TEXAS – 5th Circuit sends death case back to local judge – Anthony Bartee

May 31, 2012 Source :


The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has asked a lower court judge to rule on whether the testing of DNA evidence ordered by the Bexar County district attorney’s office in death row inmate Anthony Bartee‘s case now makes moot Bartee’s claim that the office violated his civil rights.

Bartee, on death row since 1998 for the robbery and shooting death of David Cook, 37, won a stay of execution May 2 just hours before he was set to die by lethal injection.

Chief U.S. District Court Judge Fred Biery granted the stay after Bartee’s lawyer, David Dow, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the district attorney’s office, saying they violated Bartee’s rights by not releasing evidence for testing.

The county appealed Biery’s ruling for a stay to the 5th Circuit. However, the county also submitted for testing the evidence Dow sought to have released.

Because of that, the 5th Circuit ruled on Tuesday to send the case back to Biery for the purpose of answering whether the testing makes Bartee’s claim irrelevant.

No information was available on when Biery might rule on the case.

Rico Valdez, with the Bexar County district attorney’s office, said they plan to finish the testing.

No new execution date has been set for Bartee.

TEXAS – Decision adds to scrutiny of death penalty cases – Anthony Bartee

May 26, 2012 Source

At 3:25 a.m. on May 2, Anthony Bartee was eating breakfast, not knowing if it would be his last.

That evening, Bartee, 55, was to be strapped to the gurney in the death chamber in Huntsville for the 1996 robbery and slaying of his friend David Cook, 37.

Bartee’s attorney David Dow started his day scrambling to get his client a second stay the first was granted within a week of Bartee’s original Feb. 28 execution date. In addition to the usual appellate route, Dow took an atypical one.

He filed a federal lawsuit against the Bexar County district attorney’s office, claiming that Bartee’s civil rights were violated by prosecutors withholding evidence for DNA testing that could prove his client’s innocence.

The DA’s office doubted the attempt would work because Bartee had 15 years to make evidence claims. And besides, he wasn’t convicted based on DNA. But with Bartee’s death imminent, Chief U.S. District Judge Fred Biery granted the temporary stay to allow more time to examine Dow’s civil rights claims.

The ruling was rare, experts said, and speaks to an ever-increasing scrutiny of death penalty cases as exonerations from post-conviction DNA testing continue to mount.

“The courts are more cautious, and most people think they should be if there is a question about it,” said Cornell University Law School Professor John H. Blume.

Juries, too, are handing down fewer death sentences, nationwide and locally.

Local prosecutors have noted the trend and are taking a harder look at whether to seek death.

“We don’t go get the death penalty just because we can,” First Assistant District Attorney Cliff Herberg said. “It’s a very serious decision-making process.”

Dow did not return phone calls or emails.

A majority of Texans, 73 percent, either strongly or somewhat support the death penalty, according to a University of Texas at Austin and Texas Tribune poll published Thursday. The number drops to 53 percent when asked about the option of life without parole.

A majority of Americans also support the death penalty, according to a 2011 Gallup Poll. But at 61 percent, that support is at its lowest point in 39 years, the poll concluded.

Since the state adopted life without parole in 2005 as an alternative to death, it “definitely changed the dynamics” in Bexar County, Herberg said.

Exonerations also have affected the entire criminal justice system, including jurors who must decide if someone lives or dies, said John Schmolesky, a professor at St. Mary’s University School of Law.

“I think it’s moved the pendulum to at least introduce an element of skepticism in capital cases,” Schmolesky said.

The last death sentence in Bexar County came in 2009, a year when only one person was condemned to die although prosecutors had sought the death penalty more often than that.

Given that at least 24 people were sentenced to die in the 11-year period that ended in 2006, Bartee being one of them, that’s a dramatic decrease.

Death sentences in the United States also have dropped, by 65 percent in the past 12 years, with 78 handed down last year, compared with 224 in 2000, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Prosecutors here, in deciding whether to seek the death penalty, weigh the cost of the litigation, the circumstances of the crime and the accused killer’s history of violence, among other factors, Herberg said.

“The future danger aspect of it has always been an issue with the jury,” he added. “If they can’t get out of prison, (communities) are safer.”

