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September 29, 2013

Evans’ attorneys appeal to high court

Teen capital murder suspect’s counsel want state’s highest criminal court to consider appeal over punishment statute

By CHRISTIN COYNE

Defense attorneys for teen capital murder suspect Jacob Ryan Evans, accused of killing his mother and younger sister last year at the age of 17, are appealing an appellate court’s decision last month that allows prosecutors to move forward with a capital murder case.

Evans’ attorneys filed a petition for discretionary review in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, asking that the state’s highest criminal court consider the case.

Authorities say Evans repeatedly shot his mother, 48-year-old Jami Evans, and sister, 15-year-old Mallory Evans, on Oct. 4 at their Annetta South residence before calling 911 and confessing to the double homicide.

Last month a state appeals court rejected an appeal by Evans, who is arguing that his incarceration on a charge of capital murder is unconstitutional.

Evan’s court-appointed defense team appealed to the Second Court of Appeals regarding a decision in January by 415th District Judge Graham Quisenberry to deny a request to release Evans on the capital murder charge he is facing.

Attorneys for Evans, who was also indicted on two counts of first-degree felony murder, argued that he should not be held on the capital murder charge because he was 17 years old at the time of the alleged offense. The U.S. Supreme Court had previously ruled the only two punishments allowed for capital murder under Texas law at that time – death or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole – are unconstitutional for those under 18.

After Quisenberry’s decision, Gov. Rick Perry signed a bill into law July 22 that amends sentencing rules to require that a defendant found guilty of capital murder as a 17-year-old be sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after 40 years. The legislation is expressly intended to apply to offenses committed prior to that date.

Though Evans’ defense argued that the law cannot be constitutionally applied retroactively, the Second Court of Appeals panel of judges declined to consider that argument in their decision, leaving Quisenberry’s order standing.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has the discretion on whether to consider Evans’ appeal.

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