TX: Cleve Foster - The U.S.SC gave a last-minute STAY
Wed Jan 12, 2011 14:10
Ex-recruiter's execution for 2002 Fort Worth slaying is halted at last minute Posted Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011
Express your opinion in a letter to the editor By Michael Graczyk
The Associated Press
HUNTSVILLE -- The U.S. Supreme Court gave a last-minute stay of execution Tuesday evening to a Desert Storm veteran and former Army recruiter convicted of raping and killing a Sudanese immigrant in Fort Worth in 2002.
Cleve Foster, 47, known as "Sarge" on Death Row, had eaten his final meal and was waiting to walk a few steps to the death chamber when the court's brief order was received just before 6 p.m., a prison spokesman said.
The court offered no explanation for its decision or why justices other than Justice Antonin Scalia participated. Scalia can act alone on Texas execution appeals. But he can also ask other justices to vote on whether to hear an appeal.
The order indicated that Scalia and Justice Samuel Alito dissented from the majority vote and would have allowed the execution to proceed.
When prison officials asked Foster whether he was surprised to get a reprieve, he said, "I was and I wasn't. I gave it to God a long time ago."
He also said he was gratified by support from friends, calling it "really humbling."
Foster's execution would have been the first this year in Texas.
Foster has always maintained that his co-defendant, Sheldon Ward, was responsible for fatally shooting 30-year-old Nyaneur "Mary" Pal on Feb. 13, 2002.
Ward, one of Foster's Army recruits, was also condemned for the slaying. He died of cancer last year in prison.
In their latest appeal, Foster's attorneys argued that his conviction was flawed because trial lawyers failed to arrange for a blood-spatter expert to dispute a detective's testimony that Ward couldn't have killed Pal and moved her body to where it was found all by himself. If they had presented such testimony, there was "at least a reasonable probability that the result of Mr. Foster's trial would have been different," appellate attorney Clint Broden said.
Prosecutors insisted that evidence showed that Foster actively participated in the woman's killing, offered no credible explanations, and lied and gave contradictory stories about his sexual activities with Pal. His eleventh-hour appeal "recycles the stale arguments that state and federal courts have already considered in rejecting Foster's protestations of innocence," Jonathan Mitchell, an assistant Texas solicitor general, wrote in the state's response.
Foster declined to speak with reporters in recent weeks. In 2005, he told The Associated Press that he viewed the evidence against him as prosecutors "pulling stuff out of their hat."
"I didn't do this," he said of Pal's killing.
Mary Pal was seen talking with the pair at a Fort Worth bar the night before her body was found in a ditch in the 9800 block of Heron Drive near Lake Worth.
A gun recovered from the motel room where Foster and Ward lived was identified as the murder weapon. It was also identified as the gun used two months earlier to kill Rachel Urnosky, 22, at her Fort Worth apartment.
Pal's blood and tissue were found on the weapon, and DNA evidence showed that both men had sex with Pal.
Ward said the sex was consensual. Foster said he was passed out from sleeping pills at the time Pal would have been shot.
Ben Leonard, a former Tarrant County assistant district attorney who prosecuted Foster, said Foster's appeals were "baloney."
"These guys raped and executed two women," he said. "They were Ted Bundy starter kits."
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