8-8-12: Judge: Killer of pregnant Fort Worth mom should not get new trial

Posted Wednesday, Aug. 08, 2012  comments  Print Reprints

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This article has been modified from how it originally was published in the Star-Telegram and on Star-Telegram.com to correct the type of cases to which District Judge Bob Gill would appoint attorney Billy Ray.

FORT WORTH -- Stephen Barbee, an inmate on Death Row for the 2005 smothering deaths of a pregnant woman and her 7-year-old son, should not get a new trial, a state district judge has determined.

Barbee had appealed his conviction for the deaths of Lisa Underwood, who was seven months pregnant, and her young son, Jayden.

His appellate attorneys had argued that Barbee was deprived a fair trial because of a "secret deal" between Barbee's trial attorney, Billy Ray, and then-state District Judge Bob Gill.

They contended that Gill frequently appointed Ray to handle probation-revocation cases in which the judge tried to negotiate plea deals with the defendants to keep the cases moving more quickly through his docket.

That arrangement, the attorneys said, created a conflict of interest that affected how the defense attorneys represented Barbee.

During a two-day evidentiary hearing on the matter before state District Judge Louis Sturns in February, Gill, Ray and co-defense counsel Tim Moore denied any conflict.

In an order filed Tuesday, Sturns states he will recommend to the Court of Criminal Appeals that Barbee be "denied relief on his conflict of interest claim."

Prosecutors have said Barbee killed Underwood because he believed that he was the father of her unborn child and was concerned that Underwood would tell his new wife about their relationship. DNA tests later showed that he was not the father.

He was convicted of capital murder in the case and sentenced to death in February 2006.

Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655

Twitter: @deannaboyd

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