Lawyers for a Houston man sentenced to death in the 1994 killing of a 72-year-old grandmother argued for his release Friday, saying DNA test results exonerate him.
"I'm going to do my best to parlay this into a new trial," said Sarah Frazier, one of Charles D. Raby's attorneys. "We have the killer's DNA, and it's not my client's."
A Harris County jury sent Raby to death row nearly 15 years ago after finding that he stabbed Edna M. Franklin to death in her north Houston home.
Prosecutors presented evidence at the trial that Raby had been seen jumping Franklin's backyard fence on the night of the killing. Statements he made to investigators proved he was in Franklin’s home, jurors were told.
But recent DNA testing on genetic material found on Franklin's blood-caked fingernails points to someone else, Raby's lawyers contend.
Prosecutors, however, are arguing that the DNA results aren't enough to exonerate Raby. There is still plenty of evidence to prove he killed Franklin, they say.
"The absence of DNA doesn't mean he didn’t do it," said Assistant District Attorney Lynn Hardaway. Hardaway told state District Judge Joan Campbell that a lack of DNA, like a lack of a fingerprints, doesn't equal innocence.
Hardaway cited Raby's confession and other evidence presented at trial supporting the conviction.
Campbell said she would hear final arguments in about 6 weeks concerning whether the DNA evidence is favorable to the defense. If she rules it is, it could open the door to an appeal, Frazier said. She noted, however, there isn’t a clear path from a favorable ruling to a new trial.
Raby was a 22-year-old parolee with a violent history when Franklin took him into her home at her grandson's request. At his trial, prosecutors argued that Raby must have turned on Franklin when she told him he was no longer welcome in her home.
Her throat was slit twice, her ribs were broken, and she had been stabbed repeatedly with a pocketknife.
Raby had a prior conviction for aggravated robbery with a knife, and he had been jailed in 1989 after being accused of attacking his parents. A doctor testified at his trial that Raby, who had a tattoo on his torso reading "Texas outlaw," was a sociopath.
After attending Friday's hearing, Raby's mother maintained that her son is innocent.
"I hope he gets off death row," said Betty Wearstler. "It's depressing. It's a very sad life."
After the hearing, Franklin's grandsons noted that Franklin knew Raby.
"He was one of those kind you knew, but you weren't crazy about being around," said Benge, 39, standing outside his grandmother's north Lindale Park home. "The kind of guy, if you saw him walking down the street, you'd turn off your lights so he'd think you weren’t at home."
2 weeks before Franklin’s murder, he stopped by the frail, arthritic woman's house on Westford Street and asked to stay there. She told him to get off her property, said Rose, contacted at his home in Alabama.
"He got mad, and he threw a 40-ounce beer bottle on her porch and broke it," said Rose, 37.
Both Rose and Benge believe Raby killed their grandmother.
"I know that he did it," said Benge. "There's no doubt he did it."
Both men discount Raby's theory that her killer's DNA could be found under her fingernails.
"She weighed under 100 pounds. How much fighting back could she have done?" Rose said.
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Hello, I found this piece above on Death Penalty News & Updates, posted faithfully & nearly daily by Dr. Rick Halperin...find his site easily along with others by going to the lower right of this weblog. Today (posted yesterday) you will find also, if you scroll down on Rick's site, material on a new Death Penalty book, which looks like an excellent resource. Also there is a poignant note by the mother of Hudson's daughter. Hudson was recently executed.