The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has upheld the death sentence for a man convicted of killing a Williamson County woman in 1980.
A Williamson County jury convicted Steven Thomas in October 2014 and sentenced him to death for the sexual assault and strangulation of Mildred McKinney in 1980. Thomas’ lawyer raised 17 points of error in the case and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals found them all to be without merit, according to the opinion issued by the court Wednesday.
Thomas’ fingerprint was found on the back of a clock in McKinney’s bedroom. His defense lawyer, Ariel Payan, said at a hearing before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals last year that it could have been there because Thomas worked for a pesticide company that had been to her house.
He also said Thomas’ sperm was found on a piece of medical tape wrapped around the thumb of the 73-year-old McKinney, but that it didn’t prove he sexually assaulted her. McKinney also had DNA inside of her from three other unknown men, Payan said.
He also said the testimony of a jailhouse snitch during Thomas’ trial also could not prove that Thomas killed McKinney. The inmate, Steven Shockey, testified in front of a jury that Thomas told him about being high on cocaine, breaking into a house and having to restrain a woman before she got out of bed and that Thomas took money and jewelry.
Williamson County Assistant District Attorney John Prezas, who was representing the state on the appeal, said the physical evidence alone was enough to convict Thomas without Shockey’s testimony. The clock that had Thomas’ fingerprint on it was found in the middle of McKinney’s bed near some of the cord used to tie her up at the crime scene, Prezas said.
He also said Thomas’ sperm was found not on medical tape but on a ribbon tied around McKinney’s thumb that was used to restrain her hands. Prezas also questioned whether Thomas had been to McKinney’s house when he worked for his brother’s pesticide company. Thomas’ brother testified during the trial that McKinney was one of their clients but he didn’t have records that showed Thomas made a service call to her house, Prezas said.