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Staying the Course in Huntsville

With the execution of death row inmate Willie Marcel Shannon, Texas earns the dubious distinction of having executed the 1,055th prisoner in U.S. since death penalty's 1976 reinstatement

By Jordan Smith, Fri., Nov. 17, 2006

With the execution of 33-year-old Texas death row inmate Willie Marcel Shannon on Nov. 8, the Lone Star State earned the dubious distinction of having executed the 1,055th prisoner in the U.S. since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. Shannon was convicted and sentenced to die for the 1992 Harris Co. carjacking and murder of Benjamin Garza, a witness in federal protection who was traveling to visit with his wife and children when he was murdered.

The Court of Criminal Appeals on Nov. 13 issued a stay of execution for 42-year-old Charles Nealy, derailing his execution (scheduled for tonight, Thursday), which would have made Nealy the 380th prisoner executed by the Huntsville death machine since reinstatement. Nealy was sent to death row for the 1997 robbery and murder of Dallas convenience store clerk Jiten Bhakta, reportedly based on the wildly conflicting testimony of eyewitnesses who fingered Nealy as one of two men – each wearing a hat and carrying a firearm – who robbed the store. The robbery was videotaped by an in-store camera, but because the image was poor, prosecutors relied on the testimony of Nealy's nephew, Memphis Nealy, to tie Charles to the scene. Reportedly, Memphis testified that not only did he recognize his uncle on the tape, but that Charles Nealy told him before the murder that he was planning to rob the store. Memphis Nealy has since recanted that testimony, claiming that Dallas Co. prosecutor George West coerced him into making the statement by threatening to charge him with capital murder if he did not cooperate, reports The Dallas Morning News. The CCA's Monday order sends Nealy's case back to Dallas Co. district court for a hearing to determine whether the recantation is reliable. Nealy would have been the 23rd prisoner killed by the state in 2006.

The Texas death machine will stand idle in December, but will be back in January, with five scheduled executions already on the calendar.

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