Take 5

Texas Death Row Inmate Denied Certificate of Appealability

On April 27, 2023, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit denied Brent Ray Brewer’s application for a certificate of appealability under 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2). Brewer was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death by a Texas court in 1991, and was resentenced to death in 2009 after the United States Supreme Court ordered a resentencing in 2007.

Brewer had exhausted his state remedies and had petitioned for federal habeas relief, but the district court denied his petition and did not certify any questions for appellate review. Brewer sought a certificate of appealability, which was denied by the Fifth Circuit.

The court’s decision came after Brewer filed his second amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus in federal district court, asserting fourteen claims for relief, which were all denied by the district court. The Fifth Circuit held that Brewer failed to demonstrate that reasonable jurists would find the district court’s assessment of his constitutional claims debatable or wrong, which is required to grant a certificate of appealability.

Brewer’s case has been a multi-year saga of direct and collateral challenges to his conviction and sentence. In 1990, he and his girlfriend approached Robert Laminack outside his flooring store in Amarillo, Texas and Brewer began to stab him in the neck with a butterfly knife. Laminack bled to death after losing consciousness. Brewer was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in 1991.

In the 2009 retrial of the sentencing, the state presented much of the same evidence as it had in Brewer’s first trial, including testimony from witnesses and physical evidence. Kristie Nystrom, Brewer’s former girlfriend and accomplice in the murder of Robert Laminack, also testified and gave a firsthand account of the killing.

Brewer’s case has been closely watched by death penalty opponents, who argue that his case highlights the flaws in the capital punishment system. Despite the denial of his application for a certificate of appealability, Brewer may still pursue further appeals, but the likelihood of success is uncertain.

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