Allan Turner reports, "Federal court grants stay of execution for Houston man," for the Houston Chronicle.
Houston capital killer Gerald Eldridge had eaten most of his final meal of pancakes, peanut butter, baked potato and chocolate milk this afternoon when a Houston federal court stayed his execution -- just two hours before he was to be put to death.
Eldridge, 45, had been condemned for the January 1993 murders of his ex-girlfriend Cynthia Bogany, 28, and her 9-year-old daughter, Chirrisa.
Prison spokesman Jason Clark said Eldridge was talking on the telephone with a relative when he was told of the stay.
"He became very emotional," Clark said. Prison authorities were preparing to return him to death row in nearby Livingston.
U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal granted Eldridge a 90-day stay and authorized expenditure of $7,500 for further psychiatric examinations.
Eldridge’s attorney, Lee Wilson of Houston, had argued in his appeal that the killer might be seriously mentally ill and incompetent to be executed. Under state law, a person must understand that he will be executed and why before he legally can be put to death.
Prosecutor Inger Hampton responded that Eldridge was likely faking insanity to avoid execution.
In her decision, Rosenthal noted that a state court previously gave the killer only enough money for a preliminary psychiatric evaluation, accepted the state’s expert opinion and did not give Eldridge an opportunity to respond to the prosecution.
In a preliminary mental health assessment submitted by Wilson, a psychologist found Eldridge suffered hallucinations and probable delusional thinking and might not be competent to be executed. She recommended he undergo further pscyhological testing.
As noted earlier, from an AP report:
Eldridge's lawyers argue in appeals to courts that Eldridge is delusional and clueless about his punishment. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that prisoners must be aware of their punishment to be eligible for execution.
More on the Supreme Court's 1986 ruling, Ford v. Wainwright, concerning competency to be executed is via Oyez. The Court revisited the topic in 2007, to address the 5th Circuit's application of the law in Panetti v. Quarterman.
Texas executions are still scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday evenings this week.