HOUSTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday reversed a lower court decision that gave a new trial to a man condemned for killing an off-duty Houston police officer.
The high court told the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its decision that Anthony Cardell Haynes, 31, of Houston, should get a new trial or be released from death row.
The New Orleans-based federal appeals court had ordered Haynes retried or released because a prospective juror improperly was excluded from his 1999 trial in Harris County because of race. But the high court said the 5th Circuit last year misinterpreted Supreme Court rulings in its decision ordering a new trial.
The Texas Attorney General s Office had appealed the 5th Circuit ruling to the Supreme Court. Spokeswoman Lauri Saathoff said the office would have no comment on the decision.
Richard Ellis, Haynes attorney, said he could seek a rehearing before the high court or renew his challenge about the juror exclusion in arguments to the 5th Circuit.
I do have the option of filing for rehearing, he said. I haven t made any determination yet... It s my feeling the Supreme Court opinion was based on an overbroad interpretation of the 5th Circuit s decision.
Police Sgt. Kent Kincaid was killed after he followed a passing pickup truck that had fired a bullet into the windshield of his car. When the 40-year-old officer pulled up alongside the truck and identified himself as an officer, he was shot in the head. Kincaid, a 13-year officer, was not armed at the time of the shooting.
Haynes was arrested two days later and was convicted of murdering Kincaid.
Evidence showed Haynes and two others would shoot or strike the windshields of motorists to get them to stop, then rob them. In a taped confession, Haynes said he was driving the truck and that he shot Kincaid.
In his appeal, lawyers for Haynes, who is black, contended that State District Court Judge Jim Wallace improperly allowed Harris County prosecutors to exclude a juror because she was black.
The Supreme Court in 1986 found it unconstitutional to dismiss a juror because of race.
Prosecutors contended the juror was stricken from consideration because of her demeanor, that she was somewhat humorous and not serious. Haynes trial lawyers objected to her removal but Wallace ruled the juror exclusion was race-neutral.
The jury that convicted and then condemned Haynes included one black person. Of six potential black jurors interviewed during the selection process, four were stricken by prosecutors. One was eliminated by Haynes lawyers.
The 5th Circuit opinion noted a second judge was presiding during the individual questioning while Wallace was on the bench when potential jurors were questioned as a group. There was no explanation for Wallace s absence.
The problem was the judge that ruled on the challenges didn t observe the demeanor because he wasn t there, Ellis said. That s sort of a problem.
In its ruling Monday, the high court said it couldn t find any decision it had made on which the Court of Appeals appears to have relied in ordering a new trial for Haynes. But it said its ruling didn t reject the juror claim that was the basis of the appeal and that the lower courts still could look at it.
In other Texas death row cases Monday, the justices refused to review the appeal of Michael Sigala, a suburban Dallas man set to die next week for the slaying of a Brazilian man nine years ago. Sigala, 32, of Plano, was sentenced to death for the fatal shooting of Kleber Santos.
Santos, 28, and his wife, Lilian, 25, were shot at their Plano apartment in August 2000. The woman also was raped and the couple s wedding rings were stolen and subsequently pawned. Sigala was arrested about two months after the killings while on probation for a robbery conviction.
He has a March 2 execution date.
The high court also refused the appeal of Ramiro Gonzales, 27,
condemned for the fatal shooting of an 18-year-old woman whose remains were found west of San Antonio nearly two years after she vanished. Bridget Townsend had been reported missing from her home in Bandera County in January 2001.
Gonzales, sentenced to two life terms for the abduction and rape of a woman in Bandera County, was awaiting transfer to prison when he told authorities in October 2002 he knew where they could find Townsend at his family s ranch in adjacent Medina County.
He does not have an execution date.