(credit: Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice)

(credit: Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice)

HOUSTON (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — The lawyer for a Dallas County woman set to die next week is appealing to block the woman’s execution, which would be the 500th in Texas since the state resumed carrying out the death penalty in 1982.

The total is far more than any other state.

Kimberly McCarthy, 52, also would be the first woman put to death in the U.S. since 2010 if she receives lethal injection June 26 in Huntsville.

The former nursing home therapist was condemned for the 1997 stabbing, beating and robbery of a 71-year-old neighbor, Dorothy Booth, who was killed at her home in Lancaster. Investigators said Booth a retired college professor, had agreed to give McCarthy a cup of sugar when she was attacked with knife and beaten with a candelabra. McCarthy also cut off Booth’s finger, so she could take her wedding ring. The slaying was one of three linked to McCarthy, who had become addicted to crack cocaine.

McCarthy’s appeal, filed Tuesday to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, contends black jurors improperly were excluded from her trial by Dallas County prosecutors and her lawyers should have challenged the exclusions both at the trial and in early appeals. McCarthy is black; her victim white. Of the 12 jurors at her trial, one was not white.

Maurie Levin, a University of Texas law professor representing McCarthy, said the punishment should be stopped and McCarthy’s case reviewed in light of a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision three weeks ago that backed another Texas prisoner who raised similar arguments about deficient legal help.

“I do think her case does present some of the topical issues of this decade,” Levin said Wednesday, referring to a “pervasive influence of race in administration of the death penalty and the inadequacy of counsel — a longstanding issue here.”

The failings of McCarthy’s earlier appellate help means no court ever has looked at McCarthy’s claims, she said.

Shelly Yeatts, who handles appellate cases in the Dallas County District Attorney’s office, said the Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest criminal court, first must decide whether Levin’s appeal is proper under filing rules before even considering the merits of the arguments.

In January, McCarthy had been moved to a small holding cell a few steps from the Texas death chamber when a Dallas judge moved her execution for April. That timing then was reset for next week when Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins said he wanted to await the outcome of capital punishment-related bills before lawmakers in Austin. The regular legislative session now has concluded.

McCarthy would be the eighth Texas prisoner executed this year. Her punishment is among at least eight scheduled for Texas in the coming months.

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