Bartee’s own violent past wasn’t known to Cook, his friends or family.

He was sent to prison for raping at knifepoint a girl, 15, and a woman, 20, in separate incidents in 1983, according to court records. At the time Cook was killed, Bartee had been out on parole for only 15 months.

The DNA factor

At 9:35 a.m. on May 2, Bartee was eating lunch and visiting with family. His father and sister planned to witness his execution. So did the father, two sisters and brother-in-law of Cook.

n San Antonio that day, district attorney’s office investigator George Saidler, a retired homicide detective who worked on Cook’s case, was searching the police property room for glasses and cigarettes collected 16 years ago from Cook’s house.

What prompted him was Dow’s new request for DNA evidence testing. Prosecutors needed to know if authorities still had the evidence, especially if a court ruled in Bartee’s favor.

Biery’s decision to stay the execution was a move in the right direction, said civil rights attorney Jeff Blackburn, who heads the Innocence Project of Texas.

“We have to err on the side of finding out every fact that we can,” he said. “I think that if we’ve learned anything, it’s that it’s hard to trust the government when they say (DNA’s) not involved in this case.”

Nationwide, DNA testing has been instrumental in exonerating more than 280 people, the majority in the past 12 years. Of those, 17 spent time on death row, according to The Innocence Project.

Still, that’s just a fraction of the more than 2,000 people falsely convicted in the past 23 years, according to the first national registry of its kind, which was released last week.

In response to the growing number of exonerations and advances in DNA testing technology, the Texas Legislature made changes regarding DNA evidence that could help someone wrongly convicted prove their innocence.

Two changes occurred late last year. Lawmakers made it less difficult for someone convicted to get DNA testing introduced in court. Also, judges now have the power to order that DNA profiles be sent through national and state databases, presumably to find out whether someone else committed the crime.

Bartee, so far, has benefited from the new laws.

“I think you do see the courts are saying, no matter what let’s test it,” Herberg said. “We’re certainly seeing that. That’s the reason for this delay (in Bartee’s case).”

The new evidence laws have ushered in debates about what to test and when. Advocates of testing argue that every avenue needs to be explored, while some prosecutors contend that more DNA testing can be used as a stalling tactic.

“DNA evidence isn’t the silver bullet that’s going to solve every single case,” Schmolesky said. “If the (person) admits he was present, he may have left fingerprints, saliva on cups for example, or things that result in DNA testing but don’t show he committed a crime.”

Local prosecutors haven’t wavered in their belief that further testing for Bartee’s case is a waste of time.

“He wasn’t convicted with DNA evidence but by his own behavior,” Assistant District Attorney Rico Valdez said.

A cautious approach

At noon on May 2, Bartee finished visitation. He was transferred that afternoon from death row in Livingston to Huntsville. He had his final meal before his scheduled 6 p.m. execution and waited to see if Biery’s stay would be overturned.

Just after 7 p.m., when the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals stayed Bartee’s execution, he thanked his family, his supporters, God and his legal team.

With the execution stalled, prosecutors also opted for caution. They sent for testing the glasses and cigarettes Saidler had found in the property room, though no court had ordered it.

They didn’t want lingering unanswered questions about a conviction, if it could be helped.

“We don’t want anyone thinking we just want someone executed,” Valdez said.

Last week the Bexar County crime lab’s testing found on the evidence the DNA of three people — two men and one woman so far unidentified. The results will now be sent through the state and federal databases. As prosecutors hunt for DNA matches, the civil rights case lingers in federal court.

To Valdez, the results so far haven’t changed a thing.

And almost three months to the day Bartee was first scheduled to die, he remains on death row with no new execution date set.


TEXAS – Anthony Bartee execution scheduled for today – STAY granted

Why the State of Texas is moving forward with the execution despite the fact that there is significant DNA evidence that has not been tested despite numerous appeals filed by his attorneys to have the evidence tested

7.29 p.m  Stay granted to Anthony Bartee, scheduled for execution tonight. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered additional briefing, due May 8th. Congrats to attorneys David Dow and Jeff Newberry for their spectacular work! source : Texas Defender Service

7 p.m.  no word yet from the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals about whether they will affirm or overturn Anthony Bartee’s stay of execution.


