HOUSTON (AP) — A woman condemned for killing a retired college professor in North Texas has an unusual ally in her efforts to delay next week's scheduled execution: Dallas County's top prosecutor.
District Attorney Craig Watkins asked a judge in Dallas on Friday to postpone Kimberly McCarthy's execution while lawmakers consider legislation that would improve the fairness of the death penalty.
McCarthy, a former nursing home therapist, was convicted of the 1997 killing of 71-year-old Dorothy Booth at the retired psychology professor's home in the Dallas suburb of Lancaster. Her execution is scheduled for Wednesday. The slaying was among three linked to McCarthy, who had become addicted to crack cocaine.
State District Judge Larry Mitchell indicated he was willing to change the execution date to June 26, but was not going to issue a ruling until the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals takes action on two motions about the execution date, said Maurie Levin, a University of Texas law professor who represents McCarthy. The expectation was that no action would be taken in the case until Monday at the earliest.
Levin asked Mitchell last week to halt McCarthy's execution, contending that prospective jurors and the subsequent jury at McCarthy's trial in Dallas County were predominantly white and might have been unfairly selected on the basis of race. McCarthy is black.
Watkins said Friday he believes McCarthy is guilty but added it is "prudent for us to stand aside" until lawmakers consider the bills.
"I want the public to trust that the inmate who was sentenced to death by a jury received a fair trial. The proposed legislation being reviewed at the Texas capitol can impact that," Watkins said in statement issued Thursday.
There are at least four bills in the current Texas legislative session that deal directly with the death penalty, including one in the House and its counterpart in the Senate that asks to prohibit seeking or imposing the death penalty on the basis of a person's race. All these bills remain in committee and have not had a public hearing. Without such a hearing, the measures cannot move forward.
Levin said she thinks that Watkins' request to delay the execution "reflects a commitment to fairness and justice."
"Ms. McCarthy's case raises claims of discrimination in the selection of her jury ... that fall squarely in the legislation being proposed," she said. "If the legislation passes, she would have a forum to litigate it."
McCarthy, 51, already was in a small holding cell a few steps from the Texas death chamber in Huntsville on Jan. 29 and within hours of her scheduled execution when Mitchell, acting on a filing from Levin, withdrew the execution warrant and reset it for April 3.
If McCarthy's punishment is carried out, she would be the first woman executed in the U.S. since 2010.
Follow Juan A. Lozano at http://www.twitter.com/juanlozano70