In 1996, Snyder was convicted of beating 72-year-old Dixie Gaither and her son Carey Milton Gaither while burglarizing their home. He then used a gun belonging to Mrs. Gaither and killed Nancy Burkhalter, Carey’s girlfriend.
The break-in took place Aug. 9, 1995, and the bodies were discovered two days later. Snyder was tried the following year and convicted of three counts of capital murder: two counts for murder committed during a burglary and one count of murdering two or more people during the same course of action. He was subsequently sentenced to death. The state court of criminal appeals reversed the conviction in 2001, but the state supreme court later restored the original verdict and sentence.
He was found to be in possession of some of the jewelry stolen from the house, and had pawned other pieces.
Snyder’s hearing this week is taking place under what is known as Rule 32. A Rule 32 hearing is the next step after direct appeals to the state and federal courts have been exhausted. A direct appeal deals only with what was presented to the original trial court, whereas in a Rule 32 hearing, new evidence may be presented.
In this case, Snyder’s defense team is arguing that his trial attorneys, Mark Nelson and now District Court Judge Jeb Fannin, did not adequately represent their client, based largely on arguments that alternate suspects were either not adequately investigated (or that law enforcement did not turn over evidence concerning alternate suspects), and that sufficient mitigating evidence was not presented during the sentencing phase of the trial. They are also arguing that several witnesses who might have presented mitigating evidence, including a past mayor of Weaver, could have been called by the defense, but were not.
It was during this portion of the testimony Tuesday that Snyder briefly took the witness stand himself.
Other witnesses so far have included Nelson, Fannin, two private investigators hired by the defense, a neighbor of the Gaithers who attended church with Snyder and the victims, and the former mayor of Weaver.
Testimony is expected tomorrow from a serology expert hired by Snyder’s defense team.
The state is being represented by John Hayden of the Alabama Attorney General’s Office.
Snyder still maintains that he has spent the last 14 years on death row for a crime he did not commit.