[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Nov 30 18:16:14 CST 2005
TEXAS----stay of impending execution
Inmate set to die next week wins delay for DNA testing
A judge in El Paso has delayed next week's scheduled execution of a Texas
man condemned for a slaying almost 14 years ago.
Tony Ford, 32, had his Dec. 7 date for lethal injection put off for at
least 90 days Tuesday by State District Judge William Moody so DNA testing
can be conducted on clothing. His lawyers argue the testing will show he
may not have been the gunman in the 1991 slaying of Armando Murillo, 17.
"It's pretty amazing," Richard Burr, one of Ford's lawyers, said
Wednesday. "They've had that clothing for 13 years."
Ford's lawyers insist eyewitnesses misidentified him as the killer.
Ford has acknowledged driving Van Belton and another man to the Murillo
family house in El Paso so they could collect a drug debt. 2 men went to
the Murillos' door, argued with them, barged inside and opened fire.
Murillo was killed. His mother, Myra Concepcion Murillo, was shot in the
head and is permanently disabled. One of her daughters, Lisa Murillo, was
wounded by a bullet. The men also shot at another daughter, Myra
Magdalena, but missed.
Myra Magdalena identified Belton as one of the assailants because they
knew each other from school. He was convicted of aggravated burglary.
Lisa Murillo identified Ford as the shooter. He was convicted in 1993 of
capital murder and sentenced to death. Ford has said the 3rd man was the
gunman, but that man wasn't charged.
El Paso District Attorney Jaime Esparza has said he's confident he has the
correct man on death row.
The only evidence police found on Ford was the gray coat worn by the
shooter. Ford has said the shooter borrowed the coat to cover the gun he
stuck in his waistband as he walked to the Murillos' front door.
Burr said police never tested hairs found on the coat for DNA that might
have shown someone other than Ford wore the coat.
The execution delay means Texas finishes 2005 with 19 executions, 4 less
than the previous year but still the most in the country among states with
capital punishment. At least 8 inmates have execution dates for 2006, 3 of
them in January.
(source: Associated Press
Execution violates rights
Ruben Cantu was far from a model citizen, but he did not deserve what the
state of Texas did to him in 1993 ("Execution a fatal error?" Nov. 20, and
"A deadly silence?" Nov. 21). The Cantu execution is exactly what all
reasonable people fear: the execution of an innocent person.
Cantu is not the only person to be executed in error. The Chicago Tribune
reported last year that the 2004 Texas execution of Cameron Todd
Willingham was most likely a mistake. And earlier this year, St. Louis
prosecutors reopened the case of Larry Griffin, executed in 1995, because
of serious concerns that his was a wrongful execution.
There are more than 3,400 people on this nation's death rows. It is
inconceivable that some have not been wrongly convicted and executed.
Recently, the 122nd person was exonerated off death row nationwide since
we resumed executions in 1973.
As we near the 1,000th execution since 1973, this state has to ask how
much longer we can tolerate the human rights violation that is the death
Let Texas ensure no more Ruben Cantus are killed - abolish the death
Roger C. Barnes, board member, Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death
(source: Letter to the Editor, San Antonio Express-News)
Convicted Killer Claims Innocence In 1997 Lubbock Murder
A convicted killer from Lubbock speaks out for the 1st time since he
received an execution date.
In 1999, a Lubbock jury found 27-year-old Robert Salazar guilty of
murdering 2-year-old Adriana Gomez.
Salazar has always maintained his innocence. He originally told police
that Adriana fell in the bathtub. Now, he's changed his story and says he
wasn't even there. He claims that some unknown person must have come
inside the apartment and brutally beat the 2-year-old to death. He also
says he doesn`t know who that person is.
A maximum security prison in Livingston holds the men who have committed
the most ultimate crime: capital murder. It is also where Salazar will
spend the rest of his life.
"I didn't do it," says Salazar, of Adriana's murder. "I don't know who did
On April 23, 1997, the 2-year-old had been left in Salazar`s care while
her mother was at work. She came home to find her daughter motionless in
her crib. Salazar was no where to be found.
