Judge delays next week’s execution of Texas death row inmate

HOUSTON (AP) — Next week’s scheduled execution of a Texas death row inmate who was convicted in the killing of another prisoner was delayed by a judge.

Anibal Canales Jr., 58, had been set to be executed March 29 for the July 1997 strangling death of another inmate, Gary Dickerson, at the Telford state prison, which is located near New Boston in northeast Texas.

But on Thursday, state District Judge Bill Miller, in Bowie County, signed an order withdrawing Canales’ execution date.

Both prosecutors and Canales’ attorneys agreed to the delay to allow the inmate’s lawyers more time to seek additional evidence in his case, according to the judge’s order.

The order was meant to give Canales’ legal team time to “investigate serious flaws in the criminal investigation and prosecutions for the 1997 murder,” Joseph Perkovich, one of Canales’ lawyers, said in an email Monday.

Canales had been serving a 15-year sentence for aggravated sexual assault when he joined the Texas Mafia prison gang, prosecutors said. After the gang believed Dickerson had informed authorities about tobacco it had tried to smuggle into the prison, it ordered Canales and other gang members to kill him, according to authorities.

Canales and another gang member went to Dickerson’s cell, with Canales holding Dickerson down while the other gang member strangled him, prosecutors said.

But Canales’ attorneys have previously argued he was forced to do whatever the gang asked of him in exchange for their protection. Prior heart attacks had left him physically vulnerable as another prison gang sought to kill him.

Canales’ lawyers at his trial failed to tell jurors about the circumstances that forced him to take part in the killing and also about his childhood, which was rife with sexual abuse, poverty, neglect and homelessness, according to his attorneys.

In June 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Canales’ claims about having ineffective lawyers at his trial.

But in a dissent, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said there appeared to be “more than a reasonable probability” that the mitigating evidence Canales’ trial lawyers did not present would have led at least one juror to sentence him to life in prison instead of death.

This is the second execution in the last two weeks that has been delayed in Texas.

On March 7, a judge withdrew the execution warrant for Andre Thomas. He had been set to receive a lethal injection April 5 for fatally stabbing his estranged wife, their 4-year-old son and her 13-month-old daughter in March 2004. Lawyers for Thomas — who gouged out both of his eyes — said he should not be executed because he is severely mentally ill.

The next execution in Texas is set for April 26. ___ Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter at https://twitter.com/juanlozano70.