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Supreme Court clears way for Texas to execute convicted murderer

By Jon Herskovitz
Erick Daniel Davila appears in a police booking photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, April 3, 2018. Texas Department of Criminal Justice/Handout via REUTERS

By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court denied a last-minute appeal from a Texas death row inmate on Wednesday, clearing the way for the state to execute the man convicted of firing into a children's birthday party, killing a woman and her 5-year-old granddaughter.

The decision was released less than 15 minutes before Texas planned to put Erick Davila, 31, to death by lethal injection at 6 p.m. at its execution chamber in Huntsville.

If the execution goes ahead, it will be the ninth this year in the United States and the 550th in Texas since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, the most of any state.

Prosecutors said Davila was a member of the Bloods street gang and drove by the party in Fort Worth, believing that members of the rival Crips gang were there.

Using a semiautomatic rifle with a laser scope, he fired numerous shots into the group while they were eating cake and ice cream at the Hannah Montana-themed party for a girl, killing Annette Stevenson, 48, and her granddaughter, Queshawn Stevenson, court documents showed.

He also wounded three other children and one woman, according to the documents.

It took jurors about four hours to convict Davila at his trial in 2009.

Texas said he confessed to the killings and told investigators he intended to "have a shoot 'em up" and kill the father of Queshawn Stevenson, a rival gang member who was not injured in the attack.

Davila's lawyers had asked the Supreme Court to halt the execution, arguing in their appeal that prosecutors in his trial violated a decision by the court through the hiding of evidence favorable to the defense of him being high on a variety of drugs at the time of the offense.

They also said it was inappropriate for his former trial judge, now the prosecuting attorney, to seek his execution date.

Texas has said prosecutors acted properly. In their Supreme Court filing they said evidence of him being intoxicated at the time is evidence that is not favorable or material to the outcome of the trial.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Sandra Maler and James Dalgleish)