Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

Texas Death Row Inmate’s Execution Postponed Over False Testimony


November 29,2017Juan Castillo - TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Juan Castillo was scheduled to die on December 14, 2017. He was supposed to be the last prisoner on death row to be executed in Texas this year.

But on November 29, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals delayed Castillo’s execution and sent his case back to trial court to reexamine false testimony used to convict him. 

Castillo, 36, was sentenced to death for the 2003 murder and robbery of Tommy Garcia Jr. in San Antonio. Castillo, his then-girlfriend, and two others had tried to lure Garcia with sex, and then steal his money. When 19-year-old Garcia ran away, Castillo shot him.

During his trial, Castillo’s former bunkmate at the Bexar County Jail, Gerardo Gutierrez, testified that Castillo had confessed to the crime. But in 2013, Gutierrez signed an affidavit saying he had lied about the confession.

Gutierrez’s false testimony is prompting the Texas CCA to pause the execution and further review Castillo’s case.

It’s not the first time Castillo’s execution date has been called off.

Previously, his Sept. 7, 2017 execution date was postponed at the request of the Bexar County District Attorney’s office because some of Castillo’s lawyers living in Harris County were impacted by Hurricane Harvey, according to the Texas Tribune. Castillo also had a prior execution date set back in May, but the date was postponed after Bexar County prosecutors failed to give sufficient notice to the defense, according to the Houston Chronicle

Texas has executed seven death row inmates in 2017, two of which were in Bexar County.

At least two other executions have been delayed in Texas this year because of issues over testimonies. Back in October, Anthony Shore, known as the “Tourniquet Killer,” had his execution date moved to January after he told prosecutors he had falsely planned to take responsibility for a fellow inmate’s murder.

Duane Buck, a Harris County death row inmate, had his sentence reduced to life in prison after the Supreme Court granted him the right to a retrial because a prison psychiatrist had told the jury in his 1997 trial that Buck would be more dangerous in the future because of his race.

UPCOMING EXECUTION – TEXAS, Gregory Russeau, June 18, 2015 6 pm EXECUTED 6.49 PM


June 18, 2015

 

Gregory RusseauGregory Russeau ( Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP file)

Asked by a warden if he had a final statement, Russeau thanked his family and friends for what they had done for him and thanked three friends who were witnesses “for being here with me so I do not have to transition alone.”

“I’m at peace, I’m good,” he said. “I’m ready to go home.”

He began snoring as the lethal dose of pentobarbital began and all movement stopped within about a minute.

He was pronounced dead at 6:49 p.m. CDT, 21 minutes later.

 

Russeau will be the ninth Texan executed this year

On Thursday, June 18, the state of Texas plans to execute Gregory Russeau, a 45-year-old Tyler man, convicted in Oct. 2002 of killing 75-year-old James Syvertson in his auto shop’s garage on May 30, 2001.

Russeau was found guilty of capital murder after jurors deliberated for less than an hour. He argued, after his conviction, that he was found guilty because his attorney Clifton Roberson fumbled his handling of witnesses and failed to argue that law enforcement planted evidence (two hairs belonging to Russeau found on a bottle) at the crime scene. Those concerns were raised in subsequent petitions for writ of habeas corpus filed by Jeffrey Haas.

Haas, it should be said, had his own issues. As a petition for relief filed in 2012 by Carlo D’Angelo notes: “Both the 2004 and 2009 petitions for habeas corpus that Mr. Haas filed in the state district court contained no claims that were based upon any evidence or the result of any investigation that occurred outside of the Clerk’s Record and trial transcript in either of the Petitioner’s cases, thus indicating that Mr. Haas did virtually nothing to investigate the facts pertaining to the actions of trial and appellate counsel, potential mitigation, and potential prosecutorial misconduct and withholding of evidence.”

The trial court held an evidentiary hearing on Dec. 2, 2004, during which Roberson and his co-counsel Brandon Baade testified to the competence of their representation of Russeau. Six months later, in June 2005, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued an opinion that upheld Russeau’s conviction but remanded the case back to trial for a new sentencing. There, he was represented – once again – by Roberson and Baade, the two attorneys who failed to properly represent him in the first place, and whom Russeau specifically asked the court to not appoint for the second hearing (on the grounds that Roberson and Baade had waived the attorney-client privilege when they testified at the hearing.)

