HOUSTON (AP) - A federal appeals court has refused appeals from two Texas death row inmates, including one condemned for killing a corrections officer 12 years ago while already serving a life sentence for murder.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments Tuesday from Robert Pruett, 32, and Bobby Lee Hines, 39.
In December 1999, Pruett was at the McConnell Unit prison near Beeville in South Texas, serving 99 years for a slaying in Harris County, when prosecutors said he used a shank to fatally stab a corrections officer, Daniel Nagle.
Hines was condemned to death for the 1991 rape-slaying of Michele Wendy Haupt, 26, at her Dallas-area apartment. He was 19 at the time and on probation from a 10-year burglary sentence after spending three months in a boot camp.
Neither prisoner has an execution date. Their attorneys did not respond to calls seeking comment Wednesday morning. The 5th Circuit rulings can be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Pruett had argued that prosecutors presented a summary to jurors at his trial for the corrections officer's slaying that was improper and erroneous. The summary described how Pruett tried to recruit friends and solicit his brother and father to murder a neighbor in Harris County in 1995, and said he tried to escape arrest, bragged about the killing, attempted to kill witnesses while in jail and showed no remorse.
He contended the summary was used improperly to show he would be a continuing threat - one of the determinations jurors must make in deciding a death sentence.
The appeals court agreed with lower courts and prosecutors that the summary, was prepared three years before the officer's murder, had been intended for prison classification purposes and didn't violate his constitutional rights.
At Pruett's trial in Corpus Christi in 2002, evidence showed Nagle earlier had told Pruett he couldn't take his sack lunch to a recreation yard. Pruett testified he was upset that he had missed a hot lunch and said Nagle was writing a disciplinary report against him, but he denied killing the 37-year-old corrections officer.
A fellow prisoner testified that he saw the officer killed and a second inmate said Pruett told him earlier that day he intended to kill Nagle.
Hines came within two days of execution in 2003 before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stopped the punishment so he could pursue claims he was mentally impaired and ineligible for the death penalty under Supreme Court guidelines. His appeal before the 5th Circuit was intended to challenge the findings of lower courts that since then have ruled he's not mentally impaired.
The appeals panel said there's no indication to show the findings were unreasonable and cited a state court opinion that found "broad and consistent evidence that Hines lied frequently and well when his self-interest demanded it."
The victim in his case, Haupt, was found dead on the floor of her apartment in Carrollton, just north of Dallas. She'd been stabbed about 18 times with an ice pick and strangled with a cord from a stereo. DNA evidence tied Hines to the scene, he was found with items taken from the apartment and had bragged that he had keys to all apartments in the complex because he was staying with complex's maintenance man.