Texas execution of murderer delayed as court hears appeal

By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – A planned execution in Texas on Thursday of a man convicted of murdering a woman in her San Antonio home in 2004 was delayed as the U.S. Supreme Court heard a last-minute appeal from lawyers for the death row inmate to spare his life.

TaiChin Preyor, 46, had been scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at the state’s death chamber in Huntsville at 6 p.m. CDT (2300 GMT). If the execution goes ahead, it would be the 543rd in Texas since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, the most of any state.

Lawyers for Preyor launched the appeal at the court on Thursday, arguing that prior counsel was incompetent and included a lawyer who lost his license two decades earlier and another attorney with no death penalty experience who used Wikipedia to navigate the Texas death penalty system.

“His trial counsel ignored glaring references to significant mitigation evidence, depriving jurors of crucial information likely to persuade them to impose a life sentence,” Preyor’s lawyers said in their filing.

They have said that some of the mitigating evidence included a traumatic childhood, marked by severe physical and sexual abuse.

Preyor was convicted in the 2004 killing of Jami Tackett, 24. He also stabbed a man who was with her, who survived.

A U.S. district judge in San Antonio dismissed a motion filed on Preyor’s behalf by his lawyers to halt the execution earlier this week.

Lawyers for Texas asked the Supreme Court to deny the appeal to halt the execution, saying Preyor had been justly sentenced.

“Preyor’s claim highlights a disturbing pattern of behavior he has exhibited for years: obtaining counsel, becoming dissatisfied with counsel’s performance and acquiring new counsel who then complains about former counsel’s representation,” they said in a filing with the Supreme Court.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; editing by James Dalgleish and G Crosse)

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