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Lawyers: Texas Inmate Facing Execution Lacked Legal Help

  • Associated Press

This undated photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice shows TaiChin Preyor. Texas' highest criminal court and a federal judge have refused to stop this week's scheduled execution of Preyor, the convicted killer of a woman in San Antonio in 2004. Preyor is set for lethal injection July 27, 2017.

Attorneys for a condemned killer of a San Antonio woman argue that deficient legal help during earlier stages of his appeals tainted his case and that he should be spared from being executed Thursday so his appeals can be reviewed more fairly.

TaiChin Preyor, 46, is set for lethal injection for fatally slashing 24-year-old Jami Tackett in 2004. She's identified in court documents as his drug supplier.

If executed, Preyor would be the fifth inmate put to death in Texas this year and the 16th nationally.

Preyor's lawyers, who were rejected by Texas courts and a federal judge in San Antonio, were at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals pursuing arguments that an inexperienced California attorney who handled federal appeals in his case from 2011 to 2014 was “utterly unqualified.” They said she employed a disbarred lawyer for guidance, perpetrating a fraud on the courts.

The appeals court should “pause the process to ensure that Preyor is not executed without receiving a full and fair opportunity to present his claims,” attorney Catherine Stetson told the 5th Circuit. “Preyor is not seeking absolution or commutation; he is seeking a chance to make the best case that he can.”

State attorneys said the late appeals to reopen his case were legally improper and that it was Preyor's decision to stay with the inexperienced lawyer who didn't appear to miss any filing deadlines and filed appropriate pleadings.

“Preyor may not be pleased with the outcome or might wish that different claims had been raised, but that does not warrant extraordinary relief,” Assistant Attorney General Erich Dryden told the court.

The disbarred lawyer wasn't precluded from assisting Preyor's attorney, state lawyers said.

Testimony showed that in the early hours of Feb. 26, 2004, Preyor, dressed in black and wearing a hood and gloves, kicked in the door of a San Antonio apartment where Tackett lived and kept drugs in a safe.

Tackett recognized Preyor when he barged into a bedroom, calling him by his nickname “Box.” He attacked her boyfriend, who escaped to a neighbor's apartment and called for help. Evidence showed Preyor, also a drug seller and user since adolescence, then stabbed Tackett and cut her throat.

Tackett died before paramedics arrived but was able to tell police “the guy who ran from the apartment did this,” John Economidy, Preyor's lead defense attorney, recalled this week.

“He is caught at the scene, and the dying declaration did not help us a whole lot,” Economidy said.

Preyor, in the second of two statements to San Antonio police, said Tackett and her boyfriend attacked him and that he “poked” at Tackett with a knife to protect himself.

“I felt like I was a victim,” he said. “I was the one being robbed, and I defended myself.”

He fled the apartment but returned because he lost his car keys in the struggle. By the time he tried to flee a second time, police had arrived and used pepper spray to subdue him. He was covered with the blood of his victims.

At least six other Texas prisoners are scheduled to be executed in the next several months.

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