Blaine Milam was sentenced to death for the gruesome murder of Amora Carson, his girlfriend's 13 month-old child, in 2008 in East Texas. He later said that he believed the infant was possessed by demons and that he needed to commit an exorcism ritual to save her.
The court issued the stay of execution on the basis that bite-mark evidence — which the prosecution had relied upon heavily to identify Milam as the killer — had been discredited since the original conviction.
The defense also argued that Milam's intellectual disability disqualified him from capital punishment. In 2002, the Supreme Court decision in Atkins v. Virginia held that it constituted "cruel and unusual punishment" in violation of the eighth amendment to execute mentally disabled persons. Since the Atkins decision, however, states have struggled to identify which defendants are truly mentally disabled and are thus ineligible for execution under Atkins, and which are merely faking it to avoid execution.
The State of Texas adopted a test that was designed to weed out the malingerers, but the Supreme Court invalidated Texas' test in the 2017 Moore v. Texas opinion. Milam's attorneys argued successfully that since Milam's mental disability was assessed under a test that the Supreme Court invalidated, his death penalty should be vacated.
The state will now assess Milam under updated standards set forth by the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD)— as required by the Moore v. Texas decision — to accurately determine his functional IQ and whether he is eligible for execution.
Milam and his girlfriend Jessica Carson contacted the police in December of 2008 and told them that they had come home to find the baby dead. When police arrived to their home, they found the deceased child brutally beaten with a hammer and with numerous bite-mark injuries.
Police say the baby suffered 18 rib fractures and multiple skull fractures. There were also signs of sexual assault. The injuries were so brutal that the medical examiner in the case testified that he could not determine the cause of death.
When police confronted Carson about discrepancies between her story and Milam's, she confessed that they had believed the baby was possessed, and that she died while they performed an exorcism. Carson claimed that the baby had hit herself with the hammer while under possession.
Jessica Carson was also convicted for the murder of the baby, but she was sentenced to life without parole.
The stay of execution granted to Milam does not mean that he will never be executed; the state will be permitted to present argument that the jury would have convicted Milam of involvement in the gruesome murders even without the bite mark evidence. If this argument fails, they will still be permitted to re-try him on the issue of guilt without the bite mark evidence. Additionally, after the state properly assesses Milam's level of mental functioning, he may be ultimately found to be not mentally disabled under the standards set forth in the Atkins and Moore decisions.
The execution would have been the first scheduled for Texas and in the U.S. in 2019.