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A jury found Acker guilty of capital murder in 2001 and sentenced him to death. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed his conviction and sentence in November 2003.
In his appeals, Acker's attorneys repeated Acker's position at trial that George died after jumping from his vehicle. In an evidentiary hearing for a federal proceeding in 2011, Dr. Di Maio, testifying for the state, disagreed with Dr. Gonsoulin's theory at Acker's trial that George's injuries were caused by strangulation. Instead, Maio testified that the victim was run over by a vehicle. Maio stated that the injuries were too extensive to have been caused by merely jumping from or being pushed out of a vehicle. Acker's medical expert, Dr. Larkin, was unable to testify at the hearing, so his report was submitted into evidence. Larkin concluded that George most likely jumped from Acker's truck, but Acker's attorneys stipulated that, if cross-examined, Larkin would concede that it was possible George was run over.
Sabrina Ball offered the same testimony in the evidentiary hearing that she gave outside of the jury's presence at Acker's trial, which was that George described to her how she had attempted to jump out of Acker's truck in another incident two weeks prior to her death.
After the hearing, the federal district court concluded that "the totality of the evidence, if presented to a reasonable jury, overwhelmingly supports the strong inference that Ms. George was unconscious or incapacitated when Mr. Young saw Petitioner pull her from the truck and lay her along the road in front of that truck, that Petitioner subsequently ran over Ms. George with his truck, and that event was the cause of her death."
Acker's attorneys appealed the district court's ruling to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, alleging that since the state's theory at Acker's trial that George was probably strangled had been refuted, his conviction should be overturned. The Fifth Circuit, upholding the district court's ruling, wrote that the jury was also informed that the victim's blunt force injuries would have been fatal and could not be excluded as the cause of death. Jurors were allowed to consider the defense's theory that they were inflicted when George jumped from the vehicle.
In public statement and court filings, Acker and his attorneys maintained their position that he did not murder George. "From the moment Daniel turned himself in to the authorities, he said that the victim, Markie George, jumped from the truck," attorney Richard Ellis said. "He has taken full responsibility for abducting her and has shown great remorse for that."
The Texas attorney general's issued a statement repeating that the jury rejected Acker's claim that George jumped from his truck and reminding people that Acker had made several death threats against George in the hours before her death.
George's brother, Christopher Follis, watched Acker's execution from a viewing room adjacent to the death chamber. Acker did not have any friends or family present. He did not acknowledge Follis.
When the warden asked Acker if he wanted to make a last statement, he answered, "No, sir." The lethal injection was then started. He was pronounced dead at 6:25 p.m.
By David Carson. Posted on 28 January 2017.
Sources: Texas Department of Criminal Justice, court documents, public records, Associated Press, Texas Tribune.