Russeau’s second punishment-determination hearing was held in 2007 and resulted in the same findings and sentence as his first. (Unsurprisingly, his argument hinged on the claim that Roberson and Baade did a bad job representing their client.) He was denied a 2009 petition for relief, filed by Haas, in 2010, at which point D’Angelo assumed Russeau’s counsel. A Feb. 2012 federal petition was denied, as was an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals in March 2014. Appeals for relief from the U.S. Supreme Court were denied in October.

Russeau will be the ninth Texan executed this year, and the 527th since the state reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

Death row inmate maintains innocence to the last

Death by Numbers: The 500th Execution by the State of Texas by Gemma Puglisi


On June 26th, the state of Texas executed its 500th inmate. Kimberly McCarthy, 52, was found guilty of murdering her 71-year-old neighbor, a retired college psychology professor back in l997. McCarthy, a crack cocaine addict, robbed, beat, and stabbed Dorothy Booth, after asking for a cup of sugar. Throughout McCarthy’s trial, her former ex-husband, Black Panther Party founder Aaron Michaels, testified on her behalf. The two were separated before Booth’s murder.

All a tragic story. After reading about the case and the execution, I learned more. This has all become important to me after knowing former death row inmate Troy Anthony Davis. I became friends with Davis simply by reading about his case back in 2007. In 2011, “Troy” was executed by the state of Georgia for the murder of Police Officer Mark MacPhail. Officer MacPhail was white, and the father of two young children. Troy always maintained his innocence. There was never any evidence linking him to the crime other than witnesses who said he did it. Years later, seven of the nine recanted stating that they were coerced by the police. Despite so many unanswered questions — and support from Amnesty International, the NAACP, Desmond Tutu, former President Jimmy Carter, and literally millions of supporters, Troy was executed on Sept. 21, 2011.

Dorothy Booth’s death was horrible. She and her family deserved justice. No question. As I researched McCarthy’s case and read more about it, I learned that her attorney Maurie Levin had asked the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to halt the execution, because black jurors were excluded from her trial by Dallas County prosecutors. The jurors in her case were all white except for one.

After Troy’s execution, I find myself talking to attorneys who have worked tirelessly to seek justice for death row inmates — and may not have had fair trials. In 2010, a call led to my meeting attorney James Rocap — who represented Teresa Lewis — the first women executed in the state of Virginia in 50 years. (Lewis’ case was controversial because of her mental capacity. Supporters said she was borderline mentally retarded. Lewis was found guilty of having her husband and stepson murdered. It was believed she was not capable of orchestrating the murders because of her mental capacity.) Despite all this, she was executed Sept. 23, 2010 — almost exactly a year before Troy.

In a statement issued following the execution of Kimberly McCarthy, attorney Levin said: “500 is 500 too many. I look forward to the day when we recognize that this pointless and barbaric practice, imposed almost exclusively on those who are poor and disproportionately on people of color, has no place in a civilized society.”

That is the tragedy of Texas’s 500th execution. That state leads the country in most executions. We are a civilized society, and the death penalty is barbaric and senseless and in so many cases. There is no question that those who kill should be accountable for their horrible actions. And prison is that punishment. There are too many cases today where there is doubt, many unanswered questions, and injustice.

Troy’s dream was that executions end. I couldn’t help but think of him when I read about this recent news.

I pulled out a letter he mailed me months before his execution. He said, “Deter prejudice, hatred and racism by ending the death penalty now. ‘An eye for an eye’ leaves the entire world blind. How can the U.S. be a beacon of freedom to the rest of the world when Justice includes the death penalty… we lose all credibility with the death penalty.”

TEXAS- UPCOMING EXECUTION Kimberly McCarty JUNE 26, 2013 Executed


Update june 26

Update June 25

Texas’ highest criminal court has denied a request to block a Dallas County woman’s execution this week.

Kimberly McCarthy’s execution would be the 500th in Texas since the state resumed carrying out the death penalty in 1982. She contends black jurors were improperly excluded from her trial by Dallas County prosecutors and this wasn’t challenged by her lawyers.

But the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin denied McCarthy’s request on Monday. The court said it didn’t consider the merits of McCarthy’s appeal because she should have raised her claims previously.

Maurie Levin, McCarthy’s attorney, said she is “reviewing the order and considering our options.”

