Texas to Execute Man for Murder of Dallas Realtor

HOUSTON (AP) — A man who fatally stabbed a real estate agent inside a model home in suburban Dallas faces execution Wednesday night, more than 16 years after the murder.

Kosoul Chanthakoummane was on parole when he was convicted of the murder of Sarah Walker, 40, in July 2006. She was found stabbed more than 30 times at the McKinney model home, about 30 miles north of Dallas .

Prosecutors say Chanthakoummane entered the model home, then beat Walker with a wooden plant stand and stabbed her before stealing her Rolex watch and a silver ring, which were never found. DNA evidence showed that Chanthakoummane’s blood was found in various places inside the model home, including under Walker’s fingernails.

Walker had been one of the top salespeople for home builder DR Horton. She had just divorced and had two children.

Chanthakoummane, 41, the son of immigrants from Laos, admitted he was in the model house but said he only went in to drink water. He had been on parole in Texas after serving time in North Carolina for aggravated kidnapping and robbery.

“I am innocent,” Chanthakoummane said in a letter filed in federal court in March.

His attorneys had asked the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to stay his execution, challenging the DNA evidence, which had previously been described by the appeals court as the “kingpin of the state case”. The appeals court this week rejected the request. Eric Allen, one of Chanthakoummane’s attorneys, said he has not decided whether to file a final appeal with the US Supreme Court.

His lawyers had argued that new science raised the possibility that Chanthakoummane’s DNA could have been transferred to Walker’s fingernails without any direct contact between the two.

But authorities say previous DNA tests in his case failed to clear Chanthakoummane.

“Any belief by Chanthakoummane that further DNA investigation would yield useful results in his case is a fantasy,” lawyers for the Texas Attorney General’s office wrote in court documents last month.

On Monday, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles refused to grant Chanthakoummane either a 120-day reprieve or a commutation of his death sentence to a lesser one.

Chanthakoummane’s lawyers say their concerns about the DNA evidence are part of a pattern of prosecutors using flawed evidence in the case.

At Chanthakoummane’s trial, a forensic dentist testified that the death row inmate made a bite mark on Walker’s neck. This evidence has since been discredited and in 2016, Texas became the first state to call for a ban on bite mark analysis in criminal cases.

The two witnesses who said they saw Chanthakoummane near the murder scene were hypnotized by agents from the Texas Department of Public Safety, or DPS, to help them identify him.

A 2020 report from the Dallas Morning News found most Texas judges still allow evidence derived from hypnosis despite criticism it can distort memories and lead to wrongful convictions. In January 2021, DPS stopped using hypnosis. Last year, Governor Greg Abbott vetoed a bill that would have barred hypnotized people from testifying in a criminal trial.

In October 2020, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals found that while the bite testimony would no longer be admissible in court, Chanthakoummane’s attorneys had not discredited the hypnosis-related testimony.

The appeals court also concluded that the DNA evidence was still strong.

During his trial, Chanthakoummane’s lawyer, Keith Gore, told jurors that his client was guilty “and he wanted to steal (Walker), and it didn’t go the right way, and he l ‘killed’.

Walker’s father, Joseph Walker, who died last year, had opposed Chanthakoummane’s execution and had told the Times Union in New York in 2013, he forgave the murderer of his daughter.

If Chanthakoummane is executed, he would be the second inmate to be put to death this year in Texas and the ninth in the United States.

While Texas has been the busiest capital punishment state in the nation, the use of the death penalty in the state has reached historic lows. Juries have continued to pass fewer death sentences and in the past two years most executions have been delayed by the pandemic or by legal questions about what spiritual advisors can do in the death chamber.


Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70

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