Texas Inmate Who Says Death Sentence Based on False Expert Testimony Faces Execution

The Associated Press
By The Associated Press
November 9, 2023US News
Texas Inmate Who Says Death Sentence Based on False Expert Testimony Faces Execution
Brent Ray Brewer. (Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP)

HOUSTON—A Texas inmate whose attorneys say received a death sentence due to false and unscientific expert testimony faced execution Thursday evening for fatally stabbing an Amarillo man during a robbery more than 33 years ago.

Brent Ray Brewer, 53, was condemned for the April 1990 death of Robert Laminack, 66, who was attacked as he was giving Mr. Brewer and his girlfriend a ride to a Salvation Army location. Prosecutors said Laminack was stabbed in the neck as he was robbed of $140.

Mr. Brewer’s attorneys have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the execution, which was scheduled for Thursday evening at the state penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. They argue that during the inmate’s 2009 resentencing trial, prosecutors relied on false and discredited testimony from an expert, Richard Coons, who claimed Mr. Brewer would be a future danger, a legal finding needed to impose a death sentence.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Tuesday dismissed an appeal on this issue without reviewing the merits of the argument, saying the claim should have previously been raised.

“We are deeply disturbed that the (appeals court) refuses to address the injustice of allowing Brent Brewer to be executed without an opportunity to challenge Dr. Coon’s false and unscientific testimony,” said Shawn Nolan, one of Mr. Brewer’s attorneys.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on Tuesday voted 7–0 against commuting Mr. Brewer’s death sentence to a lesser penalty. Members also rejected granting a six-month reprieve.

Mr. Brewer, who was 19 years old at the time of Laminack’s killing, said he has been a model prisoner with no history of violence and has tried to become a better person by participating in a faith-based program for death row inmates.

Mr. Brewer has long expressed remorse for the killing and a desire to apologize to Laminack’s family.

“I will never be able to repay or replace the hurt (and) worry (and) pain I caused you. I come to you in true humility and honest heart and ask for your forgiveness,” Mr. Brewer wrote in a letter to Laminack’s family that was included in his clemency application to the paroles board.

In an email, Laminack’s son, Robert Laminack Jr., said his family would not comment before the scheduled execution.

Mr. Brewer and his girlfriend had first approached Laminack outside his Amarillo flooring store before attacking him, prosecutors said.

Laminack’s son took over his father’s business, which was started in 1950, and has continued to run it with other family members.

Mr. Brewer was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in 1991. But in 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the death sentences Mr. Brewer and two other Texas inmates had received after ruling the juries in their cases did not have proper instructions when they decided the men should be executed.

The high court found jurors were not allowed to give sufficient weight to factors that might cause them to impose a life sentence rather than death. Mr. Brewer was abused as a child and suffered from mental illness, factors jurors were not allowed to consider, his lawyers argued.

Mr. Brewer was again sentenced to death during a new punishment trial in 2009.

Mr. Brewer’s lawyers allege that at the resentencing trial, Dr. Coons lied and declared, without any scientific basis, that Mr. Brewer had no conscience and would be a future danger, even though Mr. Brewer did not have a history of violence while in prison.

In a 2010 ruling in the case of another death row inmate, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals called Dr. Coon’s testimony about future dangerousness “insufficiently reliable” and that he should not have been allowed to testify.

Randall County District Attorney Robert Love, whose office prosecuted Mr. Brewer, denied in court documents that prosecutors presented false testimony on whether Mr. Brewer would be a future danger and suggested Dr. Coon’s testimony “was not material to the jury’s verdict.”

Last week, Michele Douglas, one of the jurors at Mr. Brewer’s 2009 resentencing trial, said in an op-ed in the Houston Chronicle that a misleading instruction made her mistakenly vote for execution when she believed a life sentence would have been proper in the case. State Rep. Joe Moody, who has tried to pass legislation to fix the misleading instruction cited by Ms. Douglas, said it was “morally wrong” for Mr. Brewer to be executed under these circumstances.

Mr. Brewer would be the seventh inmate in Texas and the 21st in the U.S. put to death this year.

By Juan A. Lozano

ntd newsletter icon
Sign up for NTD Daily
What you need to know, summarized in one email.
Stay informed with accurate news you can trust.
By registering for the newsletter, you agree to the Privacy Policy.