McCarthy, 52, also would be the first woman put to death in the U.S. since 2010 if she receives lethal injection on Wednesday.

UPDATE JUNE 20

APPEAL FILED FOR KIMBERLY McCARTHY

DALLAS – Attorneys for Kimberly McCarthy filed an appeal Wednesday designed to block her execution.

The motion was made in the 292nd District Court of Dallas County, the site of McCarthy’s original trial on a charge of murdering her neighbor.

If McCarthy does not succeed in her appeals, she is slated to be executed Wednesday..

june 19 2013 source : http://www.kwtx.com

Kimberly McCarthy (Texas prison photo)

The lawyer for former nursing home therapist Kimberly McCarthy, 52, who’s scheduled to die next week for the murder of an elderly neighbor, has filed an appeal in an effort to block the execution.

McCarthy, who’s on women’s death row in Gatesville, is scheduled to receive a lethal injection next Wednesday.

If she does, she would be the first woman put to death in the U.S. since 2010 and the 500th prisoner executed in Texas since the death penalty resumed in 1982.

She was sentenced to die for the fatal stabbing, beating and robbery of her 71-year-old neighbor, retired college professor Dorothy Booth, in 1997.

McCarthy’s state court appeal contends black jurors were improperly excluded from her trial, and that her lawyers should have challenged the exclusions.

Lawyer Maurie Levin says the punishment should be stopped in light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision backing another Texas prisoner who raised similar arguments about attorney competence.

I. BACKGROUND

On July 21, 1997 McCarthy entered the home of her 71-year-old neighbor Dorothy Booth under the pretense of borrowing some sugar and then “stabbed Mrs. Booth five times, hit her in the face with a candelabrum, cut off her left ring finger in order to take her diamond ring, and nearly severed her left little finger as well.” McCarthy v. State, No. 74590, 2004 WL 3093230, at *2 (Tex. Crim. App. 2004). McCarthy then took Mrs. Booth’s purse and its contents, along with her wedding ring and fled in her car. Later, McCarthy bought drugs with the stolen money, used the stolen credit cards, and pawned the stolen wedding ring. This was the last in a series of robbery-murders that McCarthy committed against her elderly female acquaintances.

On August 18, 1997, McCarthy was charged with capital murder for causing Booth’s death in the course of committing and attempting to commit robbery. (Vol. 1, State Clerk’s Record, “CR”, at 2-3) Her first conviction and death-sentence in 1998 was reversed on direct appeal by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (“CCA”). See McCarthy v. State, 65 S.W.3d 47 (Tex. Crim. App. 2001) (hereinafter “McCarthy I”). She was subsequently tried and found guilty of capital murder in November of 2002, which was affirmed, see McCarthy v. State, 2004 WL 3093230 (“McCarthy II”), and her petition for a writ of certiorari was denied by the Supreme Court of the United States. McCarthy v. Texas, 545 U.S. 1117 (2005). McCarthy filed her second state habeas action on August 24, 2004, which was denied (without an evidentiary hearing in the trial court) by the CCA on September 12, 2007. Ex parte McCarthy, No. 50,360-02, 2007 WL 2660306 (Tex. Crim. App. 2007). On September 11, 2008, McCarthy filed in this court a petition for a writ of habeas corpus within the one-year limitations period.

Victim Dorothy Booth, 71.

Court: Texas inmate’s decades-old sentence invalid


The life sentence given to a Texas man who has remained in prison for 33 years since being pulled off of death row isn’t valid, Texas’ highest criminal court said Wednesday, possibly paving the way for a new trial or the inmate’s release.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said once it overturned Jerry Hartfield’s murder conviction in 1980 for the killing of a bus station worker four years earlier, there was no longer a death sentence for then-Gov. Mark White to commute.

The opinion was given in response to a rare formal request by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to confirm the validity of its ruling overturning Hartfield’s conviction, in light of the governor’s 1983 commutation. The New Orleans-based federal court made the request, which upheld a lower state court’s ruling that the sentence was invalid.

“The status of the judgment of conviction is that (Hartfield) is under no conviction or sentence,” Judge Lawrence Meyers wrote in a decision supported by the court’s other eight judges. “Because there was no longer a death sentence to commute, the governor’s order had no effect.”

 ID=2416367Hartfield, now 57, was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1976 robbery and killing of a Southeast Texas bus station employee. The criminal appeals court overturned his murder conviction, ruling that a potential juror improperly was dismissed after expressing reservations about the death penalty.

