Executions back on for Texas

HUNTSVILLE, TX INTERACTIVE: Go inside the death chamber

In a ruling late Monday, the state's highest criminal court refused to stop the scheduled execution of Karl Eugene Chamberlain, set to die Wednesday for the rape-slaying of a woman in Dallas in 1991.

The same issues successfully worked last week for another condemned Texas inmate, Derrick Sonnier, who avoided the death chamber about 90 minutes before he would have become the first prisoner in Texas executed in nearly nine months.

In his appeal, Chamberlain argued the chemicals used by Texas prison officials during lethal injections "would violate his Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment," according to the court ruling.

"We have reviewed (Chamberlain's) subsequent application and find that it should be dismissed," the court said.

Two of the court's nine judges dissented.

Similarly, the court denied at least two other appeals and a motion for a stay of execution.

David Schulman, an attorney for Chamberlain, said Monday evening he hoped the issue could be pursued in the federal courts but was uncertain whether he would file such an appeal.

"We'll see what happens (Tuesday)," he said.

Other lawyers for Chamberlain already had appeals raising other issues before the U.S. Supreme Court even before the Texas court ruled on the lethal injection claim.

Monday's ruling also would appear to clear the way for a new execution date to be set for Sonnier, condemned for the slaying of a suburban Houston woman and her young son some 17 years ago.

Chamberlain was arrested five years after Felicia Prechtl was raped and fatally shot at her East Dallas apartment after his thumbprint was lifted from a roll of duct tape used to bind the 30-year-old single mom. He lived in the same apartment complex at the time. Chamberlain's fingerprints got into a police database after he was arrested for a robbery in Houston and wound up on probation.

Chamberlain, whose confession to police was part of the evidence against him, has not denied his involvement in the woman's death.

"I'm not trying to excuse my crime or justify my actions," Chamberlain, who would turn 38 later this month, said recently from death row. "It was a horrible mistake.

"My greatest regret is going down there and not killing myself."

Prechtl's brother and his girlfriend had taken her 5-year-old son to a video store to get a movie while she got ready to go out on a date. Chamberlain knocked on her door to borrow some sugar. Then he returned with a rifle and attacked and shot her. When Prechtl's son and babysitters returned home, they found her body.

Executions in Texas and elsewhere in the nation were on hold since late September after two Kentucky prisoners challenged the constitutionality of lethal injection procedures. Then when the Supreme Court in April upheld the method, the de facto moratorium was lifted and executions were allowed to resum, although Sonnier's set for last week in Texas was halted with a reprieve from the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Sonnier's appeal cited a then-unresolved case before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in seeking his reprieve.

Chamberlain's execution would be the sixth this year nationally. He's among at least 13 condemned Texas prisoners with execution dates in the coming few months.

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