Richardson, a visiting judge from San Antonio, had been assigned the capital murder case of 34-year-old Robert Lynn Pruett, the McConnell Unit inmate convicted of killing 37-year-old correctional officer Daniel Nagle to death back in 1999.
The previous judge who had been hearing motions in the case, Ronald Yeager, reportedly has fully retired.
Yeager was the judge who scheduled Pruett’s initial execution date for May 21 when he was asked to set a date earlier this year.
Yeager also was the judge who delayed the execution for 60 days after David R. Dow of the University of Houston Law Center filed a motion for the delay.
Dow claimed that a bloody palm print discovered on a torn disciplinary report that Nagle had in his hand at the time of his death could have provided DNA evidence that might clear Pruett of the murder.
Pruett had told Yeager at the time his original execution date was set that he thought his conviction for the crime was pretty much “open and shut” because of evidence found at the scene and the testimony of some of his fellow inmates at the time.
At Thursday’s hearing, state attorney Al Hernandez told Richardson that the results of the DNA test were inconclusive, and he asked the judge to go ahead and schedule a date for the lethal injection to be administered.
However, Jeffrey Newberry, an attorney with the Texas Innocence Network at the University of Houston reminded the judge that the defendant was entitled to have a hearing on the DNA evidence.
Richardson agreed and called a recess so he could determine the proper time for a DNA hearing on the matter.
The hearing eventually was scheduled for Nov. 18 at 10:30 a.m.
Richardson said no execution date will be set at that hearing because Pruett’s attorneys will have a right to take the case to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
Sources close to the case said it is doubtful that Pruett will have his execution scheduled before the first of next year.
Unlike the hearing when Yeager set Pruett’s execution date for May 21, the defendant was not present in the courtroom.
Pruett was only 22 when he was sent to Death Row for Nagle’s murder. At one time, he reportedly had been the youngest inmate in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Institutional Division.
He was serving a life sentence for murder with a deadly weapon in Harris County. His father and brother also were sent to prison for their part in the murder in a Houston trailer park.
A reporter and cameraman from the British Broadcasting Corp. were in the courtroom Thursday covering the hearing as part of a special documentary they are preparing on capital punishment.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.