White commuted Hartfield’s sentence in 1983 at the recommendation of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, and he has remained in prison since then, unaware until a few years ago that his case was in legal limbo. Court documents in his case described him as an illiterate 5th-grade dropout with in IQ of 51, although Hartfield says he’s learned to read and write while in prison.

In its failed appeal to the 5th Circuit, the state argued that Hartfield’s life sentence should stand because he missed a one-year window in which to appeal aspects of his case.

Neither the prosecutor’s office in Bay City nor Hartfield’s attorney, Kenneth R. Hawk II, immediately responded to phone messages Wednesday seeking comment.

During a prison interview last year, Hartfield told The Associated Press that he’s innocent, but that he doesn’t hold a grudge about his predicament, which his lawyer last year described as “one-in-a-million.”

“Being a God-fearing person, he doesn’t allow me to be bitter,” Hartfield said from prison.

Hartfield was 21 in June 1977 when he was convicted of murdering 55-year-old Eunice Lowe, a Bay City bus station ticketing agent who was beaten with a pickaxe and robbed. Her car and nearly $3,000 were stolen. Lowe’s daughter found her body in a storeroom at the station.

At the time, Hartfield, who grew up in Altus, Okla., had been working on the construction of a nuclear power plant near Bay City, about 100 miles southwest of Houston. He was arrested within days in Wichita, Kan., and while being returned to Texas, he made a confession to officers that he called “a bogus statement they had written against me.”

The alleged confession was among the key evidence used to convict Hartfield, along with an unused bus ticket found at the crime scene that had his fingerprints on it and testimony from witnesses who said he had talked about needing $3,000.

Jurors deliberated for 3½ hours before convicting Hartfield of murder and another 20 minutes to decide he should die.

source : Usa today

Texas AG: New tests don’t clear death row inmate – HANK SKINNER


November 14, 2012

New DNA testing in the case of a Texas Panhandle man on death row for a New Year’s Eve triple-slaying doesn’t support an alternate theory of the crime, the state attorney general’s office said Wednesday.

Hank Skinner once came within an hour of execution for the 1993 killings of girlfriend Twila Busby and her two grown sons in Pampa, about 50 miles northeast of Amarillo. Now 50, Skinner’s execution has been stayed by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Both his attorney and prosecutors agreed in June to new DNA testing of evidence.

The attorney general’s office filed a court advisory Wednesday that says new testing “does not support Skinner’s claim that an alternative suspect is the real killer.”

Skinner has argued he wasn’t the killer because he was passed out on a couch from a mix of vodka and codeine. The AG’s advisory says traces of Skinner’s DNA were located in blood in the bedroom where one of Busby’s sons, Randy Busby, was found stabbed to death. Prosecutors said his DNA also was matched to blood stains throughout the house.

Skinner attorney Rob Owen objected to Wednesday’s advisory, calling its findings premature. In a statement, Owen said it was “troubling” that the AG’s office submitted a report while testing was still ongoing. The AG’s office says both sides are discussing whether to conduct more tests.

We will remain unable to draw any strong conclusions about whether the DNA testing has resolved the stubborn questions about Hank Skinner’s guilt or innocence until additional DNA testing has been completed, and the data underlying that DNA testing has been made available to our experts for a detailed review,” Owen said in the statement.

While Skinner’s DNA was found on the handle of a bloody knife on Twila Busby’s front porch, Owen said the handle also had genetic material from two other people: Busby’s other slain son, Elwin Caler, and a third person other than Skinner or the victims. Owen said an unknown person’s DNA also was found on the carpet of the sons’ bedroom.

Skinner has acknowledged he argued with Busby on the night she was killed and that he was inside the house where the victim’s bodies were found. He was found about three hours after the bodies were discovered, hiding in a closet at the home of a woman he knew. Blood from at least two of the victims was found on him.

The attorney general’s office had argued against DNA testing, which Skinner’s trial attorneys did not request, but changed course. The state agreed to allow testing of a list of 40 items, though not a windbreaker jacket Skinner’s advocates consider crucial to establishing an alternate suspect’s guilt.

Justice is debatable in Texas death penalty case – Larry Swearingen


November 12,2012 http://www.dw.de

Larry Swearingen faces imminent execution in Texas for a crime that forensic scientists say he could not have committed. His time is running out.

