Doster wins Texas appeal

Published 11:59 pm Monday, January 5, 2009

The 10th Court of Appeals of Texas has dismissed the state of Texas’s murder charges against Covington County native Oscar Roy Doster.

In a 2-1 ruling handed down Dec. 31, 2008, the court agreed with Doster’s Texas court-appointed attorney’s argument that the Interstate Agreement on Detainees was violated because Doster’s trial did not occur within 120 days of his transfer to Texas.

The federal Interstate Agreement on Detainers Act (IADA), which applies to transfers of sentenced prisoners for unrelated trials between two states, says that “trial shall be commenced within one hundred and twenty days of the arrival of the prisoner in the receiving (S)tate.”

Doster was extradited to Texas in December 2007. In August of 2008, Nancy Nemer, a prosecutor with the Texas Attorney General’s Office of Criminal Prosecution, told The Andalusia Star-News that in January 2008, Doster’s Texas defense attorney argued that there was no way his case could be prepared before August. When a trial date was set, the attorney then began to argue that the state had violated the IADA.

The court ordered Doster returned without delay to Alabama, where he has been incarcerated on death row in Holman Prison since the fall of 2006. A Covington County jury convicted Doster of capital murder during a first degree burglary, capital murder during a first degree robbery and capital murder by a weapon fired from outside a dwelling in the 2002 death of Gantt resident Paul D. LeMaster. Circuit Judge Ashley McKathan sentenced him to death by lethal injection.

Doster was an escapee from the Covington County Jail when LeMaster was murdered. Bobby O’Lee Phillips, who escaped with Doster in 2002, also was found guilty of murder in the LeMaster case. The Texas murder of which Doster and fellow escapee James D. Harnage have been accused also occurred after a jail escape.

Doster and Harnage escaped from the Covington County Jail on March 31, 2005.

They stole a car from Kirk’s Funeral Home and fled the county. The car was later recovered in Tennessee. They are accused of killing Dennis Courtney, 56, of Oakwood, Texas, on April 6, 2005.

Courtney’s family members told The Star-News in a 2005 interview they believe Doster and Harnage killed Courtney, then helped themselves to his food, beer and personal belongings before stealing vehicles.

Doster was captured in California on April 15, 2005, after walking into a gas station and asking for help for injuries he said he sustained in a collision while driving a motorcycle.

Harnage was caught in Las Vegas, Nev., on Apr. 23, 2005, in possession of Courtney’s Ford pickup truck. He later pled guilty to escape and was sentenced to life in prison.

Harnage’s attorney has filed an appeal similar to Doster’s in Texas, but the appellate court has not yet ruled upon it.

The Fairfield Recorder in Fairfield, Texas, provided information on the appeals ruling to this newspaper on Monday.