Pursuant to a court order by the 156th District Court of Bee County, Robert Lynn Pruett is scheduled for execution after 6:00 p.m. on April 28, 2015.
In 2002, a Bee County jury found Pruett guilty of murdering Texas Department of Criminal Justice Correctional Officer Daniel Nagle.
FACTS OF THE CASE
The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit of the United States described the facts surrounding Pruett’s murder of Officer Nagle as follows:
Pruett was sentenced to 99 years in prison for his role in the 1995 murder of Ray Yarborough. His father and brother were also convicted for their roles in the Yarborough murder.
On December 17, 1999, while in prison, Pruett missed getting a hot lunch and was given a sack lunch. He attempted to take his lunch into the recreation area, which was in violation of prison rules. Officer Nagle told Pruett that he needed to eat his lunch before going to the recreation area, and wrote a disciplinary charge against Pruett. Later that afternoon, when Nagle was in his office adjoining a multi-purpose room, Pruett stabbed Nagle eight times with a “shank” made of a metal rod sharpened to a point at one end, and wrapped in tape at the other end. According to the autopsy report, Nagle died from a heart attack that he suffered as a result of the trauma caused by the stab wounds. The murder weapon and a torn disciplinary report against Pruett, charging him with attempting to take food into an unauthorized area, were found at the scene of the attack.
John Lee Davis of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Office of Inspector General testified that after Pruett was arrested, Pruett stated, “Go ahead and run that disciplinary case on me now. Oop[s], I want to call my first witness, Officer Nagle. Oops, he’s dead.” Davis said that Pruett then began laughing.
Much of the remaining evidence against Pruett consisted of testimony from inmates. Inmates Allen Thompson and Johnny Barnett testified that they were in the multi-purpose room and saw and heard Pruett attacking Nagle. Inmate Anthony Casey testified that he heard Pruett talking about a weapon with another inmate before the attack. Casey, through a recreation yard window, later saw Pruett near Nagle’s desk, and then saw Pruett remove his clothing in a hallway and push it through a gas port into the recreation yard. Inmates James Dale Keller, Robert Michael Lewis, and Jimmy Mullican testified that they witnessed Pruett’s attack on Nagle from the craft shop across from the multi-purpose room. Inmate Harold Mitchell testified that he was in the multi-purpose room before the attack. He said that Pruett came into the room and suggested that he leave because Pruett was going to “do something.” When Mitchell questioned Pruett, Pruett said that he was going to kill Nagle. According to Mitchell, Pruett said that he was tired of life in prison and wasn’t going to kill himself, but didn’t have a problem making the State do it for him.
At the guilt-innocence phase of the trial, Pruett testified that he was in prison because “my father killed my neighbor.” He said that he was convicted of murder when he was fifteen years old and that he went to the penitentiary when he was sixteen years old. He explained that on December 17, 1999, he was upset about missing a hot lunch and that he cursed at Nagle when Nagle refused to allow him to take his sack lunch into the recreation yard. He said that after he went outside, he saw, through the window, that Nagle was writing a disciplinary report against him. He already had another disciplinary case pending for gambling, which he said was the way he made money for personal items inasmuch as he did not receive any outside financial support. He said that he had cut his hand while lifting weights in the recreation yard, and had used his shirt to stop the bleeding. He said that he later decided to talk to Nagle about the disciplinary case and went to see Nagle, who tore up the report.
Pruett testified that he left Nagle, got some clean clothes, and got in line for the “chow hall.” The cut on his thumb reopened and he got more blood on his clothes. Then prison officers made everyone go into the gym, where he heard that Nagle “got whooped.” Pruett said that he told the officers, when he was arrested, that “I ain’t ever killed nobody in my life.”
On cross-examination, Pruett denied that he had told inmate Michael Hall that he had killed Nagle. He also denied telling corrections officer Michael Baumann that he had killed before and would do it again. He admitted that he had sent inmate Michael Ross a letter, through defense counsel’s investigator, just before trial, asking Ross to testify that he (Pruett) had cut his hand on the weights.
In rebuttal, the prosecutor called Michael Hall and Michael Ross. Each of them testified that Pruett admitted to them that he had killed Nagle. The prosecutor also called Officer Michael Baumann, who testified that he wrote a disciplinary report on Pruett after Pruett threatened to kill him on August 25, 2001. Defense counsel called Pruett to the stand again to rebut the testimony of Hall, Ross, and Baumann.
PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY
Under Texas law, the rules of evidence prevent certain prior criminal acts from being presented to a jury during the guilt-innocence phase of the trial. However, once a defendant is found guilty, jurors are presented with information about the defendant’s prior criminal conduct during the second phase of the trial – which is when they determine the defendant’s punishment.
During the penalty phase of Pruett trial, jurors learned that Pruett was, at the time of Officer Nagle’s murder, serving a life sentence for committing a prior murder.
On June 26, 2001, a Bee County grand jury indicted Pruett for murdering Officer Daniel Nagle.
On April 23, 2002, a Bee County jury convicted Pruett of capital murder. After a separate punishment proceeding, the same jury sentenced Pruett to death on April 30, 2002.
On Sept. 22, 2004, Pruett’s conviction and sentence were affirmed by the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas on direct appeal. Pruett did not appeal the state court’s decision to the Supreme Court of the United States.
Pruett filed an application for habeas corpus relief, which was denied by the Court of Criminal Appeals on Oct. 19, 2005.
On Oct. 18, 2006, Pruett filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Corpus Christi Division. The federal court denied Pruett’s petition on Aug. 12, 2010.
On Dec. 27, 2011, the Fifth Circuit rejected Pruett’s appeal and affirmed the district court’s denial of habeas corpus relief.
Pruett filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in the Supreme Court, which was denied on Oct. 1, 2012.
The state district court previously issued orders setting Pruett’s execution date in 2013 and 2014. Those dates were withdrawn pursuant to Pruett’s motion for DNA testing, which was filed on May 9, 2013. The Court of Criminal Appeals denied relief on Oct. 22, 2014, following DNA testing. Pruett then filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court, which was denied on March 30, 2015. On April 1, 2015, Pruett filed a Petition for Writ of Prohibition in the Court of Criminal Appeals. The petition remains pending.
On July 30, 2014, Pruett filed a subsequent application for habeas corpus relief, which was dismissed on Dec. 10, 2014.
On Dec. 17, 2014, the 156th state district court issued an order setting Pruett’s execution date for April 28, 2015.
On Jan. 6, 2015, Pruett filed a motion for relief from judgment in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Corpus Christi Division. The motion was denied on Feb. 5, 2015. Pruett appealed the district court’s denial of the motion to the Fifth Circuit. The Fifth Circuit issued an opinion affirming the district court on April 10, 2015.
On March 10, 2015, Pruett filed a petition for a writ of certiorari. The petition remains pending.
For additional information and statistics, please go to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice website at www.tdcj.state.tx.us.