A Texas inmate on death row had his execution stayed yesterday just three hours before it was scheduled to be carried out. Robert Pruett, initially sentenced to 99 years in prison as an accomplice to a 1995 murder when he was 15, was then sentenced to death in 2002 over the 1999 killing of guard Daniel Nagle at a prison near Corpus Christi, but he maintains he was framed. Pruett, now 35, had been punished for eating in an unauthorized area and the disciplinary report was found torn up near Nagle's body with traces of what one DNA test revealed was Nagle's blood. A judge halted yesterday's scheduled lethal injection so DNA testing could be performed on a metal shank used to stab the guard, the Guardian reports. The test should be completed by May 28, Reuters reports.
In halting the execution, Judge Bert Richardson said that though attempts by Pruett's lawyers to delay his death "appear to be unreasonable, it is not clear they, in fact, are unreasonable." A Texas Department of Criminal Justice rep tells the AP Pruett was "excited to hear the news." Pruett argues he was framed for Nagle's murder just as he was about to file a grievance describing corruption and safety concerns at the prison. His blood or fingerprints have not been found on the shank so far, nor was Nagle's blood found on Pruett, though several inmates testified against him; some were rewarded with better treatment. Pruett's lawyers say their client wasn't given adequate legal advice during sentencing and allege evidence was damaged because it wasn't properly stored. (Read more death penalty stories.)