OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A federal judge in Oklahoma City has been ordered to conduct a hearing to determine whether a death sentence for an Oklahoma inmate should be overturned.
William Raymond Mayes is awaiting execution for killing Phillip Trammell of rural Waurika in 1987. But the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled 2-1 Thursday that Mayes' attorney did not do what he should have done to help his client avoid the death sentence.
"We are deeply disturbed by the manner in which defense counsel apparently handled the sentencing phase of Mr. Mayes' trial," two circuit judges said in a 20-page ruling.
"We have no doubt, on the facts in this (case) record, that Mr. Mayes' representation during the sentencing phase of his trial was constitutionally deficient," the two judges said.
They said that in the trial's penalty phase, Mayes' attorney did not present any mitigating evidence that was available except for Mayes' testimony.
The court ordered U.S. District Judge Wayne Alley to receive evidence to determine whether the attorney, Robert Prince of Lawton, had a reasonable basis for the way he handled that part of the defense.
Mayes now is represented by Mark and Lanita Henricksen of El Reno. Mark Henricksen had told the Denver appeals court in January that Prince limited his efforts to save Mayes' life to about five minutes in the trial.
Henricksen said Prince had received minimal pay as court-appointed counsel for Mayes, a factor that may have affected his efforts.
In a separate case, a 10th circuit panel ruled against death row inmates Terrance James and Samuel Van Woudenberg, who claimed their constitutional rights were violated during their trials.
The men were convicted of the 1983 strangulation of Mark Berry, 25, in the Muskogee jail. They sought to have the death sentences overturned.
The appeals court ruling said James, then 26, believed Berry had snitched on him, leading to both of their arrests on charges of theft of government property.
Assistant Attorney General Sandra Howard said the ruling is the last appellate review for the men. They could ask the U.S. Supreme Court to consider their arguments.