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Relief For Texas Killer Defense

A day after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals narrowly blocked an eleventh-hour execution of a convicted killer diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, the inmate's attorney commended the "courageous" court for stopping the execution.

Reverend Melodee Smith told CBS This Morning Wednesday that an adequate hearing will give the defense time to "provide the evidence necessary to show that Larry Keith Robison simply shouldnÂ't be executed by this state."

"The mentally ill do not belong on death row," Smith said. "It has become a plantation for the poor and sick."

In a 5-4 ruling, the state's highest criminal court blocked the scheduled lethal injection and agreed with the convict's attorneys that Robison's mental problems deserved review. Robison was convicted of killing five people in a rampage 17 years ago.

The appeals court decided to send the case back to a court in Fort Worth so the judge could consider Robison's claim that he did not understand the death penalty because of his illness and therefore could not be executed.

Texas death row inmate
Larry Robison, file photo

"Such is life," Robison said after the court announced its decision. "I'm going to get off death row one way or another."

It could be weeks, if not months, before the case is resolved. Smith said the court will order experts to evaluate Robison, defense experts will evaluate him and a hearing will be held on the convict's mental competency.

She said there will also be other plea negotiations in an attempt to commute his sentence and to get him off death row.

Death penalty opponents and Robison's relatives have held for years Robison should be spared execution because he was insane. His case was considered by many critics an example of the problems with the state's treatment of the mentally ill.

Even though Robison was diagnosed as a schizophrenic before the killings, he was not considered violent and was released from several public hospitals.

Lois Robison, the convict's mother, said she was very excited about the court's decision.

She told CBS This Morning that, "My ultimate goal is to see that mentally ill people in this country and state get the care they need before they become violent."

She said if her son had the proper medical care from the start, the killings would never have happened.

Some demanded that Gov. George W. Bush, running for president as a "compassionate conservative," show his humanitarianism by postponing the execution.

Had the court no stayed the execution. there is little chance Bush would have issued a reprieve — it's something he has never done in his nearly five years as governor, during which time 98 executions have taken place.

Robison, a former construction worker from Abilene, was arrested Aug. 11, 1982 in Wichita, Kan., driving the car of 33-year-old Bruce Gardner of Lake Worth, one of five people found mutilated, shot or stabbed in neighboring cottages near Lake Worth.

"After 17 years of trials and multiple appeals, we feel betrayed that the Texas courts have again allowed Larry Robison to manipulate the legal system to postpone justice," said Melissa Estes, Gardner's cousin.

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