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30 Jan, 2018 17:56

Texas death row inmate pleads for leniency citing ‘race’ factor in trial

Texas death row inmate pleads for leniency citing ‘race’ factor in trial

A Texas death row inmate has requested a reprieve from execution for the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend. He was already on parole for killing his estranged wife at the the time he killed his lover.

William Rayford, 64, is facing lethal injection Tuesday evening for beating, stabbing and strangling 44-year-old Carol Lynn Thomas Hall. Her body was found about 300 feet inside a drainage pipe behind her home in South Dallas, Texas. Hall's 11-year-old son was also attacked but survived. He testified against Rayford.

Rayford had been convicted of murder in 1986 for fatally stabbing his estranged wife Gail in front of their four children. She had obtained a court order four days earlier to prevent him approaching her. He was sentenced to 23 years in prison for this killing, but was released on parole after eight years under a Texas law which authorized the release of some prisoners to ease overcrowding in jails.

Rayford’s lawyers are now seeking to have his death sentence overturned. They argue that his sentencing was compromised because his attorney at the 2000 trial, improperly introduced the subject of race as a factor in prison violence while questioning a prison expert during the sentencing phase.

In her argument before the US Supreme Court, Nadia Wood, a Dallas-based federal public defender, argued the trial lawyer raised the issue of race to imply "that people like Mr. Rayford — a black man — are the cause of the violence" in prisons.

In a separate appeal to a lower federal court, Rayford's lawyers argued that a federal judge inappropriately denied money for his appeals, and that Hall's death may not have constituted a capital murder charge.

African-Americans are incarcerated more than 5 times when compared to whites, according to the NAACP. Rayford would be the nation's second inmate executed in 2018. The first execution was also in Texas.