HUNTSVILLE, Texas — Anthony Bartee remains in limbo as a federal appeals court mulls over a challenge of a court order delaying his execution tonight.

The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals continued to consider the challenge even as the scheduled time of Bartee’s execution passed.

UPDATE : 4:44 pm CDT 


By Execution Watch

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — The prosecutor’s office that obtained the death sentence against Anthony Bartee is doing its best to see that it is carried out tonight.

The Bexar County District Attorney’s Office has asked the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to throw out the stay issued by U.S. District Judge Fred Biery in San Antonio, a spokesman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said.

The district attorney’s brief is before appeals court now.



By Execution Watch

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — Anthony Bartee received a stay of execution this afternoon with about two hours to spare.

A federal judge in San Antonio granted Bartee’s request to put off the execution so he may press his claim that further testing of crime-scene evidence should be done and that it would point to his innocence.

It remains to be seen whether the stay can and will be challenged by the state in time to proceed with its plan to put Bartee to death tonight.

The execution was scheduled for a little after 6 p.m., but the document ordering the execution generally allows it to be carried out up until shortly before midnight.

In granting the stay, U.S. District Judge Fred Biery said Bartee “has shown a significant possibility of success on the merits.”

Bartee’s execution would be the 244th execution conducted under the administration of Rick Perry.

Anthony Bartee, 55, still has an appeal pending with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking further genetic testing of the crime scene evidence, and his attorneys filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in San Antonio on Wednesday over the same issues. The execution by lethal injection is scheduled for 6 p.m. CDT today. One of TMN’s Facebook page members is traveling to Huntsville today from Austin to protest the execution.

By Execution Watch
HUNTSVILLE, Texas — Anthony Bartee, slated to be put to death this evening, filed a civil rights lawsuit today against the Bexar County District Attorney in U.S. District Court in San Antonio, a spokesman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said.

Bartee also asked the federal panel to put his execution on hold. The next step for the court is to assign a judge.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals today denied Bartee’s request for a stay, affirming the trial court’s ruling that the results of recent DNA tests probably would not have persuaded a jury to acquit him if they had been available as evidence at trial.

Bartee appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to delay his execution. The stay application joined a pending request for the high court to review his case.

Abbott urged the Supreme Court to reject the request for a stay, asking that the execution be allowed to go forward as planned.

If the state proceeds with its plan to execute Bartee, Execution Watch will broadcast live coverage and commentary starting at 6 p.m. Central Time on KPFT FM 90.1 in Houston and worldwide at > Listen.

Source : Texas Court

Case Information:
Case Number: AP-76,783
Date Filed: 4/30/2012
Case Type: DNA

Case Events:

  Date Event Type Description
View Event BRIEF FILED 4/30/2012 BRIEF FILED Appellant
View Event AFFIDAVIT FILED 4/30/2012 AFFIDAVIT FILED Appellant
View Event DP BEGIN DNA 4/30/2012 DP BEGIN DNA Appellant
View Event NOTICE OF APPEAL 4/30/2012 NOTICE OF APPEAL Appellant
View Event STAY OF EXECUTION 4/30/2012 STAY OF EXECUTION Appellant
View Event AFFIDAVIT FILED 4/30/2012 AFFIDAVIT FILED Appellant


  Set Date Calendar Type Reason Set
View Calendar 4/30/2012 STATUS STATE’S BRIEF DUE


  Party Party Type

Court of Appeals Case Information:

COA Case Number:
COA Disposition:
Opinion Cite:
Court of Appeals District:

Trial Court Information:

Trial Court: 175th District Court
County: Bexar
Case Number: 1997-CR-1659
Court Reporter:

 Hint: Click on the folder icons above for more case information.

TEXAS : Why Not Test The DNA?

May 1 Source :

People always hold out DNA evidence as the magic bullet that will solve our criminal justice woes; though it’s not actually available in most cases, we can — when we do have it — scientifically determine the guilty from the innocent.

But not if we don’t test it.

Tomorrow, the State of Texas plans to execute Anthony Bartee for the 1996 murder of his friend David Cook in San Antonio.  Bartee has consistently maintained that although he was present at the house, he did not kill Cook.

