The U.S. Supreme Court adjudicates many Texas death penalty cases. One of the most recent questions to come before the justices is whether a defendant should pay for a mistake made by his defense lawyer with his life.
The case stems from 2009 when Erick Daniel Davila was found guilty of capital murder. He was convicted of the killings of Annette Stevenson and her granddaughter, Queshawn Stevenson.
Davila, a member of the Bloods gang, committed the shootings at a 2008 birthday party in Fort Worth, Texas.
At the time of his trial, defense attorneys said Davila did not intend to kill multiple people, just Jerry Stevenson, who was the target. They argued this would make the case ineligible for a capital murder conviction and for Davila to receive the death penalty. Davila must have knowingly and intentionally killed multiple people in this case.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton argued in his brief to the court that Davila intended to kill many people. The prosecution said in its brief that he wanted to shoot the guys on the porch and was aiming Stevenson.
The brief said apart from Jerry Stevenson, only women and children were attending the party, the brief said.
During the trial, the jury wavered on the intent issue. It submitted a question to the court asking if jurors were being asked to decide if Davila intentionally murdered the specific victims, or intended to murder a person and took two more lives in the process.
The court sent a definition that Davila would be responsible for the offense if the only difference between what occurred and what he wanted to happen was that a different person was hurt. The defense at the time objected, pointing out this was an improper jury instruction. The judge overruled the objection and Davila received the death penalty.
The case was appealed. Davila said the lawyer at the appeal failed to raise the improper jury instruction as a pertinent issue.
Davila sought federal habeas relief claiming he received ineffective assistance of trial, appellate, and state habeas counsel. The federal district court denied habeas relief. The Supreme Court is yet to make a ruling.
Murder is a very serious offense and Texas executes more inmates than any other state. If you have been charged with murder in the Fort Worth area, it’s vital to get experienced legal counsel. Contact us by following this link.