Larry Swearingen at the visitors center on Death Row (Allen B. Polunksy Unit, Texas)

In his 12 years on death row, Larry Swearingen’s execution date has been set three times. Three times he has known when he will be strapped to a stretcher and put down with drugs: sodium thiobarbital to anesthetize him, pancurium bromide to paralyze his muscles and potassium chloride to stop his heart.

In January 2009, he had written his goodbyes and was on his way to the chamber when the stay of execution came through. “The way I had to look at it was ‘I’m just gonna lay down and go to sleep,'” he said. “I wasn’t gonna grovel. I wasn’t gonna sit there and cry. I can’t be remorseful for a crime I didn’t commit.”

Swearingen lives at the Allan B. Polunsky unit, an hour or so north of Houston, together with around 300 men and women awaiting execution for capital crimes committed in Texas. He is kept in solitary confinement 24 hours a day, in a cell not quite four meters long (13 feet) and a little over two meters wide, with a slit above head height, more a vent than a window.

Swearingen is strikingly calm, his voice rarely rising, even as he complains about the injustice of being locked up for a murder that forensic science shows he cannot have committed. “It’s not easy being here,” he says. “There are men who are hanging themselves, men who are cutting themselves, men sitting in their own feces, men slowly losing their minds. If people think it’s easy they are sadly mistaken.”

supporters of the death penalty argue that the USA’s appeals system is so thorough that no innocent person has ever been executed.

In recent years, that faith has been shaken by a number of high-profile cases. Todd Willingham was executed in Texas for setting the house fire that killed his two young daughters, despite several of the country’s most prominent arson investigators testifying that the blaze almost certainly started by accident. Troy Davis went to the chamber in Georgia for shooting a policeman, despite a lack of DNA evidence and seven out of the nine prosecution witnesses later changing their stories.

Swearingen’s case is different, in that forensic science provides him with an alibi: He cannot have raped and murdered his supposed victim, because he was already in prison when she was killed.

Open-and-shut case?

Melissa Trotter disappeared on December 8, 1998. Swearingen was one of the last people to see her alive, at Montgomery College. Three days later police picked him up on outstanding arrest warrants for minor offences, put him in jail and began to build a case against him.

Trotter’s body was discovered on January 2, 1999, in the Sam Houston National Forest, by hunters looking for a lost gun. At first glance, they thought it was a mannequin, dumped in the woods. She was wearing jeans, but her torso was naked. She had been strangled with one leg of a pair of tights. A search team, with cadaver dogs, had passed within 20 meters of the spot a fortnight earlier and found nothing.

At the autopsy, with the district attorney and two of his sheriffs in the room, Harris County’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Joye Carter, estimated that she had been dead for around 25 days, which meant she had been killed the day she went missing.

When Carter repeated this at the trial, the defense team let it pass unchallenged. Jurors heard that Swearingen had a history of violence towards women, that he had repeatedly lied to police, that hairs forcibly removed from Trotter’s head were recovered from his truck and that the other leg of the pair of tights used to kill her was found in his house.

They were not told that the tights appeared during a fourth police visit to the property, after three prior searches had turned up nothing. The DNA under Trotter’s fingernails, belonging to somebody other than Swearingen, was dismissed as a contaminant – perhaps a drop of blood from a cut in a forensic technician’s hand.

The jury took less than two hours to find Swearingen guilty.

Science vs. the courts

Dr. Stephen Pustilnik, chief medical examiner for nearby Galveston County, says the autopsy results aren’t credible. Although there were signs of decomposition around Trotter’s head, her corpse was in remarkably good condition.

For many days, where she was found, it was 72 degrees Fahrenheit [22 degrees Celsius],” he said. “If you’re at that temperature for three days, you’re green, bloated and stinky. Her internal organs look beautiful.”

At the morgue, her heart, liver, lungs and spleen were remarkably intact.

Pustilnik said the body could not have been dead for 25 days. Several other forensic scientists called by the defense team have come to the same conclusion. It means that Swearingen could not have killed Trotter, because he was already in jail when she died.

Final hearing

I returned to Montgomery County for Swearingen’s final evidentiary hearing. The case has been going back and forth between Judge Fred Edwards and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (TCCA) for years: Each time, Edwards has upheld Swearingen’s conviction and each time the appeals court has granted the defense one more hearing. This was categorically his last.

