Wednesday, October 2, 2013
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit described the murders of Johnny and Carol Yowell as follows:
In 1998, Yowell shot and killed his father, strangled his mother, and opened a natural gas line in the kitchen. When his grandmother, who was living in his parents’ house at the time, opened her bedroom door, it caused the gas to combust, fatally injuring his grandmother and charring the remains of his parents. Two days later, Yowell confessed to shooting his father, who had caught Yowell trying to steal his wallet to buy drugs, and to struggling with his mother before bludgeoning her and strangling her. Yowell said that afterwards, in a panic, he ran to the kitchen and opened a gas jet.
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 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 punishment phase of Yowell’s capital murder trial, the prosecution presented evidence establishing Yowell’s felony convictions for burglary of a building and possession of a controlled substance. Yowell’s probation officer testified that Yowell was released from prison to a halfway house, had attempted various programs over the years for drug treatment and mental disorders, and had been recently reported to be in violation of the terms of his parole based on new offenses in March 1998 (two months before the capital offense) including forgery, stolen checks, and illegal use of credit cards.
The jurors also learned that Yowell, a convicted felon, had used his mother’s credit card to purchase prohibited firearms from three different stores and falsified information in order to purchase or pawn the weapons. Finally, five days before the capital crime, Yowell signed a statement admitting that he stole from his mother by forging checks and illegally used her credit cards.
On July 23, 1998, a Lubbock County grand jury indicted Yowell for the May 9, 1998, Mother's Day weekend capital murder of Johnny and Carol Yowell. Yowell was also charged with the felony murder of his grandmother, Viola Davis.
On Oct. 4, 1999, a Lubbock County jury convicted Yowell of capital murder for having intentionally and knowingly shot his father to death during the same criminal episode in which he strangled his mother with an electrical cord.
Following a separate punishment hearing, on Oct. 6, 1999, the jury answered affirmatively the special sentencing issue on future dangerousness and answered negatively the issue on mitigation. In accordance with the jury’s answers, the trial court sentenced Yowell to death.
On Feb. 13, 2002, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Yowell’s conviction and sentence on direct appeal.
On July 25, 2001, Yowell filed a state habeas corpus application raising 10 claims.
On March 13, 2005, the trial court commenced an evidentiary hearing on Yowell’s claims.
On Nov. 22, 2006, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals adopted the trial court's findings of fact and conclusions of law and denied habeas corpus relief.
On Sept. 10, 2007, Yowell filed a federal habeas petition raising many of the same arguments as in his state habeas proceedings.
On Aug. 26, 2010, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas conditionally granted punishment-phase relief for a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, declined to rule on two claims, and denied the remaining claims for lack of merit. Final judgment was issued the same day vacating Yowell’s sentence and remanding for re-sentencing or imposition of a life sentence.
On Sept. 12, 2011, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed the grant of habeas corpus relief and remanded the case for consideration of the two pretermitted claims.
On remand, on Oct. 3, 2012, the federal district court denied both claims on the merits, dismissed Yowell’s habeas petition with prejudice, denied Yowell a certificate of appealability (COA), and entered final judgment.
On April 16, 2013, the Fifth Circuit court denied Yowell a certificate of appealability.
On June 3, 2013, the 140th District Court of Lubbock County, Texas, set Yowell’s execution for
Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013.
On July 12, 2013, Yowell petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for certiorari review and applied for a stay of execution.
On October 1, 2013, attorneys for Michael Yowell, and two other death row inmates, Thomas Whitaker and Perry Williams, filed a class action lawsuit in Houston U.S. district court, challenging the constitutionality of Texas' execution protocol.
On October 5, 2013, a U.S. Houston U.S. district court denied Yowells' request for injunctive relief and emergency request for stay of execution.
On October 7, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Yowell's petition for certiorari review.
On October 7, 2013, Yowell Yowell filed notice appealing the Houston U.S. district court’s order denying injunctive relief.
On Oct. 8, 2013, Yowell filed an appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, asking that his execution be stayed pending adjudication of the means the state plans to use to carry out his execution.
On Oct. 8, 2013,the Fifth Circuit court affirmed the federal district court’s denial of injunctive relief and denied Yowell’s motion for stay of execution.
On Oct. 9, 2013, Yowell petitioned the Fifth Circuit court for certiorari review and a stay of execution.
For additional information and statistics, please go to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice website at www.tdcj.state.tx.us.