AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court denied a last-minute appeal on Thursday and cleared the path for Texas to execute a man convicted of kidnapping a woman and choking her to death while driving.
Lawyers for the inmate, Daniel Acker, 46, argued he did not murder Marquetta George, his girlfriend. They said she died after jumping out of a moving vehicle and that he was convicted due to faulty forensic evidence.
The Supreme Court decision came less than three hours before Texas was set to execute Acker by lethal injection at the state’s death chamber in Huntsville at 6 p.m.. The court did not elaborate on its decision.
If the execution goes ahead, it will be the 18th this year in the United States and the 10th in Texas, which has put more prisoners to death than any state since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976.
Acker was convicted of murdering George in 2000.
The two had lived together and got into an argument after Acker believed George was seeing another man. At one point, Acker forced George into his pickup truck and drove off with her, court records showed.
George’s body was found on the side of a road a few miles away from their home.
Her heart and lungs were lacerated, and the bones in her face were broken. She had a shattered skull and injuries to her neck that forensic witnesses for the state testified were consistent with strangulation, the records showed.
Lawyers for Acker said in their filing that Acker had been planning to confront the man with whom he accused George of having an affair and that she jumped from the truck moving at high speed because she did not want to face him.
“The state’s case was based on the now-discredited strangling-while-driving hypothesis, a virtually impossible feat,” they said.
“Mr. Acker has taken full responsibility for the victim’s abduction and has expressed remorse for that act from the day he turned himself in shortly after the accident,” they said.
Texas said in its filing that Acker was duly convicted and a jury rightly concluded George’s death was due to strangulation, blunt-force injury, or a combination of the two.
“Acker produces no new evidence showing he did not commit the crime but continues to assert that George’s death resulted from her leap from the vehicle - a theory rejected by the jury at the time of trial,” Texas said.
Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Sandra Maler and Rosalba O'Brien