Swearingen sat with his defense team, feet shackled together, wearing a striped Montgomery County Jail jumpsuit. In the pews on the right, behind the district attorney’s table, Sandy and Charlie Trotter were surrounded by supporters holding pictures of Melissa. They are convinced Swearingen is guilty and need him to be gone, so they can grieve in peace. Sandy handed me a photograph of her daughter, but was too upset to talk.

The benches on the left were empty, apart from a couple of local newspaper reporters and a frail-looking woman taking notes. Pam Martinez, Swearingen’s mother, attended every day of the hearing, even though she had recently had heart surgery for the second time.

“My cardiologist tells me that I need to cut the stress out,” she said. “I would like to cut the stress, but I support my son. He’s my child and I want to protect him.”

‘Innocence doesn’t matter’

This time, too, Judge Edward upheld the conviction. Now the case goes back to the TCCA. If the panel again upholds Swearingen’s conviction, he will have run out of options. His “actual innocence” petition to the Supreme Court has been denied. Any further appeals will be summarily rejected. A new execution date will be set and, barring an unprecedented last-minute pardon, he will be taken to the execution chamber at Huntsville and put down.Swearingen knows his chances are slim. “Under federal law in the United States being innocent does not matter,” he said. “If being innocent makes no difference, this country is no better than Iran or Syria, these third-world countries that kill their own citizens. How can being innocent not matter?”

The TCCA’s ruling is expected in the coming months.

Katrina evacuee on Texas death row gets life term – Roosevelt Smith Jr.


November 7, 2012 http://www.chron.com

DALLAS  — A Louisiana man’s death sentence in Texas has been reduced to life in prison without parole in the killing of a woman who helped him when he relocated after Hurricane Katrina.

Attorneys for 50-year-old Roosevelt Smith Jr. contended he’s mentally impaired and ineligible for execution under Supreme Court guidelines.

A state-appointed psychologist determined Smith was impaired. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday agreed.

Smith, who was from Napoleonville, La., was condemned for beating and strangling 77-year-old Betty Blair in October 2005 at her home in Pasadena, just east of Houston. She’d been helping evacuees at a church and hired Smith and others to do odd jobs. He earlier had several burglary convictions and prison stints in Louisiana

TEXAS – EXECUTION TODAY 11/08/12 – Mario Swain EXECUTED 6.39 pm


Mario Swain, 33, was pronounced dead by lethal injection at 6.39 pm (0039 GMT Friday), according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. When asked by a warden if he had a final statement before his punishment, the condemned prisoner shook his head, closed his eyes and took several barely audible breaths.

No family members or friends of Nixon were at the execution. Swain also had no relatives among the witnesses.

November 8,2012

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — A man who was sentenced to die in the fatal beating, stabbing and strangling of an East Texas call center supervisor a decade ago displayed a pattern of obsession and violence that a former district attorney said indicated the potential of a serial killer.

Mario Swain has since lost state and federal appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court last month refused to review his case. Swain, 33, is scheduled for execution Thursday.

Worried friends alerted police when Lola Nixon didn’t show up for dinner two nights after Christmas in 2002. Officers discovered signs of forced entry at her home near Dallas — and blood throughout — but no sign of the 46-year-old woman. A neighbor said he saw a truck parked outside the night she went missing, and police traced that vehicle to a man who said his grandson, Swain, had borrowed it.

Swain gave several confessions, and said his friends had beaten Nixon while burgling her home. But those friends all had credible alibis.

Eventually he led detectives to Nixon’s body, in the backseat of an abandoned vehicle at a remote site in Gregg County. She had been beaten with a tire iron, stabbed and strangled.

“Unless you knew where you were going, you wouldn’t get there,” Lance Larison, a prosecutor at Swain’s 2004 trial, said.

Evidence indicates Nixon fiercely resisted the attack and that Swain left her bleeding in her bathtub before throwing her in the back of her BMW and driving her to the site where she was found. He then returned to her house and tried to clean up.

The tire iron was recovered from a trash container where Swain said he had thrown it. Prosecutors said Swain used Nixon’s credit cards and that he gave a piece of her jewelry to a friend.

Nixon’s blood was found on Swain’s clothing in the truck, along with her car keys and garage door opener.

