HOUSTON - A dozen condemned Texas inmates, including one set to die next week and one of the few women on death row in the state, lost appeals Monday before the U.S. Supreme Court, moving them closer to execution.
Among the Texas cases the high court refused to review as it began its new term was the appeal of Alvin Kelly, an East Texas man convicted of the death of a 22-month-old boy in a shooting near Longview that also left the child's parents dead. Kelly faces lethal injection Oct. 14, the first of six convicted killers set to die this month in the nation's most active death penalty state.
Also losing Monday at the Supreme Court was Chelsea Richardson, convicted of her involvement in the December 2003 slayings of her boyfriend's parents, Rick and Suzanna Wamsley, at their home in Mansfield, near Fort Worth. Richardson, 24, is among only 10 women on death row in Texas.
Charles Victor Thompson, who escaped in November 2005 while being held in the Harris County Jail in downtown Houston, also had his appeal rejected. Thompson, captured near Shreveport, La., after three days on the run, was condemned for the fatal shooting of his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend 10 years ago.
The appeals of Richardson and Thompson, however, remain early in the process and execution dates for both are not imminent.
In addition, the high court refused to consider the appeal of Jimmie Lucero, an Amarillo man convicted of killing three neighbors in 2003. Lucero argued his sentence was improper because a jury foreman read passages of the Bible to holdout jurors who subsequently voted to impose the death penalty. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals had found the introduction of the Bible into the jury room to be "harmless error." The two jurors who switched their votes said the reading of the Scripture and its content had no impact on their votes.
In other cases, three inmates whose scheduled executions were stopped at the last moment with court-ordered reprieves lost their appeals. They include Curtis Moore, convicted of killing three people in Fort Worth; Jose Rivera, condemned for the strangling of a 3-year-old boy in Brownsville; and Kenneth Morris, convicted of killing a Houston man during a home burglary.
Moore's punishment in 2002 was stopped less than three hours before he was scheduled for lethal injection when lawyers raised claims he was mentally retarded and ineligible for execution. At the time, the high court was reviewing whether mentally retarded people could be executed.
Similar claims of mental retardation halted Morris' punishment in 2003 within two hours of when he could have been taken to the death chamber and stopped Rivera's execution, also in 2003. Rivera won a reprieve from a federal appeals court three hours past the time he could have been executed.
The Supreme Court also turned down four others from Harris County, including:
-Shozdijiji Shisinday, also known as Danny Thomas, convicted of an abduction-slaying 27 years ago;
-Derrick Jackson, convicted of the fatal stabbing of two people in 1988;
-Calvin Hunter, condemned for the slaying of a convenience store clerk during a robbery five years ago;
-Ronald Prible, convicted of the 1999 slayings of a man and his girlfriend at their home. Evidence showed Prible started a fire at the house that also left their three children dead of smoke inhalation.
The court also rejected an appeals from a Dallas-area capital murder convict, Roderick Newton, who was condemned for an abduction-slaying almost 10 years ago in Mesquite.
Besides Kelly, Moore is the only other one of the inmates whose cases were rejected by the high court Monday to have an execution date. He's set to die in January.
They're among at least 17 Texas inmates with execution dates in the coming months, starting next week with Kelly, 57. He's maintained his innocence of the killing of Devin Morgan, the 22-month-old son of Jerry and Brenda Morgan. Relatives discovered the bodies of the child and his parents at their Gregg County home May 1, 1984. All had been shot. A number of items were missing from the home, including a car, at least five guns and some television and stereo gear.
The slayings went unsolved for six years until Gregg County authorities received a call from a man who said his former wife had information about the crime. At the time, Kelly already was serving a 30-year prison term for an unrelated murder.
Nine prisoners have been executed this year in Texas, tops among states with capital punishment.
Also Monday, prosecutors lost their attempt to reinstate the death sentence of Charles Mines, convicted of the beating death of an 80-year-old woman at her home in Waxahachie 20 years ago. Mines earlier this year won a new sentencing trial from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.