Supreme Court grants stay of execution in Texas case

WASHINGTON Tue Sep 20, 2011 6:19pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted a stay of execution for a Texas death row inmate, Cleve Foster, a 47-year-old former Army recruiter who was convicted of a 2002 murder and rape.

The court halted the execution of Foster about 2-1/2 hours before he was scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection around 6 p.m. local time in Texas. He was convicted of the rape and murder of a young woman he met in a bar in Fort Worth.

The justices in the brief order gave no reason why they granted the stay and said his execution will be delayed while the court considers his appeal. The Supreme Court granted a stay in another Texas death row case last week.

His appeal to the Supreme Court involved claims of ineffective assistance of counsel in earlier legal proceedings.

Foster was convicted along with an accomplice, Shelton Ward, in 2003 after a jury found him guilty of murder in the slaying of Nyanuer "Mary" Pal, whose body was found nude in a ditch, according to a report by the Texas Attorney General's office.

Ward died of brain cancer on death row in 2010. Foster maintained in his trial that Ward acted alone, and that contact between him and the victim was consensual.

The three were regulars at Fat Albert's bar in Fort Worth when, the night before Valentine's Day in 2002, bartenders said Pal walked out with them, according to the report. Pal left in her car and the men followed closely behind in Foster's truck.

Eight hours later, Pal's body was found with a gunshot wound to the head and wadded-up duct tape nearby, according to the report.

Texas has executed more than four times as many people as any other state since the death penalty was reinstated in the United States in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

(Reporting by James Vicini; Additional reporting by Karen Brooks in Austin; Editing by Jerry Norton)

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