BEAUMONT - It sounds like a less than believable plot twist in a legal novel, but it could be enough to delay the execution of a Beaumont man on Texas' death row.
Marvin Lee Wilson is scheduled for execution August 7. He was convicted of the 1992 shooting death of Jerry Williams. Investigators say Williams was a police informant. A Beaumont city bus driver found Williams' naked body near Irving Street in November of 1992. He was shot in the head and 'neck.
Prosecutors say the victim was killed because Wilson and another man thought he had snitched to police.
But Monday a witness testified before senior Criminal District Court Judge Larry Gist that someone else pulled the trigger. The fate of death row inmate Marvin Wilson now rests with Judge Gist, based on the testimony of Bennie Nettles, now in custody at the Jefferson County Jail.
About a month ago, police investigators were interviewing Nettles in connection
with a robbery. Nettles told police he knew who killed Williams in 1992 and that it wasn't Marvin Wilson.
Monday Nettles testified a terminally ill man by the name of Billie Ray Joseph told him four years ago he and another man pulled the trigger in the shooting, and the man convicted of the crime, Marvin Wilson, didn't do it.
Asked why he's waited until now to come forward, Nettles says Joseph told him to wait until there was an execution date because that's when someone was more likely to pay attention.
There are problems with the testimony.
Billie Ray Joseph, the man Nettles says confessed, died from cancer.
And Nettles, when he first told investigators about the confession, said he was there at the crime scene, but he
was in jail.
Now he says police misunderstood him.
But David Barlow, the attorney who was court-appointed to represent Marvin Wilson at this single hearing says the detail in the testimony makes it compelling.
So what happens now?
Well, the case against Marvin Wilson has already taken a few turns. He was first convicted in 1994. A court overturned that conviction. He was re-tried in 1998 and convicted again.
In 2004 he claimed mental retardation. The courts denied that claim.
Judge Gist, if he decides Monday's testimony carried any weight, could halt the August 7 execution while the legal system sorts out the case against Marvin Wilson.