The Austin Chronicle

Death Watch: Double Dose

Two executions in Huntsville next week

By Sarah Marloff, September 21, 2018, News

Two inmates face executions next week. Troy Clark is scheduled for lethal injection on Wednesday, Sept. 26. Daniel Acker is due the following evening.

Both men claim they had no hand in the murders for which they were convicted, but for Clark, that insistence seems to have fallen on deaf ears. The most recent filing in his case was last November when the U.S. Supreme Court denied his appeal. Clark, from Tyler, Texas, was found guilty of the 1998 murder of Christina Muse, who was beaten and drowned in a bathtub, before her body was shoved into a barrel of lime and cement mix. According to the Houston Chronicle, Clark and some friends dumped the barrel in a remote area of the property that he lived on. When law enforcement found Muse's remains, they located a second body decomposing nearby.

Clark's original appellate lawyer Craig Henry argued that Clark's trial lawyer was "deficient" in his counsel, but Clark's second appellate attorney Jeffrey Newberry argued the same thing about Henry. In a 2014 appeal, Newberry wrote, "Henry's failure to present the mitigating evidence [to the appeals court] prevented the Fifth Circuit from considering ... evidence that transformed Clark's ... claim to such a degree that it was no longer the claim presented." But it's not clear what Newberry has since done to continue legal efforts on Clark's behalf. Today, anti-death penalty groups are calling on Gov. Greg Abbott and the Board of Pardons and Paroles to halt Clark's execution, including Dead Man Walking author Sister Helen Prejean.

Acker, however, is in the throes of last-minute appeals. On Tuesday, Sept. 18, the Court of Criminal Appeals denied his latest request for relief as well as his motion for a stay. Though his clemency application is still pending, his attorney Richard Ellis confirmed Tuesday that he'll continue to fight for Acker's life, and said an appeal to SCOTUS is likely his next step.

Acker, from Hopkins County, was convicted of capital murder in 2001 for the strangulation and dumping of his girlfriend Marquetta George's body. Since his arrest, Acker has held that George jumped out of his moving vehicle during a heated argument and was likely hit by another car. His most recent appeal alleges his innocence and argues that his due process was denied by the trial court's exclusion of evidence, as well as "false," "misleading," and "error"-filled testimony. Specific­ally, Acker's counsel claims it would have been all but impossible for him to strangle George while driving. The prosecution's trial argument relied heavily on the strangulation theory, but the state and its medical examiner later disavowed the possibility during a 2011 federal evidentiary hearing. The doctor suggested George was never strangled, and the prosecution then "contended that Mr. Acker pushed Ms. George from the truck, a theory that was never presented to Acker's jury." But that wasn't enough to sway the CCA. If last-minute relief is not granted, Clark and Acker will be the ninth and 10th inmates executed in Texas in 2018.

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