Death Row Inmate Argues "Secret Deal" Tainted His Case

Barbee was convicted of suffocating bagel shop owner Lisa Underwood and her son Jayden

By Chris Van Horne and Danny Robbins
|  Wednesday, Feb 22, 2012  |  Updated 1:00 PM CDT
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Death Row Inmate Argues for New Trial

Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice

Stephen Barbee was convicted of suffocating his pregnant ex-girlfriend Lisa Underwood and her 7-year-old son Jayden in a trial that lasted three days. He's been on Texas death row since February 2006.

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A Texas death row inmate returned to a Fort Worth court Wednesday for a hearing determine whether he should get a new trial in the deaths of his pregnant ex-girlfriend and her 7-year-old son.

Stephen Barbee, 44, was wheeled into the courtroom in a wheelchair.

His attorneys argue he received ineffective counsel when he was convicted in a 2006 trial that lasted less than three days. They claim Barbee's court-appointed attorney, William H. "Bill" Ray, had a "secret deal" with the trial judge, Bob Gill, to move cases quickly through the judge's court.

Gill retired in 2007 and now works is an assistant district attorney in Tarrant County.

State District Judge Louis Sturns, Gill's successor, is presiding over the hearing and will decide is a new trial is warranted.

On Wednesday, the defense mitigation expert, Amanda Maxwell, testified Ray ignored her reports and her requests to aid in Barbee's defense. She said Ray failed to offer as evidence during trial of Barbee's numerous head injuries, drug use, Lyme disease and reported hallucinations while in jail.

Maxwell testified that Ray and defense attorney Tim Moore tried to persuade Barbee to plead guilty by showing him crime scene and autopsy photos. Barbee said he was not guilty during the meeting.

Maxwell called it a "dismal defense" and that the attorneys said Barbee was "disgusting" and "believed he was a wussy" because he would cry.

Another half dozen witnesses are expected to testify, including members of Barbee's family who waited in the hall so that they could not hear testimony from others.

The family of bagel shop owner Lisa Underwood and her son Jayden were in the courtroom Wednesday intently watching the proceedings.

The hearing is expected to last two days.

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