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State on Track To Execute Its 15th in 2012

Preston Hughes' appeals have repeatedly been denied

By Jordan Smith, Fri., Nov. 16, 2012

Preston Hughes
Preston Hughes

At press time, the state was readying to carry out the Nov. 15 execution of Preston Hughes III, set to become the 15th inmate executed this year and the 492nd inmate executed since reinstatement of the death penalty. Hughes was sentenced to death for the 1988 double murder of 15-year-old LaShandra Charles and her 3-year-old cousin, Marcell Taylor, who were found stabbed to death on a weed-choked trail behind a Fuddruckers in far West Houston (see "Framing the Guilty?," Nov. 2). Although Charles' carotid artery and jugular were severed, the first HPD detective arriving at the scene later claimed that Charles was awake and able to talk – and to tell him that she knew her attacker, whose name was Preston. Police quickly moved to a nearby apartment complex, where they found Hughes. Police say they found evidence in his apartment that matched the crime, including a pair of fashion glasses that Charles had been known to wear as an accessory.

Hughes' appeals have been unsuccessful despite a plethora of evidence that suggests either that he is the wrong man, or that he was framed by police despite being guilty: Evidence records reflect that police logged evidence into custody several hours before they had permission to search Hughes' apartment. Notably, the glasses that police considered a direct link between Charles and Hughes were not on the evidence list; Hughes' attorney and supporters believe they were planted in the apartment some time in the hours after Charles was discovered. Moreover, when asked by the Chronicle this fall to review the autopsy evidence, Tarrant County Deputy Medical Examiner Lloyd White concluded that it would have been medically impossible for Charles to have been conscious and talking after sustaining such a fatal injury.

Hughes' attorney Pat McCann has filed several recent appeals – including one that raises the question of police having planted evidence – each of which has been denied. Meanwhile, California-based blogger John Allen, known online as the Skeptical Juror (www.skepticaljuror.com), has helped Hughes to file a flurry of pro se writs; each of those also has been denied, clearing the way for Hughes' execution this evening, Thursday, Nov. 15.

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