Texas Supreme Court to hear arguments on death penalty in wake of COVID-19 outbreak

Texas Supreme Judge William H. Pryor Jr. has given the state a few days to weigh in on the issue of whether to execute a man who has spent more than four years in prison after being convicted of a string of sexual assaults on minors.

Pryor, a Democrat who has long been a vocal critic of capital punishment, said he was not ready to decide yet whether to put off the death penalty or not.

“We’re going to make a decision based on the facts and the law,” Pryor said Thursday on ABC News’ “This Week.”

Peyor’s comments came as Texas’ Supreme Court agreed Thursday to hear an appeal of a lower court decision that halted the execution of Robert Charles Thomas, who was convicted of two counts of rape and two counts each of kidnapping, sexual assault and unlawful restraint in 2011.

The death penalty was not a factor in the state’s original ruling, but the state appealed that decision and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the lower court’s decision to grant Thomas clemency.

At the time, Thomas had spent more time in prison than any other inmate in Texas history, including prisoners on death row.

Thomas, now 69, is scheduled to be executed Thursday afternoon in Texas.

A Texas court has not yet determined whether the state should execute Thomas.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced last month that the state was sending a team of attorneys to Washington to examine the case and make recommendations on whether the execution could proceed.

Abbott said he wants to avoid the same type of miscarriage of justice that led to the execution in Alabama, which sparked a national outcry.

This story has been updated to include a statement from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.