The Texas Court of Criminal of Appeals halted the scheduled lethal injection of Clifton Lamar Williams until questions about some incorrect testimony at his 2006 trial can be resolved.
Williams, 31, had faced execution Thursday evening for the killing of Cecelia Schneider of Tyler, about 85 miles east of Dallas. Investigators determined she had been beaten and stabbed before her body and her bed were set on fire.
In a brief order, the court agreed to return the case to the trial court in Tyler to review an appeal from Williams' attorneys. They want to examine whether incorrect FBI statistics regarding DNA probabilities in population estimates cited by witnesses could have affected the outcome of Williams' trial.
"We need time to look at this," said Seth Kretzer, one of Williams' lawyers. "No way we can investigate this in five hours.
"It requires some time, and the CCA saw that."
The Texas Department of Public Safety sent a notice June 30 that the FBI-developed population database used by the crime lab in Texas and other states had errors for calculating DNA match statistics in criminal investigations. The Texas Attorney General's Office informed Williams' attorneys of the discrepancy on Wednesday.
Prosecutors in Tyler, in Smith County, had opposed Williams' appeal for a reprieve, telling the appeals court the state police agency insisted that corrected figures would have no impact. Williams is black, and prosecutors said the probability of another black person with the same DNA profile found in Schneider's missing car was one in 40 sextillion. Jurors in 2006 were told the probability was one in 43 sextillion. A sextillion is defined as a 1 followed by 21 zeros.