Federal appeals court allows Mississippi man on Texas death row for 26 years to pursue appeal

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HOUSTON — A federal appeals court is allowing a Mississippi man on Texas death row for 26 years for a Houston-area slaying to move forward with an appeal that contends he had poor legal help at his 1988 trial and argues prosecutors improperly withheld some evidence favorable to him during his trial's punishment phase.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals late Tuesday also agreed lawyers for 53-year-old Stephen Butler could pursue an appeal contending a juror improperly was excluded because of race.

The appeals court rejected arguments Butler was incompetent for trial and that trial attorneys should have challenged whether his confession was voluntary.

Butler, from Natchez, Mississippi, was condemned for the 1986 fatal shooting of 50-year-old Velma Clemons during a robbery at a Channelview dry cleaning store where she worked.

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