Texas Court Halts Execution of Man Who Murdered His Girlfriend’s Baby in Exorcism Ritual
RUSK COUNTY, TX – January 16, 2019
On Monday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals delayed this week’s scheduled execution of a man convicted of killing his girlfriend’s 13-month-old baby girl in 2008 in East Texas during what the couple said was part of an “exorcism.” According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Blaine Milam received a stay from the court just a day before his death was scheduled.
The 29-year-old Milam would have been the first inmate put to death this year both in the U.S. and in Texas.
The court issued the stay of execution and called for a lower court to take another look at the case on the basis that bite-mark evidence had been discredited since the original conviction, and that new laws about the treatment of mentally impaired felons applied in the case.
According to Texas Department of Criminal Justice records, Blaine Milam was sentenced to death on June 6, 2010, for the gruesome murder of Amora Carson, his girlfriend’s 13 month-old child who he believed “was possessed by demons” and needed to be saved.
Amora was bitten multiple times and struck with a hammer to get rid her of demons during an alleged exorcism Milam performed at his home with his then-girlfriend Jessica Carson. Carson was also convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
After the ritual the pair contacted 911 and the police in Rusk County and told them that they had come home to find the baby dead. When police arrived to their home, they found the deceased child brutally beaten with a hammer and with numerous bite-mark injuries. The medical examiner counted 24 human bite marks on the baby’s body and found evidence of blunt force trauma and sexual assault.
The injuries were so brutal that the medical specialist in the case testified that he could not determine the cause of death.
When police confronted Carson about discrepancies between her story and Milam’s, she confessed that they had believed the baby was possessed, and that she died while they performed an exorcism. Carson claimed that the baby had hit herself with the hammer while under possession.
At trial, the prosecution linked Milam to several of the bite marks. But his attorneys now say that science has largely been discredited, pointing to the Court of Criminal Appeals’ recent decision to overturn the murder conviction of Steven Chaney. (In December, the court took the rare step of asserting Chaney’s innocence, saying his conviction was based on bite-mark science that “has since been undermined or completely invalidated.” Chaney spent more than 25 years behind bars.)
In a late appeal, Milam’s lawyers argued against the state’s reliance on bite-mark testimony, which was a key part of his trial. His lawyers also claimed he was intellectually disabled and therefore ineligible for execution, the Texas Tribune reported.
Rusk County prosecutors said the state had enough other evidence that it wouldn’t have affected the jury’s decision at the time. They pointed to testimony that Milam told his sister from jail to find a hidden pipe wrench believed to be used in Carson’s assault — and his apparent confession to a jail nurse.
In 2017, the U.S Supreme Court tossed out the method the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals had previously used to determine who is intellectually disabled and, therefore, constitutionally ineligible to be executed. The Court of Criminal Appeals later said it would change its test, which used outdated medical standards and nonclinical factors created by its judges, including how well the person could lie.
“Because of recent changes in the science pertaining to bite mark comparisons and recent changes in the law pertaining to the issue of intellectual disability ... we therefore stay his execution and remand these claims to the trial court for a review of the merits of these claims,” the court said in its order on Monday.
The court will now consider Milam’s claims under current medical standards.
Despite the court’s decision, Texas is still set to host the nation’s first execution of the year. Robert Jennings is scheduled to die on Jan. 30, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Five other executions are scheduled in the state through May.