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Texas Death Row Inmate Gets Reprieve & Midday Roundup

By KERA News & Wire Services

Dallas, TX – The U.S. Supreme Court has blocked the first scheduled execution of a Texas death row inmate using pentobarbital.

Cleve Foster was to have been executed Tuesday evening for the 2002 slaying of a Sudanese woman in Fort Worth - the first Texas execution since the state switched to pentobarbital in its lethal three-drug mixture.

On Tuesday morning, the high court agreed to reconsider its January order denying the 47-year-old's appeal. That appeal raised claims of innocence and poor legal help during his trial and early stages of his appeals.

Foster's lawyers also argued that Texas prison officials violated administrative procedures when they announced the switch to pentobarbital from sodium thiopental.

There is a national shortage of sodium thiopental, which has been used already in executions in Oklahoma and Ohio.

Southwest finds cracks in more planes

Southwest Airlines says it finished inspecting its grounded older planes and five of them have cracks in the aluminum skin.

The airline said Tuesday that its operations were returning to normal after nearly 700 flights were cancelled Saturday through Monday.

Southwest grounded 79 older Boeing 737-300 planes after a similar jet sprang a hole in the roof Friday on a flight from Phoenix.

Federal officials say they will order emergency inspections ofsome older 737s for cracks in the fuselage like the ones on the Southwest jets.

Boeing didn't expect 737 cracks so soon

Boeing's chief 737 engineer says the company was surprised when the roof of a Southwest Airlines jetliner ripped open over Arizona.

Paul Richter says in a conference call Tuesday that the company didn't expect to see wear in the middle section of the fuselage until the plane involved was much older.

When the company designed the 737-300, it expected the skin joint that failed to be robust enough not to require inspections for at least 60,000 pressurization cycles.

The cycles are the number of times a plane takes off and lands. The Southwest jet that needed to make an emergency landing Friday had less than 40,000 cycles.

Senate passes bill restricting HOA powers

The Texas Senate has passed a bill to curtail the powers of homeowners' associations.

The bill would make it harder for an association to foreclose on a homeowner for not paying dues and fees. Sellers of property within a homeowners' association would also have to disclose to new buyers any obligations due to the association.

Dallas Sen. Royce West authored the bill and said it was necessary to protect homeowners from abuses. If the bill passes the House and is signed by the governor, the law would also restrict homeowner associations from foreclosing on military personnel serving overseas.

Presently a homeowners' association does not have to notify a property owner of an outstanding debt and allows for a rapid home foreclosure. West said the bill would level the playing field.

3 plead guilty in South Texas bank fraud

Two former bankers and a businessman have pleaded guilty in a South Texas financial fraud case.

Federal prosecutors on Tuesday announced the pleas by 45-year-old Arsenio Alfaro, 41-year-old Elizabeth Aguirre and 33-year-old John Guzman.

Alfaro is a former president of Texas National Bank, operating in the McAllen area. Aguirre was a vice president. Guzman built homes in South Texas.

Each pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy to commit bank fraud. The penalty is up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Sentencing is July 1.

Investigators say the case, going back to 2006, involves Guzman's closed accounts, concealing overdrafts and misleading the bank's board of directors. The bank lost nearly $350,000.

A fourth person awaits trial.