- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 2, 2016

HOUSTON (AP) - Texas’ top criminal court Wednesday turned down an appeal from a death row inmate linked to five killings in Houston.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, voting 6-3, rejected arguments from attorneys for convicted killer Garcia White contending jurors could have been swayed from voting for a death sentence. The appeal argued a research paper about regular cocaine users developing or experiencing psychotic symptoms was new scientific evidence not available when White was convicted in 1996 of stabbing twin 16-year-old girls in Houston in 1989.

White, 53, also was charged with but not tried for killing the girls’ mother, and was tied to the deaths of a grocery store owner and a prostitute.

The ruling was among four from the court turning down appeals from death row inmates in Houston and Dallas cases.

Also losing appeals were Juan Balderas, 30, convicted of a December 2005 gang-related fatal shooting in Houston, and Franklin Davis, 34, condemned by a Dallas County jury in 2013 for killing his children’s baby sitter to prevent her from testifying that he raped her. In the fourth case, the court upheld the conviction and death sentence of Mabry Landor III, 36, for the fatal shooting of a Houston police officer after a traffic stop in 2008.

None of the four convicts has a set execution date.

In 2015, the appeals court gave White a reprieve one day before he was scheduled for lethal injection for the killings of Annette and Bernette Edwards. The body of their mother, Bonita Edwards, 35, also was found at their Houston apartment. He confessed to the slayings when he was arrested six years later for the beating death of 55-year-old Hai Van Pham during a robbery at Pham’s Houston store.

The appeals court said Texas law governing new scientific evidence pertains only to a defendant’s conviction and not to sentencing, and that arguments in White’s appeal focused only how the scientific evidence could have changed the outcome of his jury’s deliberations on punishment.

Balderas was convicted of capital murder in 2014 for the fatal shooting of 16-year-old Eduardo Hernandez. Court records show Balderas introduced Hernandez to a street gang. Hernandez was later blamed for snitching on a fellow gang member and was believed to have later joined a rival gang, angering his original gang, according to court documents. Balderas raised nine points of error from his trial, including that jurors may have been prejudiced by Balderas’ brother waving and smirking at jurors as they were taken in a bus from the courthouse at the end of the day during deliberations.

During his trial, Davis told jurors how he lured 16-year-old Shania Gray into his car outside her school in Carrollton and drove to a park in Irving, where he killed her and rolled her body into the Trinity River. His appeal included challenges to admission of evidence, jury selection, charge and instructions, and constitutional issues.

Landor was condemned for killing Houston police officer Timothy Abernethy in 2008. Evidence showed Landor fled on foot after Abernethy pulled him over for a minor traffic violation and was fatally shot while chasing him through an apartment complex. His lawyers raised 11 issues on appeal, including arguments that evidence was lacking to show Landor had been using PCP at the time of the shooting.

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