Texas is scheduled to carry out its third execution of 2013, tonight in Huntsville. It would be the 495th post-Furman Texas execution since 1982, and the 256th execution conducted under the administration of Governor Rick Perry. Texas has the nation's most active death chamber and accounts for more than 37% of the executions in America's death penalty states.
At issue is whether his trial attorney – and then the state habeas attorney – rendered ineffective assistance of counsel on several counts: by failing to ask the court for jurors to be given the option of convicting Threadgill on the lesser charge of felony murder (attempting to commit one crime and engaging in a dangerous act that causes someone to lose life; unlike capital murder, there is no intent to kill in felony murder) and by failing to thoroughly investigate a previous shooting case out of Limestone County. In order to prove Threadgill would remain a future danger unless sentenced to death, prosecutors brought a host of evidence about his past. Indeed, at the time of the McDonald killing, Threadgill, then 29, had spent almost all of his adult life in prison; among the bad acts prosecutors used as evidence against him was an allegation that he had shot a man named Erik Martin in a previous and unrelated incident in another county. What Threadgill's defense apparently did not find out was that those Limestone County charges had been dropped after prosecutors found that there was "conflicting evidence" in the case.
Threadgill's claims were ultimately shot down, however, because they had not been raised in his first appeal. And on April 3, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his most recent appeal, which argued that the state habeas attorney was also ineffective for not calling into question the efficacy of the trial counsel. Whether these specific types of appeals can be made in Texas is actually the subject of a pending case before the U.S. Supreme Court, styled Trevino v. Thaler. The Fifth Circuit last week declined to stay Threadgill's execution, however, arguing that regardless of the outcome of the Trevino case, Threadgill is procedurally barred from having his claim heard. Threadgill's attorney, Lydia Brandt, is appealing that decision to the Supremes; at press time, a decision in the case was still pending.
To date, there have been seven executions in American death penalty states this year; a total of 1,327 post-Furman executions since 1977.
According to TDCJ, 10 additional execution dates have been set for 2013, including five scheduled in the next five weeks. More will be added.