- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2003

The Supreme Court yesterday stopped Texas from executing its 300th inmate since capital punishment resumed in the United States in 1977, granting a dramatic last-minute stay to condemned killer Delma Banks Jr.
The court issued the stay, without comment or noted objections from individual justices, about 10 minutes before the 44-year-old convict was to be put to death for the 1980 murder of 16-year-old Richard Wayne Whitehead, a co-worker at a restaurant.
Banks shot his victim "for the hell of it" after a night of drinking, according to testimony Banks gave at his trial.
His attorneys told the Supreme Court justices that he was poorly represented at trial, that prosecutors improperly kept blacks off the jury and that testimony from two prosecution witnesses was shaky. Banks is black, his victim white and the jury all-white.
One of the three former federal judges supporting the Supreme Court intervention was former FBI Director William Sessions, who submitted a brief to the high court in which he cited "uncured constitutional errors" in Banks' case.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals this week refused to block the execution, and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles would not hear his plea because it was filed too late. Banks has been on death row 22 years, longer than his victim was alive.
The Supreme Court accepts few last-minute death row appeals, but one Texas inmate who received a stay, Thomas Miller-El, won his Supreme Court appeal last month. The court ruled that Miller-El, who is black, deserved a new chance to press his claim that prosecutors stacked his jury with whites and death-penalty supporters.
Prosecutors and the victim's family have insisted Banks got a fair trial.
"All these articles about poor Delma, poor Delma and how much of a raw deal he got," said Larry Whitehead, the victim's father. "Stopping a youngster's life at 16 years old is a raw deal."

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