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Appeals Court Rules Tarrant Inmate Can’t Be Executed

L.P. Phillips for 1080 KRLD | CBSDFW.COM
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FORT WORTH (1080 KRLD) – A man convicted of murdering a Fort Worth restaurant manager in October of 1989 cannot be executed, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled Wednesday.

Steven Kenneth Staley, 51, was sentenced to death in 1991 for the abduction and shooting death of Robert Read, a manager of a Steak & Ale restaurant in Tarrant County.

Doctors testified Staley suffers from chronic psychosis, namely paranoid schizophrenia, which he “had been routinely diagnosed for nearly 15 years and that his condition had deteriorated over time” said the CCA opinion. Without medication, Staley “was incompetent to be executed.” With medication, he could understand the charges enough to meet legal thresholds. The issue before the court was whether Staley could be involuntarily medicated so he could understand the case and therefore be executed. The opinion found there are circumstances that allow involuntary medication, but those circumstances were never proven in Staley’s case.

The murder happened October 14, 1989 just prior to closing at the restaurant.

Staley, Tracey Duke and Brenda Rayburn had been on a four-state crime spree, according to the Texas Attorney General’s office. Staley had escaped from a prison in Colorado a month earlier and was suspected in the death of another escapee. The three brandished handguns just after eating and forced the staff into a kitchen storeroom. During the confusion an assistant manager had escaped and called police, the Attorney General’s office said. When officers arrived, Staley accused Read of setting off a silent alarm. Read was taken hostage. Staley, Read, Duke and Rayburn got into a car and sped off. Police began a pursuit. Ultimately the car broke down. As officers approached, they saw Read had been killed. The three surrendered.

Following his conviction, Staley had been scheduled for execution several times, with courts issuing stays along the way. The latest stay came February 13, 2012. Staley had been scheduled for death in May 16, 2012.

“I am very happy the Court of Criminal Appeals ruled the way they did and decided to save Mr. Staley’s life.” said John Stickles, Staley’s attorney.

While, under the CCA ruling Staley cannot be executed, there is a question whether he will remain on death row. Stickles says the ruling effectively slams the door shut on death by lethal injection. However, Jim Gibson of the Tarrant County District Attorneys Office kept the door open for appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court for further clarification. Gibson says it is also possible Staley could regain competency without the need for medication at some point in the future, at which time the death sentence could be reinstated.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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