Doster charges reinstated

Published 11:59 pm Friday, February 20, 2009

The Texas murder case against convicted murderer and Covington County resident Oscar Roy Doster, dismissed in December by Texas’ 10th Court of Criminal Appeals, has been reinstated.

He is charged with the capital murder of Texas resident Dennis Courtney that followed an escape from the Covington County Jail in April 2005.

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.”

However, the Texas Attorney General’s Office appealed that decision — based on its reasoning that there was no request for Doster’s extradition under the Interstate Agreement on Detainees, and that it instead was made under Texas state law.

In an opinion issued Feb. 4, 2009, the court agreed with the AG’s argument.

“In his opening brief, Doster initially alleged that he was extradited to Texas under the IADA,” the opinion reads. “It appears from the record that all parties, including the trial judge, assumed that to be the case, but nothing in the record evidences that Doster was extradited under the IADA.”

Additionally, nothing in a supplemental clerk’s record of the case revealed that Doster was extradited under the IADA, it read.

The opinion also states the court asked Doster’s counsel for additional information on the IADA’s applicability in the case. In it, it showed that “the State used procedures under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Art. 51.13, the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act, to obtain (his) presence … in Texas.”

“Which means that the appellate court is of the opinion it is for the parties — in this case the state of Texas — to provide additional documentation to the court to show why the IADA did not apply,” said Covington County District Attorney Greg Gambril. “And they were able to provide documentation to show that (Doster) was extradited to Texas under state law, not federal law.

“And without that documentation, the appellate court reversed itself,” he said.

Doster was extradited to Texas in December 2007. In August 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.

In the States’ appeal of the appellate court’s decision, they maintained Doster had not objected at the January 2008 hearing of the August 2008 trial date — which relieved the state of the duty to try him within 120 days.

Before extradition to Texas, Doster was housed in the Holman Correctional Facility after being sentenced to death by lethal injection for the 2002 death of Gantt resident Paul LeMaster.

Doster, along with Bobby O’Lee Phillips, was an escapee from the Covington County Jail when LeMaster was murdered. Phillips was also found guilty of murder in the LeMaster case.

In a second escape from the county jail in 2005, Doster and fellow escapee James D. Harnage 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 received in a motorcycle crash.

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.

According to a spokesman with the Texas AG’s office, Doster has since filed another appeal of the current ruling. No opinion had been issued as of Friday, the spokesman said.

Also, no opinion has been issued for Harnage’s appeal under the same IADA violations as made by Doster, the spokesman said.