By William Melhado, The Texas Tribune
“Texas’ top criminal court halts William Speer’s execution hours before he was scheduled to die” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
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The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stayed the execution of William Speer on Thursday, just hours before he was scheduled to be executed. He was sentenced to death for the 1997 murder of a fellow prison inmate.
Speer’s attorneys alleged that prosecutors did not disclose evidence and presented false testimony during his 2001 trial, which prosecutors deny. Additionally, his current legal team said Speer’s trial lawyers did not include evidence about the physical and sexual abuse he endured as a child.
The criminal appeals court, Texas’ highest court for criminal cases, did not explicitly sustain those allegations. Its order only stayed the execution “pending further order of this Court.”
Despite requests from the victim’s sister and religious leaders to spare Speer, the Texas Attorney General’s Office said this week in court documents that the state still has an interest in pursuing the death penalty. Speer’s lawyers — who maintain that he has transformed while in prison — failed in state and federal courts to stop the execution.
More than two decades ago, Speer was sentenced to death for the murder of Gary Dickerson, in an effort to join a Texas Mafia prison gang in state prison. When Speer killed Dickerson, he was serving a life sentence for the murder of his friend’s father, Jerry Collins, who he suspected of abusing his friend. Speer was 16 at the time of the first killing.
In the decades Speer has spent on death row, he has participated in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Rehabilitation Programs Division as the first inmate coordinator. During the 18-month rehabilitation program, Speer worked with 28 people on death row by leading religious services and weekly classes.
But in the decades since Speer killed Dickerson, the victim’s only living sibling asked that Speer’s life be spared. Sammie Martin submitted federal court documents this week that attested to Speer’s remorse and said that he has done good work for others.
Additionally, a group of religious leaders appealed to Gov. Greg Abbott and the parole board to stop the execution based on Speer’s faith-based work with other prisoners.
On Tuesday, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles unanimously voted to deny clemency or a six-month reprieve for Speer.
The Special Prosecution Unit, which is an organization that oversees crimes that occur in Texas prisons, does not plan to appeal the criminal court’s order said Melinda Fletcher, general counsel for SPU, in an emailed statement to The Texas Tribune.
“This is out of respect for the Court,” she said.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2023/10/26/texas-execution-william-speer/.
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