A blog of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section

Supreme Court Issues Stay of Execution
New York Times Website
Published: April 5, 2011

The United States Supreme Court on Tuesday granted a temporary stay of execution to Cleve Foster, a former Army recruiter who was convicted of killing a woman he met in a Fort Worth bar.

It was the second time this year that Mr. Foster, who had been scheduled to be executed Tuesday evening in Texas, had been spared by the Supreme Court hours before his appointed death.

The reprieve for Mr. Foster, 47, will remain in place while the court examines whether he received effective counsel during the course of his case and considers questions about his conviction raised by his current lawyers, said Maurie Levin, one of Mr. Foster’s lawyers.

The Supreme Court denied Mr. Foster’s appeal in January but agreed to reconsider on Tuesday morning. In state court, Mr. Foster’s lawyers are also challenging the legality of his execution based on one of the drugs that is to be used in the lethal injection.

“I’m thrilled that the Supreme Court stayed Mr. Foster’s execution, and we hope they will be looking at the issues raised, including effective habeas counsel and Mr. Foster’s claims of innocence,” Ms. Levin said. “I am also relieved that — at least today — that we will not be seeing an execution in the midst of the chaos surrounding questions about lethal injection.”

Ms. Levin said she suspected that there was a link between the Supreme Court’s decision to stay Mr. Foster’s execution and two other decisions the court made recently involving death row inmates.

In the first, the Supreme Court last month agreed to hear an appeal from Cory R. Maples, who has been sentenced to death in Alabama for killing two people, after the New York law firm representing him mistakenly sent back unopened copies of a ruling that had been mailed to it from an Alabama court.

And Monday, the Supreme Court delayed the execution of Daniel W. Cook, who is on death row in Arizona and was scheduled to be executed on Tuesday. Lawyers for Mr. Cook, who has also been convicted of murdering two people, have said his initial lawyers failed to present evidence of the extreme physical and sexual abuse Mr. Cook endured as a child.

“Each of the cases revolves around the effectiveness of counsel,” Ms. Levin said.

Lawyers for Mr. Foster, a veteran of the Persian Gulf war, say he also got a substandard defense when he was convicted in 2004 of killing the woman, Nyanuer Pal, a 28-year-old Sudanese immigrant.

Mr. Foster’s roommate, Sheldon Ward, was convicted of fatally shooting Ms. Pal, but prosecutors said Mr. Foster had aided him in the murder.

Both received death sentences. Mr. Ward died in prison last year.

Free legal research available on State and Federal court appointed cases from the Student Research Center. http://www.philadelphiabar.org/page/CJResearch?appNum=4


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