Blaine Milam, the East Texas man convicted of killing a 13-month-old in a brutally botched exorcism, was granted a last-minute stay Monday over concerns about the bite mark evidence used to convict him and the possibility he might be too intellectually disabled to execute, the Houston Chronicle reports.
Milam, 29, who was scheduled to die Tuesday, would have been Texas’ first execution of 2019. Defense attorney Jennae Swiergula argued that the conviction rested on “junk science.” Milam was sent to death row for killing Amora Bain Carson, whose body was found in his trailer, covered in bites and bruises.
The trial was moved more than two hours away after intense media coverage of the sordid allegations including everything from drugs to demonic possession.
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, reports the Texas Tribune. His lawyers also claimed he was intellectually disabled and therefore ineligible for execution.
In December 2008, Milam called 911 and police in Rusk County arrived to find the body of Amora Carson, according to court opinions. The medical examiner counted 24 human bite marks on the baby’s body and found evidence of blunt force trauma and sexual assault.
Milam told investigators he had no idea what had happened, and that he and his girlfriend had returned home to find the child dead. In the end, he was sentenced to death and the child’s mother – Jessica Carson – was given a life without parole sentence.
The mother first thought Milam was possessed by the devil. Then, the couple decided that baby Amora was possessed instead. In 2008, they beat the child with a hammer, bit her and sexually assaulted her in an attempt to cast out the demon.
Carson later admitted to the Texas Rangers that her daughter had died during the ill-fated exorcism.
In appeals, Milam alleged that the state withheld exculpatory evidence at trial, that he was denied the right to present a defense, that he was intellectually disabled under the current definition and that the bite mark evidence underlying his conviction isn’t reliable science.
Last month, the Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in another case that the conviction had relied heavily on testimony regarding bite mark science no longer considered reliable.
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.