The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has granted a stay of execution for William Speer, who was scheduled to be executed on Thursday, just hours before the execution was set to take place. Speer, a resident of Bowie County, had been sentenced to death for the 1997 murder of a fellow prison inmate, Gary Dickerson.
Speer's attorneys raised allegations that prosecutors failed to disclose evidence and presented false testimony during his 2001 trial. They also asserted that Speer's trial lawyers had not presented evidence of the physical and sexual abuse he endured as a child. Prosecutors, on the other hand, denied these claims.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest court for criminal cases in the state, did not explicitly address the merits of these allegations. The court's order only stayed the execution "pending further order of this Court."
Despite appeals from the victim's sister and religious leaders to spare Speer's life, the Texas Attorney General's Office stated in court documents this week that the state still intends to pursue the death penalty. Speer's legal team had made efforts in both state and federal courts to halt the execution but had been unsuccessful.
William Speer was sentenced to death over two decades ago for the murder of Gary Dickerson. The killing occurred as part of an attempt to join a Texas Mafia prison gang while he was serving a life sentence for the murder of his friend's father, Jerry Collins. The motive behind the first murder was Speer's suspicion of abuse by Collins. Notably, Speer was only 16 years old at the time of the initial crime.
During his time on death row, Speer engaged in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's Rehabilitation Programs Division, where he served as the first inmate coordinator. In this role, he worked with 28 other death row inmates by leading religious services and conducting weekly classes.
However, even as Speer underwent a transformation while in prison, the victim's sole surviving sibling, Sammie Martin, submitted federal court documents this week, attesting to Speer's remorse and his positive contributions to the prison community.
Furthermore, a group of religious leaders appealed to Governor Greg Abbott and the parole board, urging them to halt the execution based on Speer's faith-based work with fellow prisoners.