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Citing time, Texas calls off execution

Last-minute appeals meant procedures would suffer, officials say. A killer gets at least 30 more days.

June 19, 2008|From the Associated Press

HUNTSVILLE, TEXAS — The postponement of an inmate's execution minutes before he was to be put to death wasn't a first in Texas -- other condemned prisoners have been spared because appeals were pending as their death warrants expired.

But the decision to postpone Charles Dean Hood's execution late Tuesday marked the first time in the nation's busiest death penalty state that those responsible for carrying out the execution were the ones to call it off.

After winning a reprieve earlier in the day, Hood, a former topless-club bouncer, spent much of the evening in a cell not far from the death chamber as a flurry of appeals played out in the courts.

Shortly after 11 p.m., the U.S. Supreme Court rejected three appeals and Hood appeared headed to the death chamber. But prison officials faced with a midnight deadline to administer lethal drugs feared they could not follow the proper procedures before the execution warrant expired.

"Time became an issue," prison system spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said. "We had about a 25-minute window, certainly not enough time to carry out our protocol."

Corrections department officials consulted with Gov. Rick Perry's office, which concurred with the decision, Perry spokeswoman Kathy Walt said.

The postponement means Hood, 38, has at least another 30 days of life.

"The next step is to seek another date," said John Rolater, head of the appellate division at the prosecutor's office. "I don't know when that date will be or when we will file our motion, but it should be soon."

Hood initially won a reprieve just over an hour before he could have been put to death when State District Judge Curt Henderson lifted the death warrant.

Henderson's order set off a volley of appeals by prosecutors. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rescinded the order, saying Henderson overstepped his authority.

Hood was convicted of capital murder for the 1989 slayings of Ronald Williamson and Tracie Lynn Wallace at Williamson's home in Plano.

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