Bartee was originally scheduled to be executed on February 28, 2012, even though DNA evidence collected at the crime scene had not been tested as ordered on at least two occasions by District Judge Mary Román. He received a reprieve on February 23, 2012 when Judge Román withdrew the execution warrant so that additional DNA testing could be conducted on strands of hair found in the hands of the victim, David Cook.  She also ordered the forensic lab to provide a detailed and comprehensive report to the court with an analysis of the results. Yet, before the testing occurred, Judge Román inexplicably set another execution date, for May 2, 2012.

According to Bartee’s attorneys, DNA testing was just conducted and indicated that hairs that were tested found in Cook’s hands belonged to Cook.  The jury never heard this evidence – and in fact wasn’t told about the hairs at all – which might have undermined the prosecution’s theory of the case that a violent struggle had ensued between Cook and his killer. Still, Judge Román entered the findings as unfavorable, opining that this evidence would not have made a difference in the outcome of the trial, had it been available to the jury. Under Article 64.05 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Bartee’s attorneys have the right to appeal the unfavorable findings. The fast-approaching execution date significantly impedes this right to due process, however.

In addition, there is still more evidence that has not been tested for DNA, including cigarette butts and at least three drinking glasses found at the crime scene. In 2010, the court ordered that all items that had not been tested be tested, but these items still have not been tested.

If the state is so certain that Bartee is guilty based on circumstantial evidence, what’s the harm in waiting a little while to finish testing all of the available DNA evidence? If the state turns out to be right, Bartee will almost certainly be executed in a couple of months; if the state turns out to be wrong, an innocent man is saved. Given those stakes, and the near-universal abhorrence of executing innocent people, it seems pretty clear what to do.

A petition is here. Please consider signing and passing it along.

TEXAS – One Slated, One Stayed

april 26 source :

On the eve of the state’s 482nd execution since reinstatement of the death penalty, a federal court on April 24 issued a stay for Beunka Adams, who was slated to be executed tonight. Adams was convicted of the robbery and murder of Kenneth Wayne Vandever in 2002. Adams and co-defendant Richard Cobb were convicted of robbing a Rusk convenience store and then kidnapping Vandever and two female clerks. The pair then reportedly drove the three to a field, sexually assaulted one of the women and shot all three; the women survived, but Vandever did not. Adams has lamented his involvement in the robbery – “Due to financial burdans [sic], confusion, and drug abuse … I ended up getting into something I deeply regret,” he wrote in 2004 – but has also written online that he was not the triggerman. Adams alleges that although Cobb confessed to shooting the trio, that information was suppressed during his trial. Both men were given the death penalty. Cobb is still on death row. A federal judge in Texarkana stayed Adams’ execution reportedly in order to give the court an opportunity to consider whether Adams received ineffective assistance of counsel during the early stages of his appeal.

Also scheduled to die, on May 2, is Anthony Bartee, even though advocates say further DNA testing is needed in his case. Bartee was slated to be executed earlier this year, but he was given a reprieve so that never-before-tested DNA evidence could be analyzed. He was sentenced to die for the 1996 murder in San Antonio of his friend David Cook. According to the state, Bartee shot the 37-year-old in the head and neck and then fled the scene on Cook’s motorcycle. Reportedly Bartee has maintained his innocence; he was with Cook at the time of the crime but was not the doer. His previous date with death was cancelled so that hairs found clutched in Cook’s hand could be tested; now, however, the Texas Coalition To Abolish the Death Penalty reports that although that testing is not yet completed, state District Judge Mary Román has issued a new death warrant for next week.

TEXAS – Execution dates set for two death row inmates

march 16, 2012

Execution dates were set for two Bexar County death row inmates, including one who was given a reprieve last month days before his scheduled execution, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Anthony Bartee, 55, was scheduled to die on Feb. 28 but was granted a reprieve to allow for additional forensic testing. Bartee’s attorney, David Dow, sent a letter to the court arguing the new May 2 date should not have been set because the DNA testing has not been completed. He said neither he nor his client was told of a hearing to set a new date, the letter said.

Bartee was convicted in the August 1996 robbery-murder of his friend David Cook.

An execution date of Nov. 14 was set for Ramon Hernandez, 40. Hernandez was convicted in the 2002 rape and murder of Rosa Rosado, 37, according to TDCJ.

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