Death Watch: Court of Criminal Appeals Grants Stay to Clinton Young

Evidentiary hearing expected in Midland County

Death row inmate Clinton Young received a stay of execution on Wednesday, eight days before his scheduled date of Oct. 26. The ruling was ordered by the state's Court of Criminal Appeals, and gives the high court more time to consider whether David Page, a co-defendant and key witness in the 2001 murder of Samuel Petrey, provided false or misleading testimony during Young's trial. The CCA has also ordered the 385th District Court in Midland County, where Young was tried, to hold an evidentiary hearing to consider new forensic testing that could implicate Page as the actual gunman.

Young, now 34, was 18 when he and Page accompanied three older men on a drug run in November 2001. But that deal went awry, and the driver, Doyle Douglas, was shot three times and killed. Young, Page, and the two other men dumped Douglas' body before Page and Young separated from the other two. Together they stole a truck, kidnapping the driver, Petrey, in the process. Authorities found Petrey's body the next day; he'd been shot twice in the head, and a pair of gloves were found nearby.

Though the gloves likely carried both identifying fingerprints and some semblance of gunshot primer residue that could scientifically identify who shot the gun at Petrey, prosecutors never submitted them as evidence. In fact, they tried Young as Douglas' killer based almost entirely on testimony from Page and the two other men – and did the same with Petrey. In exchange for his testimony, Page accepted a plea deal of 30 years. Young's defense was not aware that those offers were made during his trial.

But recently, in August, ballistics testing found a high concentration of gunpowder residue on the exterior of the pair of gloves, and previous testing had revealed only Page's fingerprints inside. Young's defense team has also secured four sworn statements from inmates alleging to have overheard Page bragging about shooting a man while Young slept, and framing him for the murder.

Young's stay is welcome news to those who fear one potentially innocent Texan has already been executed this month. Despite inconclusive evidence, the state took Robert Pruett's life on Oct. 12. Like Young, Pruett was young – only 15 when he was sentenced to 99 years for playing accomplice to a murder, then 20 when sentenced to death for the murder of a Beeville prison guard. Pruett's execution took place while Rodney Reed was in Bastrop for a hearing to determine whether a recent, potentially exculpatory interview with a key witness should justify a new trial. Visiting Judge Doug Shaver is expected to issue a recommendation to the CCA within eight weeks.

As for Young, his lawyers will continue to push for a new hearing that could grant Young a retrial or clemency. His stay came on the same day that Anthony Shore, scheduled for execution on Wednesday evening, received a 90-day stay so the state could investigate claims of collusion between him and Larry Swearingen. The state believes Shore plotted to claim responsibility for the murder of Melissa Trotter, for whom Swearingen has been convicted of killing.

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Clinton Young, David Page, Samuel Petrey, Doyle Douglas

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