The death sentenced handed to Charles Brownlow Jr., the man who killed five people in Terrell in 2013, has been overturned by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The case will be sent back for a rehearing.
The state’s highest court, however, did not overturn the jury’s guilty verdict.
In its ruling Wednesday, the court stated: “Substantial evidence of Brownlow’s incompetence was sufficient to raise a ‘bona fide doubt’ regarding his ability to consult with counsel and comprehend the proceedings. Brownlow was unable to rationally communicate with counsel, which deteriorated as his trial proceeded. Brownlow did not understand he was facing a possible execution or that he could accept a plea deal. Consequently, both federal and state law required the court to reevaluate Brownlow’s competency when counsel reasserted the issue to ensure he was not tried while incompetent in violation of due process.”
The decision means that another trial will be held in Kaufman County’s 422nd District Court, where Brownlow’s mental state must be considered. Judge B. Michael Chitty presides over that court, and he intends to retire in December.
Kaufman County Criminal District Attorney Erleigh Norville Wiley and First Assistant Criminal District Attorney Marc Moffitt, lead prosecutors in the Brownlow case, are expected to retry the case. Wiley said she did not know when the retrial would be scheduled.
“Our concern is for the victims of this offense,” said Wiley, noting that her office was working to notify family members of those killed by Brownlow. Her office was made aware of the ruling Wednesday morning when it also became publically available to news outlets, she noted.
“This is a serious case,” said Wiley, and her office has kept abreast of all developments in the case. There is no chance he will ever be a free man. Brownlow will either be re-sentenced to death or he will spend the rest of his life in prison with no chance of parole, she said.
According to court records, Brownlow is intellectually impaired with an IQ of 65 – 75.
A Kaufman County jury in April 2016 found Brownlow guilty of killing convenience clerk Luis Gerardo Leal-Carrillo. Jurors rejected the defense team’s claim that Brownlow was insane when he killed the five people on Oct. 28. 2013. Before the killings, Brownlow had compiled a criminal history that included burglary, assault, possession of marijuana, and unlawful possession of a firearm.
Besides Leal-Carrillo, his killing spree took the life of his mother, Mary Brownlow, whose home he set afire; his aunt, Belinda Walker; acquaintance Jason Wooden; and Wooden’s girlfriend, Kellye Lynnette Sluder. He shot the couple to death in the presence of their 3-year-old son.