At trial, prosecutors presented evidence and witnesses that showed a pattern of crimes: Swain gathered information about women he wanted to rob, then attacked them, forcing them to inhale the anesthetic halothane and hitting them over the head with a wrench or shooting them with a stun gun.

“Not only did he stalk, he started making physical assaults,” Larison said.

“Girlfriends told us he loved to watch detective shows, crime science shows, that he was fascinated by them,” he said. “He would keep lists of women’s cars and certain license plates.”

He was “a serial killer in training,” the prosecutor said.

Earlier this year, a federal appeals court rejected Swain’s appeal that argued his confessions to the slaying should not have been allowed at trial, that his lawyers were deficient and that there was a problem in jury selection. The U.S. Supreme Court three weeks ago refused to review Swain’s case. And last week the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals refused an appeal challenging an investigator’s trial testimony.

Nixon was unmarried and lived alone. She had been a supervisor at a telephone call center in Longview where Swain once worked.

Swain declined from death row to speak with reporters as his execution date neared.

His lethal injection would be the 13th this year in Texas, where two more executions are set for next week.

TEXAS – Death row inmates loses appeal – Jerry Duane Martin


NOVEMBER 2, 2012 http://itemonline.com

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has upheld the conviction of an inmate sentenced to death for the murder of a Texas Department of Criminal Justice employee during an attempted escape from a Huntsville prison in 2007.

A jury found Jerry Duane Martin, 42, guilty of capital murder in 2009 for the death of correctional officer Susan Canfield. Martin used a stolen truck to ram a horse Canfield was riding while trying to prevent him and John Ray Falk Jr. from escaping from the Wynne Unit on Sept. 24, 2007.
Canfield was thrown from the horse and died as a result of head injuries she sustained when she struck the windshield of the truck and fell to the ground.
Jury selection is under way in Bryan for Falk’s capital murder trial for his role in Canfield’s murder. He is also facing the death penalty. Attorneys for the state and defense are interviewing potential jurors. More than 200 Brazos County residents were summoned and the process is expected to take a couple of more weeks.
The Court of Appeals on Wednesday rejected Martin’s appeals, which contained 20 points of error during his trial three years ago. Among those, Martin’s attorneys alleged jury misconduct and that Martin should have been granted a new trial.
The defense argued Martin was denied an impartial jury because one juror withheld information that her family member worked for TDCJ when her husband had been a correctional officer for 18 months and had been stabbed by an inmate. The juror testified during a motion for a new trial that this did not influence her because it happened 17 years ago and her husband had said that he did not think the incident was a “big deal.”
Martin’s attorneys also noted that two other jurors were admitted to the jury who had ties to the Texas prison system. One had formerly worked at the Limestone County Detention Center and the other had been married to a man who was a correctional officer for 20 years.
The appeals court did not see any reason to overturn the trial court’s ruling and issued this opinion: “After reviewing appellant’s 20 points of error, we find them to be without merit. Consequently, we affirm the trial court’s judgment and sentence of death.”
Walker County grand jury indictments
A grand jury handed down the following indictments last week:
• Joe A. Thomas, illegal dumping commercial weight/barrel or drum.
• Juvenal Pimentel, possession of a controlled substance point grade one less than one gram.
• Willie Ray Shelton, possession of a controlled substance point grade two more than or equal to four grams but less than 400 grams.
• Christopher Tyrone Cooper, possession of a controlled substance point grade one less than one gram.
• Jerry W. Williams, driving while intoxicated third or more.
• Robert Cartwright, indecency with a child sexual contact.
• Angela Lee Morris, possession of a controlled substance point grade one more than or equal to one gram but less than four grams.
• Christopher Fazio, fraud possession of a controlled substance/prescription schedule I/II.
• David Karl Schneider, possession of a controlled substance point grade one less than one gram.
• Anthony Lamont Person Jr., possession of marijuana more than four ounces but less than five pounds.
• Kourtnae White, driving while intoxicated third or more.
• Jacqualine Christine Hardy, two counts of driving while intoxicated third or more.
• Shelton Bernard Hightower, possession of a controlled substance point grade one less than one gram.
• Leah Taylor Yeley, credit card or debit card abuse.
• Michael Quinn Sykes, credit card or debit card abuse.
• Robert Lee Austin III, credit card or debit card abuse.
• Kristin Winfrey, driving while intoxicated third or more.
• Christopher Damon Stuart, burglary of a building