Tuesday, November 13, 2012

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Media Advisory: Preston Hughes III scheduled for execution

AUSTIN – Pursuant to a court order by the 174th District Court of Harris County, Preston Hughes III is scheduled for execution after 6 p.m. on November 15, 2012.

In 1989, a Harris County jury found Hughes guilty of murdering fifteen-year-old Shandra Charles and three-year-old Marcell Taylor, during the course of the same criminal transaction.

FACTS OF THE CASE

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit described the facts surrounding the murder of Shandra and Marcell as follows:

At Hughes’s 1989 trial, the State presented evidence that Hughes stabbed both of the victims in the neck and chest, severing their aortas and jugular veins. When the police arrived at the scene, Shandra Charles was still alive. She told a police officer that a man named “Preston” had stabbed her after trying to rape her. The police officers went to an apartment complex near the vacant field in which the victims were found. The manager of the complex gave them a list of tenants. The only tenant named “Preston” was the petitioner. The police officers went to Hughes’s apartment around 2:30 a.m. He agreed to accompany the officers to the police station, where he later gave two written statements in which he admitted that he had stabbed both of the victims.

In the first statement, Hughes said that he had been carrying a knife with him because some people had been talking about trying to kill him. He said that, as he was walking home through the vacant field, someone came up behind him and touched him on the shoulder. He said he turned and “just started sticking with the knife.” It was dark, and he could not tell who was there, but after he “stuck the first two times,” he saw that it was Shandra Charles (Hughes called her “Shawn”). He said, “I was ‘f***ed up and I just got scared and kept sticking.’”

In the second statement, Hughes said “Shawn” did not come up behind him and tap him on the shoulder, as he had said in his first statement. Instead, he said that he saw her walking with a little boy. He said that when they met in the middle of the trail through the field, she told him that she was on her way to his apartment to borrow his contact lenses. When he told her that she was not going to wear his contacts, he said that she kissed him, and then started rubbing [him]. He described in detail the events that occurred next. Suffice it to report that he said heavy sexual activity followed, which became unsatisfactory to Hughes. When “Shawn” demanded money, he refused. She threatened to accuse him of rape and when she hit him, he pulled his knife and began stabbing her. The little boy with “Shawn” looked up at him and started crying. When the boy ran between Hughes and “Shawn,” Hughes stabbed him several times.

At the guilt-innocence phase of the trial, Hughes took the stand in his own defense. He denied that he killed the victims, claimed that he was framed by the police, and testified that he confessed to the crimes only because the police officers struck him and threatened him, causing him to fear for his life. The jury found him guilty of capital murder.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On November 16, 1988, a Harris County grand jury indicted Hughes for the capital murder of Shandra Charles and Marcell Taylor.

On May 3, 1989, a Harris County jury convicted Hughes of capital murder. After a separate punishment proceeding, the jury sentenced Hughes to death on May 4, 1989.

On June 23, 1993, Hughes’s conviction and sentence were affirmed by the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas on direct appeal. The Supreme Court of the United States denied Hughes’s petition for writ of certiorari on June 6, 1994.

Hughes then filed an application for habeas corpus relief, which was denied by the Court of Criminal Appeals on September 13, 2000.

Hughes filed a second application for habeas corpus relief, which was dismissed on November 14, 2001.

On November 21, 2001, Hughes filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division. The federal district court denied Hughes’s petition on May 3, 2004.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit rejected Hughes’s appeal on June 5, 2008, and affirmed the denial of habeas corpus relief by the district court.

Hughes filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court, but the high court denied certiorari review on May 18, 2009.

On July 3, 2012, Hughes filed his third application for habeas corpus relief in state court. The Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed, in part, and denied, in part, the application on August 29, 2012.

On October 29, 2012, Hughes filed a motion in federal district court for relief from that court’s judgment denying habeas relief and a motion requesting that the court stay his execution. The court denied those motions on November 7, 2012.

Hughes filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court on October 13, 2012 appealing the state court’s rejection of his third application for habeas corpus relief. That petition remains pending.

On July 18, 2012, the 174th state district court scheduled Hughes’s execution for November 15, 2012.

Hughes filed a civil lawsuit in the 127th district court of Harris County seeking a stay of execution. On October 3, 2012, the Court of Criminal Appeals issued a writ of prohibition ordering that the district court judge refrain from issuing any order purporting to stay Hughes’s execution. The lawsuit remains pending.

On October 31, 2012, Hughes filed his fourth application for habeas corpus relief in state court. That application remains pending.

PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY

Under Texas law, the rules of evidence prevent certain prior criminal acts from being presented to a jury during the guilt-innocence phase of the trial. However, once a defendant is found guilty, jurors are presented with information about the defendant’s prior criminal conduct during the second phase of the trial, which is when they determine the defendant’s punishment.

During the penalty phase of Hughes’s trial, jurors learned that Hughes had previously sexually assaulted a thirteen-year-old female and later threatened her with a gun to prevent her from testifying against him about the sexual assault. At the time of Hughes’s capital murder trial, he was serving two ten-year terms of probation for aggravated sexual assault and aggravated assault arising out of those incidents. The jury also learned that Hughes had been charged with first degree sexual assault of a sixteen-year old female in Buffalo, New York, but the charge was dropped after the victim did not appear in court.

MISCELLANEOUS

For additional information and statistics, please go to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice website at www.tdcj.state.tx.us.