016. This is the second scheduled execution in Texas to be stayed by the courts in 2016.