Texas courts to try Doster for 2nd murder

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Trial proceedings will begin July 19 in the Texas murder case of convicted Covington County murderer Oscar Roy Doster.

Doster and James D. Harnage are each charged with the capital murder of Texas resident Dennis Courtney following an escape in March 2005 from the Covington County Jail. The escape was Doster’s second from the county jail.

Late last week, Thomas Kelley of the Texas Attorney General’s office said presentation of evidence in the case is scheduled to begin Sept. 7 in Freestone County, Texas.

A total of 350 people have been called as potential jurors in the case, and the jury selection process is expected to last three to four weeks. It is expected that, in addition to a 12-person jury, four alternates will also be selected.

“Death penalty cases require individual voir dire (or questioning) of prospective jurors,” Kelley said. “Our attorney will be talking to several jurors each day until a jury is picked. It is time-consuming, yes.”

In additional to individual questioning, each potential juror will be required to fill out an extensive questionnaire, all of which will take several days to process.

Reports from The Freestone County Times indicate Doster made his final pretrial appearance under heavy escort Thurs., June 24. Doster’s counsel had made previous attempts to have the case dismissed, claiming a violation under the federal Interstate Agreement on Detainers Act (IADA), which requires trial within 120 days of arriving in a “receiving state.” The claim was initially upheld; however, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals later denied that claim in March.

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 following his first escape from the county jail. Fellow escapee Bobby O’Lee Phillips also was found guilty of murder in the LeMaster case.

In a second escape from the county jail on March 30, 2005, Doster and fellow escapee Harnage stole a car from Kirk’s Funeral Home and fled the county. The two 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 on April 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 filed an appeal similar to Doster’s in Texas; however, it too was denied, and no trial date has been set.

A third inmate who escaped with Doster and Harnage in 2005, Darrell Ray Henry, was apprehended a few days after the escape. He received a 19-year sentence after pleading guilty to second-degree escape.

The Department of Corrections does not list him as currently incarcerated in the Alabama Prison System.