HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) - Former Army recruiter Cleve Foster went to the U.S. Supreme Court a fourth time, hoping they'd again postpone his execution that's scheduled for Tuesday evening for his role the 2002 shooting death of a Fort Worth woman he and a buddy met at a bar.
Attorneys for Foster, 48, argued he was innocent of the slaying of 30-year-old Nyaneur Pal, a Sudanese immigrant shot in the head and dumped in a ditch on Valentine's Day 2002. Lawyers also contended attorneys at Foster's trial and in early appeals of his conviction and sentence were deficient and his case deserved a closer look.
As the high court considered the arguments, Foster was headed for another trip to a tiny cell steps away from the death chamber. His lethal injection would be the ninth this year in Texas.
"I didn't do it," Foster, maintaining his innocence, told The Associated Press recently from death row. "And if it means I'm going to the gurney and the taking of my life, so be it."
Last year in January, April and September the justices stopped his scheduled punishment. Once, he was moments from being led to the death chamber.
Maurie Levin, a University of Texas law professor representing Foster, argued the Supreme Court needed to block it again in light of their ruling earlier this year in an Arizona case that said an inmate who received poor legal assistance should have his case reviewed. But lower courts have said it was a narrow ruling and doesn't apply to all states, Texas among them, because procedures on the books already address the problem.
One federal district judge ruled that even if the Arizona ruling could be applied to Texas, Foster's claims were meritless.
"No court has ever found that his underlying arguments have any merit despite Foster's repeated entreaties and trips through the criminal justice system," Stephen Hoffman, an assistant Texas attorney general, told the Supreme Court.
Foster and a companion, Sheldon Ward, were sentenced to die for killing Pal, who was seen talking with the men at a Fort Worth bar hours before her body was found in a ditch off a Tarrant County road.
"I am as certain of Foster's guilt as I can be without having seen him do it," Ben Leonard, who prosecuted Foster in 2004, said last week. "He lost his innocence claim and the point of law he appeals on now is as arcane as it is unfounded."