A prisoner on Texas death row for killing a Houston police officer 14 years ago lost an appeal at the U.S. Supreme Court less than an hour before his scheduled execution Wednesday evening.
Attorneys for Jeffrey Demond Williams, 37, appealed to the nation's highest court after lower courts rejected their arguments that Williams was failed by his previous attorneys.
The brief ruling from the court cleared the way for Williams to be put to death by injection and become the sixth inmate executed in Texas this year.
Williams was convicted of fatally shooting 39-year-old Officer Troy Blando while Blando was handcuffing him on May 19, 1999. Williams shot Blando with a gun he had tucked under his shirt. Blando was watching a motel where stolen cars typically were spotted when he saw Williams drive up in a Lexus that was reported stolen in a carjacking nine days earlier.
Prosecutors say that after shooting Blando, Williams fled the scene but only made it about a block before he was captured. Blando's cuffs were hanging from one of his wrists.
In their appeal, Williams' attorneys contended that his execution should be postponed so that the courts could further review their claims that he received substandard legal help at his trial that influenced the jury's decision to sentence him to death. They also said he received "grossly deficient" counsel early on in the appeals process because his attorneys then didn't address the poor job his trial attorneys had done.
"Mr. Williams has never been afforded the guarantee of constitutionally effective counsel at the punishment phase and he for nine years has sought a remedy in the state and federal courts for the resulting deprivation of his right to one meaningful opportunity to challenge his death sentence," said Jonathan Sheldon, Williams lead attorney.
Attorneys for the state opposed any delay, contending Williams' arguments were rejected by the courts, including the Supreme Court, in earlier appeals.
"He raises the very same meritless claim," Edward Marshall, an assistant Texas attorney general, said in his filing to the justices. "Williams is simply hoping for another bite at the apple, to appeal the denial of his substantive claims which have not factually changed in the nine years since he first raised them."
Williams' fingerprints were found on the Lexus and also on Blando's vehicle, evidence showed. When arrested, Williams was carrying the 9 mm pistol determined to be the murder weapon.
At his trial, his lawyers tried to show Williams was unintelligent, had emotional problems and didn't deserve to die.
Evidence showed Williams gave investigators five taped confessions the day he was arrested. Williams said he fired in self-defense, feared Blando could have been a carjacker and didn't know Blando was an officer. In another confession, he acknowledged knowing he was shooting a policeman.
Court records show Blando, although in plain clothes, was carrying his badge around his neck.
Testimony and confessions also linked Williams to four robberies, another shooting and an attempted robbery.
Williams would be the 498th Texas prisoner put to death since the state resumed carrying out capital punishment in 1982. At least eight others have executions scheduled in the coming months.