Texas court vacates death sentence in 1990 Houston slayings

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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

HOUSTON -- The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has thrown out the death sentence of a Harris County man convicted of the slayings of a Houston couple more than two decades ago.

The state's highest criminal court ruled Wednesday that jurors who sent Daryl Wheatfall to death row in 1992 had instructions during his trial's punishment phase that have been found unconstitutional. His trial was held at a time when the Texas jury instructions covering mitigation issues in death penalty cases were evolving under U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

The appeals court has ordered his case be returned to the trial court for a new sentencing hearing.

The now 49-year-old Wheatfall was convicted of the December 1990 slayings of James Fitzgerald and his wife, L.B., in southeast Houston following an argument over $50.