A Dallas man who was convicted of murdering a realtor inside a McKinney model home in 2006 is asking again to be spared death on the eve of his execution.
Kosoul Chanthakoummane, 41, has already successfully prevented his execution twice, citing questionable forensic techniques that helped send him to death row.
But the state has opposed any further delay, saying DNA tests and retests over the years have provided strong evidence of his guilt. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in October 2020 that Chanthakoummane’s DNA was found under the victim’s fingernails and in the model home where she was killed.
Chanthakoummane is expected to die by lethal injection on Wednesday in Huntsville for the murder of 40-year-old Sarah Anne Walker.
He admitted to being inside the model home where his body was found but maintains his innocence. Anti-death penalty campaigners oppose his execution, saying his conviction 15 years ago was partly based on faulty and outdated evidence such as bite mark analysis and forensic hypnosis.
Police arrested Chanthakoummane after posting a skit with the help of a hypnotized witness who claimed to have seen a young Asian man at the scene. Law enforcement officials believe that hypnosis acts as a “relaxation tool” to trick witnesses and victims into remembering what they have seen. But its use has declined since the 1970s and 1980s, and many states have banned it over reliability concerns. Chanthakoummane’s lawyers called it “junk science”.
Hypnosis was used for the police sketch after witnesses, a real estate agent and her husband, reported seeing an Asian man in a white Mustang at the model home on the day of the murder. At trial, they identified Chanthakoummane as the man they saw, along with his Mustang.
Another real estate agent who had previously helped Chanthakoummane find an apartment told police he showed up at her house the day before the murder and knocked on her door.
The state appeals court found that the bite mark analysis played a “minimal role” in the case.
“The linchpin of the state case was the DNA evidence found at the scene and under Walker’s fingernails,” the appeals judges wrote in a 2020 opinion.
Chanthakoummane’s lawyer, Eric Allen, said on Monday that a defense expert had given his opinion on the DNA match that prosecutors relied on, saying his client could have been at his home days before the murder. .
Allen said the state appeals court recently denied his request to reanalyze the DNA evidence. He said it was extremely rare for a Texas governor to grant a stay of execution, but that all hope was not yet extinguished.
The state also relied on Chanthakoummane’s own confession, eyewitness testimony and other circumstantial evidence linking him to the murder, the appeals court ruled.
Assistant Attorney General Rachel Patton wrote in a July filing in federal court that the issue of DNA evidence has been “thoroughly covered in the many post-conviction proceedings” since Chanthakoummane’s conviction.
Trial evidence, for example, included DNA “consistent with Chanthakoummane’s DNA” that was recovered from under Walker’s fingernails, window pull cords, the deadbolt lock and swabs throughout the home.
Chanthakoummane had scratches and other injuries to his hands and arms at the time of his arrest, according to court records. And during police questioning, he admitted to being in the model home on the day of the murder.
“None of the DNA results were remotely exculpatory. Any belief by Chanthakoummane that further DNA investigation would yield useful results in his case is a fantasy,” Patton wrote in his filing. that further examination of the DNA test results, which did not favor him, will also be unfavorable to him.”
Chanthakoummane’s last execution date was in July 2017. The then Court of Criminal Appeals returned his case to the Collin County Trial Court to review questionable forensic evidence that was used to convict him in 2007.
The trial court held a hearing on the issues raised by Chanthakoummane and dismissed all of his allegations. The state, however, agreed to perform additional DNA testing on two exhibits that had not previously been tested. After reviewing the DNA report, a state judge concluded in October 2021 that the results, had they been used in the trial, likely would not have changed the outcome, according to court records.
A couple visiting a model home on Conch Train Road near Custer Road found Walker’s body on July 8, 2006.
Walker had been beaten, bitten and stabbed several times. His nose and teeth were fractured. A medical examiner testified at trial that 10 of his 33 stab wounds were fatal. The jewelry she was wearing was stolen but never found.
Chanthakoummane was at the time a 25-year-old felon who lived with relatives in Dallas after being paroled from prison in North Carolina. He had served seven years of an 11-year sentence for aggravated kidnapping and aggravated robbery. The conviction stems from an incident in which he and a friend held two women at gunpoint before stealing a car and leading police in pursuit.
Chanthakoummane, the son of Laotian immigrants who worked as a delivery driver, was arrested nearly two months after McKinney’s murder.
At his murder trial, his lawyers admitted he stabbed Walker, but argued he didn’t deserve the death penalty because it was a robbery that “went the wrong way “.
A jury convicted him after 30 minutes of deliberation. They heard testimony about the DNA evidence during the eight-day trial and watched a police video in which Chanthakoummane repeatedly changed her story during the two-hour interview after her arrest. Towards the end, he admitted to entering the McKinney model home that day, but said he never saw anyone inside.
Jurors also decided his fate, saying he deserved death rather than life in prison.
Death Penalty Action, a non-profit group that opposes capital punishment, recently held a press conference on the case, highlighting its concerns. The group released a video produced by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization, of how the victim’s father, a devout Catholic, forgave Chanthakoummane and opposed his execution.
“We are not ready to say today that Kosoul is innocent. But we’re here to say there are real questions,” Abraham Bonowitz, executive director of Death Penalty Action, said at the August 3 press conference.
Bonowitz said Chanthakoummane’s DNA was not found in the bite mark on Walker’s neck. He said it was not normal practice for his group to investigate a capital murder case. But no one else did, he said. The biggest question people should ask, he said, was, “Can we trust the government to tell the truth?”
He said his organization filed a clemency petition with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on Chanthakoummane’s behalf, seeking a stay of execution.
The petition ends by saying that Texas has a history of wrongful convictions.
“With a sentence as severe as the death penalty, there is no room for error. We are not convinced that the State of Texas has got it right in this case. We urge you to recommend clemency or a reprieve to allow for further consideration of the concerns raised in this letter.
If his eleventh-hour appeal fails, Chanthakoummane will become the 575th prisoner to be put to death in Texas since 1982, according to state statistics.
Texas has led the nation in executions since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
And Texas has the third-highest number of death row inmates in the nation, behind California and Florida, according to Austin advocacy group Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.