An appeals court has ordered that autopsy evidence presented during a 2006 death penalty trial must be re-evaluated by a Tarrant County court.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin ruled Wednesday that the trial court in Tilon Lashon Carter’s case must resolve questions regarding the statements of Nizam Peerwani, Tarrant County Medical Examiner, and three other forensic pathologists.
Carter, 37, was convicted of the robbery and 2004 slaying of James Tomlin, 89, a Bell Helicopter retiree, and sentenced to death on a capital murder charge. Prosecutors said that Carter and his girlfriend, Leketha Allen, went to Tomlin's home to rob him and took $6,000.
Allen, 32, was sentenced to 25 years after agreeing to a plea bargain arrangement with prosecutors.
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The appeals court ruled that a motion arguing that Carter received ineffective trial counsel and was denied due process because Peerwani presented false and misleading testimony had merit.
Appeals court judges also found that statements from pathologists were contradictory. Peerwani testified that Tomlin was intentionally smothered during the course of events that led to his death. Peerwani concluded that the inner markings on Tomlin’s lips indicted that the victim was intentionally smothered, appeal court documents stated.
Peerwani later stated that Tomlin did not die of smothering and that the inner markings inside his lip could have been caused by something like a slap to the face. Also, forensic pathologists did not agree on a cause of death for Tomlin and none could say that Carter intended to kill Tomlin, a necessary element for a capital murder conviction, according to court documents.
Carter has come close to being executed, but has had his scheduled execution date postponed twice.
Carter was originally scheduled to be executed in February, but that execution date was postponed due to a technicality. That time, the appeals court granted a stay of execution by a 5-4 vote on the grounds that notice of the scheduled execution date arrived half a day late at a state office that sometimes works on death penalty appeals.
Carter’s execution date was re-scheduled for May. The appeals court granted Carter a second stay of execution a week before it was scheduled to take place.
Carter was one of four death row inmates from Tarrant County scheduled to be executed this year. So far, Texas has put two of them to death.
The courts are deliberating whether Paul Storey, a man convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death for the 2006 slaying of Jonas Cherry, a manager at the Putt-Putt Golf and Games, will be executed.
Appellate judges are awaiting a recommendation from State District Judge Everett Young on whether prosecutors misled the jury about Cherry’s parents’ opposition to the death penalty.
Storey, who refused to take a guilty plea in the capital murder case that would have met a life sentence, was in court earlier in September witnessing the testimony of attorneys who tried his case in 2008.
The state has executed five death row inmates this year and two are from Tarrant County. Christopher Wilkins was put to death on Jan. 11 for a double murder committed in Fort Worth. He was the first person to be executed in the United States this year.
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Texas also executed a former Kennedale auto mechanic who killed a father and his infant son in a 1987 Christmas Eve killing spree. James Eugene Bigby, 61, was pronounced dead on March 14.
This story contains information from the Star-Telegram archives.
Fort Worth Police and the Tarrant County Sheriff's Office are looking for these 10 fugitives. Crime Stoppers will pay up to $1,000 for information leading to an arrest. Call 817-469-8477. Steve Wilsonswilson@star-telegram.com