Texas: Stay for William Speer – not even five hours before his scheduled execution

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest appellate court, voted 6-5 to halt the execution of 49-year-old William Speer scheduled for Thursday night without giving reasons.

Speer is sentenced to death for the July 1997 killing of fellow inmate Gary Dickerson at Telford State Prison. His attorneys argued, among other things, that prosecutors failed to disclose evidence and made false statements at his 2001 trial and that his trial attorneys failed to present evidence about Speer’s troubled childhood – Speer was physically and sexually abused as a child.

Less than five hours before his scheduled execution at 6 p.m. local time, the appeals court granted the request of Speer’s attorneys, who in turn said the stay order could not be challenged in federal courts because it was a matter of state law.

His attorneys also said Speer has transformed himself in prison, expressed regret for his actions and now helps lead a religious program that serves other death row inmates.

“I am very aware of the things I did. I am aware of the pain and hurt that I have caused. All I can say is I’m sorry,” Speer says in a video submitted as part of an earlier clemency application to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.

The clemency board voted 7-0 Tuesday against commuting Speer’s death sentence to a lighter sentence and also declined to grant a six-month reprieve.

At the time of his fellow inmate Dickerson’s killing, Speer was serving a life sentence for the January 1991 shooting death of a friend’s father, Jerry Collins, at the man’s Houston home. Speer was 16 years old at the time. Prosecutors say Speer killed Dickerson to join the Texas Mafia prison gang.

Sammie Martin, Dickerson’s sister and only living relative, spoke out against the execution, saying, “I have spent a lot of time thinking about what justice my brother and my family deserve. In my heart, I feel that not only does he feel remorse for his actions, but he has done good for others and still has something to offer the world.”

Jerry Collins’ son has also forgiven Speer and opposes the execution, saying, “I will be present on the day of his execution, but not for the reasons people think. I will listen to his last words. And then I will bow my head, close my eyes, and say my own prayers for him. I will keep my eyes closed until it is over. I don’t want to see him die.”

Sources and more information:
Appeals court stops planned execution of Texas inmate convicted of killing a fellow prisoner
Two Transformed Lives Intersect at Texas Death Chamber
No Path to Redemption for Devout Death Row Inmates
Victim’s Sister, Faith Leaders, and Others Plead for Clemency for Will Speer….
Will Speer Video Submitted to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles