Originally created 06/20/03

Killer whose lawyer slept in court pleads guilty



HOUSTON -- A convicted killer who won a new trial because his lawyer slept through parts of his case pleaded guilty to murder Thursday in a deal that spared him from a possible death sentence.

Calvin Burdine, 50, received consecutive life sentences for the 1983 stabbing of his lover and roommate, W.T. "Dub" Wise.

In 1984, Burdine was found guilty and sentenced to die. But a federal judge threw out the conviction because of evidence that his lawyer, Joe Cannon, slept for up to 10 minutes at a time during crucial testimony.

Prosecutors agreed to the deal because of "the guarantee that he would die in prison," District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal said. Also, he said the evidence had deteriorated over the years.

Burdine had received six execution dates while on death row.

"He came close to being executed and the terror of having that over his head for nearly 20 years has finally been removed," said Danalynn Recer, one of his lawyers. "He is very relieved not to be facing the executioner."

Cannon denied falling asleep. He has since died.