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Texas death row inmate granted another Supreme Court reprieve

By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer
updated 6:42 PM EDT, Tue September 20, 2011
Cleve Foster, 47, was scheduled to die for the 2002 murder of a Sudanese woman.
Cleve Foster, 47, was scheduled to die for the 2002 murder of a Sudanese woman.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Court grants Cleve Foster his third stay of execution
  • The order came just 2 1/2 hours before the scheduled lethal injection
  • He was scheduled to die for the 2002 murder of a Sudanese woman
  • Court said it needed more time to rule on his claims of ineffective counsel

Washington (CNN) -- The Supreme Court for the third time this year has stopped the pending capital punishment of a Texas inmate, giving lawyers for the man more time to file their appeals.

The justices on Tuesday issued an order granting a stay of execution for Cleve Foster, about 2 1/2 hours before his scheduled lethal injection. The Gulf War veteran was convicted along with another man of the 2002 murder of Nyanuer "Mary" Pal, a Sudanese immigrant he met at a Fort Worth bar.

The court indicated it would need more time to rule on the inmate's claims of prior ineffective assistance of counsel, and related claims of innocence of the murder.

This is the third time Foster, 47, has been granted a high court reprieve. His previous scheduled execution was stopped in January and April, once after he had already been given his last meal.

His April procedure was to be the state's first execution using a new sedative, the first in the lethal drug cocktail. A nationwide shortage of sodium thiopental forced corrections officials to announce they would use pentobarbital, a barbiturate that has alternately been used to put animals to sleep. Foster's lawyers had challenged that change, saying Texas foisted the new protocols so late, with little time for legal or medical review.

The state has since executed several inmates with the new drug mixture, without noted complications.

Foster has blamed his co-conspirator for the murder. His lawyers in their Supreme Court appeal presented letters from three fellow inmates who said co-defendant Sheldon Ward told them he acted alone in Pal's murder. The state countered Ward's statements to a psychologist implicating Foster as the mastermind behind the killing. They also said DNA from both men were found in the victim.

Texas has a planned lethal injection Wednesday. Lawrence Brewer, 44, was one of two white men convicted in the 1998 dragging death of James Byrd Jr., an African-American. That widely reported crime led to national movement to step up prosecutions and penalties for hate crimes.

Brewer has no pending appeals. It would be the 11th execution this year in Texas, the most active death-penalty state.

The current case is Foster v. Texas (11-6427).

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