New death date for convicted killer

June 13, 2008 2:18:18 PM PDT
Convicted killer Derrick Sonnier, spared a trip to the Texas death chamber a week ago by a late reprieve from the state's top criminal court, was reset on Friday to die July 23.Sonnier's lethal injection June 3 was blocked by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals about 90 minutes before he was scheduled to die for the 1991 slayings of a suburban Houston woman and her 2-year-old son.

Attorneys for Sonnier, 40, cited then-unresolved cases before the appeals court that had raised questions about the constitutionality of lethal injection procedures used by Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials at a Huntsville prison.

The court this week rejected appeals in those cases and lifted the reprieve given to Sonnier, clearing the way for executions to continue in the state. Texas on Wednesday evening carried out its first execution in nearly nine months.

Similar arguments brought by two condemned Kentucky inmates to the U.S. Supreme Court had halted all executions in the nation from last September, when the high court agreed to consider their appeal. The justices rejected the appeal in mid-April.

With Sonnier's reprieve dissolved, Harris County prosecutors on Friday obtained the new execution date from State District Judge Michael Wilkinson.

Sonnier is among at least 13 Texas inmates with execution dates in the coming months, including one next week and now four for next month. Last year 26 convicted killers were put to death in Texas, the most of any state.

Sonnier was condemned for the fatal shootings of Melody Flowers, 27, and her son, Patrick, at their apartment in the Houston suburb of Humble. Flowers had been stabbed, beaten with a hammer and strangled. Her child was stabbed eight times. Both were found floating in a bathtub.

Sonnier initially was scheduled to die in February. That execution date, however, was withdrawn by prosecutors pending the outcome of the Kentucky case before the Supreme Court.

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