Daily Roundup
12:34 pm
Thu February 23, 2012

Defense Attorney: Client's Claim Hard To Believe

The attorney for a Texas man sentenced to die for killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend and her 7-year-old son says there were too many inconsistencies to believe the man's claims six years ago that he was innocent.

Fort Worth attorney William H. "Bill" Ray testified Thursday in a state court hearing to determine whether Stephen Barbee should get a new trial based on claims that Ray and the trial judge had a deal to dispose of cases quickly. Ray denied the claim.

Ray also denied previous testimony that he pressured Barbee to plead guilty but did suggest that the evidence made a plea deal something to consider.

The hearing before state District Judge Louis Sturns is scheduled to end Thursday.

AP

Head of Texas Environmental Agency To Retire

The executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is retiring after 25 years with the agency.

The agency's commissioners say in a statement Thursday that Mark Vickery's retirement will be effective in May. He will remain at TCEQ to oversee the transition.

Vickery began his career as an enforcement coordinator when the agency was still called the Texas Water Commission. He has worked in nearly every area, including industrial and hazardous waste, permitting and registration and field operations.

Vickery took over as executive director in 2008.

AP

San Antonio Man Set To Die Next Week Wins Reprieve

A state district judge is stopping next Tuesday's scheduled execution of an ex-con condemned for killing a San Antonio man more than 15 years ago and stealing his prized motorcycle.

Lawyers for Anthony Bartee argued DNA testing is needed on two strands of hair found in the hands of murder victim David Cook, a neighbor who had befriended Bartee.

At the time in August 1996, Bartee had been out of prison after serving more than a decade for two rapes.

Evidence showed Bartee admired Cook's red motorcycle, killed him and stole it. Bartee blamed the killing on two men he identified only as "Snake" and "Throw Down." Prosecutors said there were no such men.

AP

Four Gang Members Convicted In West Texas Drug Case

A federal jury in West Texas has convicted four gang members in a drug and racketeering investigation going back to 2006.

Prosecutors say 32-year-old Santos Almanza, 31-year-old Miguel Nieto, 40-year-old Carlos Hernandez and 36-year-old Ramon Morales were convicted Wednesday night of conspiring to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana.

Jurors in Midland also convicted Almanza, Nieto and Hernandez of racketeering-related counts.

Investigators say the Barrio Azteca gang has been blamed for drug trafficking, extortion and kidnapping in Mexico and in the U.S., including the Texas prison system.

AP

Texas Rangers Investigate Leon County Inmate Death

An inmate in a Central Texas jail has been found hanged as he awaited transfer to prison on a domestic violence conviction.

Texas Rangers will help investigate the Leon County Jail death of 37-year-old John French of Normangee (NAR'-man-jee). An autopsy has been ordered.

Jailers early Wednesday discovered a bed sheet had been used in the hanging and that French was alone in the cell.

French earlier this month was sentenced to 18 years in prison for continuous family violence. Records show he was arrested last May over an alleged assault on his wife.

AP

More Than Ton Of Marijuana In Texas Load Of Limes

U.S. Customs and Border Protection say a load of limes in South Texas has yielded more than a ton of marijuana worth about $2.4 million.

Officers at the Progreso International Bridge on Tuesday  discovered during a second inspection of an 18-wheeler that nearly 350 packages had been slipped into the shipment.

Investigators say an unrelated bust a day earlier, in a commercial shipment of cucumbers, led to confiscation of more than 1,900 pounds of marijuana. The street value of the packaged marijuana has been estimated at $1.9 million.

Both tractor-trailer rigs have been seized.

AP