Two efforts had been made to delay or commute the May 21 execution by David R. Dow, of the University of Houston Law Center.
Dow is now Pruett’s lawyer. Students from the law center brought an order to Yeager last Friday. The May 21 execution date was the first one set for Pruett who was convicted in 2002 of killing McConnell Unit correctional officer Daniel Nagle in 1999.
The motion claims that a palm print was found by investigators on May 25, 2000, on a torn piece of paper that was Pruett’s disciplinary report.
The print was sent to the Texas Department of Public Safety for testing, and it proved to be unidentified. Pruett’s attorney asked Yeager to grant the delay until further testing for the print and its DNA can be completed.
If this new execution date holds and no more delays are granted, two months shy of his 34th birthday, the Harris County native could be strapped onto a gurney and prepared for his death by lethal injection.
Pruett was convicted in a Nueces County courtroom of killing Texas Department of Criminal Justice correctional officer Daniel Nagle on Dec. 17, 1999.
At the time, Pruett was a 20-year-old prisoner at the McConnell Unit serving a life sentence for a murder in which he participated in Houston with the help of an older brother and his father.
Nagle had told Pruett earlier the day he died that he was going to write him up for violating a prison regulation, bringing a sack lunch into a recreational area of the McConnell Unit.
Prosecutors with the state told jurors that Pruett got a “shank” (a sharpened steel rod) from another inmate, lured Nagle to a secluded place near a multipurpose room and stabbed the 37-year-old to death.
At his trial in Corpus Christi, several McConnell Unit inmates testified against him.
“It sounds like they have overwhelming evidence against me,” Pruett told retired District Judge Yeager when the judge set the execution date in Beeville three months ago.
Harry Battson with the Board of Pardons and Paroles said Thursday that he had learned that his board will hear two requests intended to delay or overturn the imposition of the death sentence. The board was scheduled to meet on May 17.
On April 30, appeals were filed with the board either to approve a reprieve for 60 days or to commute the death sentence to a lesser punishment, such as life in prison.
The motion said that the “Special Prosecution Unit’s Office has indicated it is not opposed to this motion to withdraw the date.”
That prosecutor, Mark Edwards, had signed the motion along with Dow and Pruett.
Pruett told Yeager when he appeared for the execution date setting that he knew testimony from fellow McConnell Unit inmates and DNA evidence found on his clothing at the time of the murder had “sealed my fate.”
Ironically, the bailiff in Yeager’s courtroom that day was Bill Lazenby, the same man who led the investigation of Nagle’s 1999 murder.
If the execution is allowed to proceed in July, Pruett’s last day will follow a traditional pattern.
TDCJ Public Information Officer Jason Clark said he will be present at the Huntsville Unit, referred to as “the Walls Unit,” when Pruett arrives for the scheduled execution.
Pruett’s morning will begin at the TDCJ’s Polunsky Unit in Livingston. The unit houses about 258 male inmates, all awaiting their date in the Texas death chamber.
Death Row inmates occupy single-person cells in the unit.
That morning, Pruett will be allowed final visits with family and friends. Because Death Row inmates are not allowed contact visits, Pruett will be separated from his visitors by a glass wall. They will talk over a telephone.
At an undisclosed time, Clark said Pruett will be taken to a prison van for the 45-minute to hour-long trip to the Walls Unit.
Pruett will be fingerprinted when he arrives at the Huntsville Unit and will be given a change of clothes. He will then be moved to a holding cell next to the death chamber where he will meet with Clark, a chaplain and Warden James Jones.
When Clark and the warden leave the cell, the chaplain will be allowed to remain if requested. A telephone will be in the holding cell, and Pruett will be allowed to make some final calls to family and friends.
At 4 p.m. a meal will be served in the holding cell. Clark said condemned prisoners no longer are allowed to order special last meals. They may eat what the other inmates in the unit are eating that day.
Pruett will be allowed to meet with a spiritual adviser at that time.
Then, at 6 p.m., the death warrant ordering the execution will become effective.
If no appeals have been filed to delay the execution, Pruett will then be taken to the death chamber and strapped to a gurney.
Witnesses, including family and friends of both Pruett and the victim, will then be ushered into the room to view the procedure. They will be separated by a wall. There will also be witnesses for the state.
Shortly before the drugs are administered, the warden will ask Pruett if he has a final statement.
The last McConnell Unit inmate to be executed at the Walls Unit was 37-year-old Rogelio Cannady. He had been serving a life sentence for murder when he killed a cell mate on Oct. 10, 1993.
A native of Val Verde, Cannady had been previously sentenced for his part in killing two runaway teens.
When he was asked if he had a last statement, Cannady spoke briefly with family members and then said, “I’m going to be OK. I know where I’ll be.”
As the drugs began to take effect, Cannady looked up and said, “I thought it was going to be harder than this. I’m ready to go. I am going to sleep now. I can feel it. It’s affecting me now.”
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.