HOUSTON — A California man on Texas’ death row for the 1999 slaying of woman in Houston has lost a federal court appeal, moving him a step closer to execution.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments that lawyers at condemned inmate Bill Douglas Gates’ trial in 2000 were deficient for presenting no witnesses to testify about his troubled childhood that may have contributed to his criminal acts. A federal judge in Houston previously rejected the same arguments.
The evidence that could have been presented to jurors during the punishment phase of the trial likely would not have changed the outcome “in light of the overwhelming evidence of Gates’ long history of violent criminal behavior,” the three-judge appeals court panel said late Wednesday.
Records show Gates, from Riverside County, California, was on parole after serving about six years of two life prison terms in California when he was arrested for beating, raping and strangling 41-year-old Elfreda Gans at her Houston apartment in December 1999.
Texas prison records show Gates picked up his first life sentence in California for second-degree robbery and assault on a peace officer, and the second life term to run concurrently for possession of a weapon while a prisoner there. He also spent time with the California Youth Authority, now known as the California Division of Juvenile Justice, a part of the state’s corrections agency for young offenders.
According to court records, Gans’ slaying was drug related and the result of an argument. Testimony at his trial indicated he assaulted and choked Gans, whose body was found in her bathtub. Police found surfaces in the bathroom had been wiped clean although Gates’ DNA was detected on a mattress and on a bandage left behind.
His case was among more than 200 retested by an independent laboratory after an audit of the Houston Police Department’s crime lab showed serious deficiencies that included possible exposure of DNA samples to contaminants.
Gates does not yet have an execution date.