A prisoner in Texas faces execution on Thursday over a fatal robbery 33 years ago – despite his lawyers arguing his sentence is based on false expert testimony.
Brent Ray Brewer, 53, was condemned to death for the April 1990 murder of Robert Laminack, 66, who was giving Brewer and his girlfriend a lift to a Salvation Army location.
However, Brewer’s lawyers have asked the US Supreme Court for the execution to be halted, claiming prosecutors relied on discredited testimony from expert Richard Coons in a resentencing trial in 2009.
On Tuesday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed an appeal without reviewing the argument, saying the claim should have been raised previously, to the frustration of Brewer’s team.
“We are deeply disturbed that the [appeals court] refuses to address the injustice of allowing Brent Brewer to be executed without an opportunity to challenge Dr Coon’s false and unscientific testimony,” Shawn Nolan, one of Brewer’s lawyers, said.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted 7-0 against commuting Brewer’s death sentence to a lesser penalty, with members also rejecting a six-month reprieve.
Brewer and his girlfriend had first approached Mr Laminack outside his store in Amarillo, Texas, before attacking him, prosecutors said, adding he was stabbed in the neck and robbed of $140 (£114).
Brewer, who was 19 at the time of the robbery, was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in 1991, but the US Supreme Court overturned his sentence in 2007 after ruling the jury did not have proper instructions.
It found jurors were not allowed to give sufficient weight to factors that might cause them to impose a life sentence rather than death.
They made the same ruling in two other cases involving Texas inmates.
Brewer was abused as a child and suffered from mental illness, factors jurors were not allowed to consider, his lawyers argued, but he was again sentenced to death in 2009.
Why is there still a demand to stop the execution?
Brewer’s lawyers allege that at the resentencing trial, Dr Coons lied and declared, without scientific basis, that Brewer had no conscience and would be a future danger.
They argued Brewer did not have a history of violence while in prison.
Dr Coon’s testimony about future dangerousness was described as “insufficiently reliable” by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in a separate case involving a death row prisoner in 2010.
The court ruled he should not have been allowed to testify.
Robert Love, a Randall County district attorney whose office prosecuted Brewer, denied prosecutors presented false testimony and suggested Dr Coon’s testimony “was not material to the jury’s verdict”.
But last week one of the jurors at Brewer’s 2009 resentencing trial, Michele Douglas, wrote in the Houston Chronicle that a misleading instruction made her mistakenly vote for execution.
State Representative Joe Moody, who has tried to pass legislation against the misleading instruction cited by Ms Douglas, said it was “morally wrong” for Brewer to be executed under these circumstances.
Remorse and apology
Meanwhile, Brewer has said he has been a model prisoner with no history of violence and has tried to become a better person by participating in a faith-based program for death row inmates.
Brewer has expressed remorse and a desire to apologise to Mr Laminack’s family.
“I will never be able to repay or replace the hurt [and] worry [and] pain I caused you,” he wrote in a letter to the family.
“I come to you in true humility and honest heart and ask for your forgiveness.”
Mr Laminack’s son, Robert Laminack Junior, said his family would not comment.