Attorneys for a condemned Texas prisoner asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt his execution scheduled for Wednesday evening for killing a young girl and her grandmother in a gang-related shooting a decade ago that turned a child's birthday party in Fort Worth into a bloodbath.
Erick Davila faced lethal injection for using a laser-sighted semi-automatic rifle to spray bullets at the gathering of about 20 people -- more than a dozen of them children -- outside an apartment. The gunfire was in apparent retaliation for a previous run-in with one of the people attending the party for a 9-year-old girl. Killed in the April 2008 attack were Annette Stevenson, 48, and her 5-year-old granddaughter, Queshawn Stevenson. Four others were wounded, including the birthday girl.
Davila, 31, would be the fifth Texas inmate executed and the ninth nationally.
Davila's attorneys argued to the Supreme Court that his execution should be stopped because it was improper for his trial judge, Sharen Wilson, now the Tarrant County district attorney, to request an execution date. They also questioned the role of a lawyer working with Wilson on capital appeals cases who previously represented Davila in an earlier appeal.
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The appeal also contended prosecutors withheld information that Davila was high on drugs at the time of the shootings and "likely intoxicated to the degree that it would have rendered him temporarily insane," lawyer Seth Kretzer told the high court in a filing. He argued that could have influenced jurors to decide on a lesser penalty, and questioned whether the way Texas juries decide death sentences is constitutionally proper.
State attorneys said Wilson never represented Davila, and state law and court rulings allow her office to represent the state's interests in the case. Prosecutors also argued Wilson prohibits assistants from participating in cases where they were defense lawyers and that courts have upheld the state's capital sentencing procedure.
They also said evidence showed Davila's trial attorneys properly were provided notes from police investigators, that voluntary intoxication is not a defense under Texas law and that the shootings were intentional and deliberate. Katherine Hayes, an assistant Texas attorney general, told the justices that Davila told detectives he went "to a shoot 'em up," was trying to "get the guys on the porch" and never mentioned any intoxication to police.
Defense lawyers at Davila's trial tried to show he didn't intend to kill multiple people, a criterion for the capital murder charge. They argued he instead only intended to kill Jerry Stevenson, whose daughter and mother were shot to death. Authorities said Stevenson belonged to a rival gang, which he denied, but whose members Davila blamed for shooting him in 2005.
Queshawn Stevenson's sister, then 11, testified she saw a man April 6, 2008, inside a dark car holding a gun with "a red dot" on it, and a short time later saw him standing next door and shoot.
Davila was caught the next day after a brief police chase. He previously was in prison for a 2004 burglary in Tarrant County and was released after about a year.
Davila was accused but not tried for another fatal shooting days before the birthday party slayings. While awaiting trial for capital murder, evidence showed he attacked Tarrant County jailers and maintenance workers during an escape attempt.
At the time of his trial, testimony showed Davila's father was in prison for a murder conviction.
Charges against the getaway driver, Garfield Thompson II, were dropped after he pleaded guilty in unrelated cases. He's serving 20 years in prison.