The death sentence handed out to a Fort Worth man who shot and killed a five-year-old girl and her grandmother at a children’s birthday party, is to be examined by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Erick Davila, 29, was sentenced to death for the fatal shootings of Annette Stevenson, 47, and her 5-year-old granddaughter, Queshawn.
However, Devila’s attorney claims a former defense lawyer failed to raise an improper jury instruction as an issue. The Supreme Court will look at ineffective lawyering and whether it impacts the capital sentence.
A report in the Texas Tribune stated Davila, a gang member, drove to a house where he knew Jerry Stevenson, a rival gang member, could be found. He shot into the house and the front porch. Instead of killing the Stevenson, Davila killed Stevenson’s daughter and mother.
At the original trial, defense attorneys argued Davila did not intend to kill multiple people, just Jerry Stevenson. The argument would make the case ineligible for a capital murder conviction. To be convicted of capital murder in the specific case, Davila must have knowingly and intentionally killed multiple people.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton counted that Davila did intend to kill multiple people because he made reference to shooting guys on the porch post-arrest.
The trial jury hesitated on the issue of intent. During deliberations, it sought clarification on whether it was being asked if the defendant intended to murder the specific victims or to murder a specific person and took two lives in the process.
The court sent legal definitions including a charge that said Davila would be responsible for a crime if the only difference between the result and what he intended was that a different person was hurt, the brief said.
The defense argued it was an improper jury instruction, but the court overruled the lawyer’s objection. Within an hour, the jury returned a capital murder conviction and sentenced Davila to death.
Davila’s lawyers argued during an appeal of the sentence that his appellate lawyer failed to raise improper jury instruction as an issue. Davila’s current lawyer describes this omission as “life-threatening,” the Tribune article states.
Paxton maintains in a brief that Davila’s arguments are meritless. The attorney general says a federal district court examined the jury instruction in question and found no fault with it.
Davila’s case is one of three capital murder convictions from Texas being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court.
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If you are facing a serious charge like murder or manslaughter, it’s crucial to hire a seasoned Fort Worth criminal defense lawyer. Please call us at (682) 204-4066.