"I wanted to get some (marijuana)," says Salazar. "I was a little
(marijuana) freak, so I left. After that, I couldn't tell you (where I
"She was fine (when I left). She was just asleep. I don't know what
happened after that"
Autopsy reports showed Adriana had been beaten to death. Her injuries
included a bruised heart, ruptured intestines and a fractured skull.
Salazar now claims he wasn't strong enough to cause those injuries.
"I'm not a weak person, but I don't know that I'm that strong to be able
to do that to her," he says. "They say she had a bruised heart. How do you
bruise her heart? How do you bruise anybody's heart? I don't know how you
could do that."
At the time of the murder, Salazar told police that he pushed the toodler
when she was taking a bath. Now, almost a decade later, he's changing his
story. He says when he left Adriana alone, some other person must have
come inside and beaten the child to death.
"It was either her mother or someone else. I don't know who it could be,"
Adriana has been gone for almost 9 years. Now the convicted killer is
facing the end of his punishment.
Salazar will remain with the other 400 Texas death row inmates until his
execution in March. He still hopes for an appeal.
"I can see that it doesn't matter whether I'm innocent or not, whether I'm
telling the truth or not. They're going to get me if they want to," he
says. Even though he claims he was wrongly accused, Salazar was the last
one to see the little girl alive.
"Your guess is as good as mine (as to what happened to Adriana)," he says.
"All of my knowlege of what happened to Adriana's gone. I don't know
anything about it."
Salazar has 1 appeal left with the U.S. Supreme Court. His attorney has
until January to file that appeal.
Salazar is 1 of 5 Lubbock inmates since 1995 who have been sentenced to
death. So far, he is the only one to receive an execution date.
(source: KLBK News)
Capital case likely in officer's slaying----Dallas: Prosecutors point to
evidence in death; Mexico protests
Hours after Dallas police Officer Brian Jackson was fatally shot in an Old
East Dallas gunfight, Juan Lizcano made a videotaped statement explaining
that he fired at the officer because "it was the simple thing to do."
Prosecutors say the statement shows a cold and calculated killer - and a
probable candidate for the death penalty.
After a Tuesday court hearing, officials with the Mexican government
reiterated their country's opposition to the death penalty and said they
will help Mr. Lizcano's defense as a matter of principle.
Mr. Lizcano is a Mexico native who is in the U.S. illegally.
"This is not about feelings. This is about principles," said Hugo Juarez,
Mexico's deputy consul general in Dallas, noting that Mexico refuses to
extradite suspects facing the death penalty and has not had an execution
in more than 70 years.
Although a formal decision has not been made in the case, Juan Sanchez,
one of Mr. Lizcano's attorneys, said a death-penalty trial is almost a
certainty because Dallas County District Attorney Bill Hill is known for
pursuing the death penalty in cases involving officers killed on the job.
Mr. Hill could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Prosecutor Toby Shook said the Mexican government's stance on capital
punishment will not be a factor in whether the state seeks the death
"That shouldn't change our approach at all - he was arrested in this
country," Mr. Shook said. "He'll have the same constitutional rights as
any other suspect."
Currently, 16 Mexican citizens sit on death row in Texas, according to
officials with the Department of Criminal Justice.
Officer Jackson, 28, died Nov. 13 after a bullet entered his right side
near his underarm in an area not protected by his bulletproof vest and
pierced his heart.
The shooting occurred after Officer Jackson responded with other officers
to complaints from Mr. Lizcano's ex-girlfriend that he had threatened her
repeatedly at her home in the 2400 block of Madera Street near North
"He accused her of being with another man," Dallas police Senior Cpl.
Howard Johnson said during Tuesday's hearing. He described how Mr. Lizcano
then fired a gunshot into the ceiling of her home. "He said the next one
was going to be for her."
Mr. Lizcano was gone by the time police arrived, but he returned about 45
minutes later, holding a gun and pounding on the door. Mr. Lizcano was
hiding in a back yard when Officer Jackson and other officers arrived
about 2:45 a.m.
As police began searching for him, he shot at three officers in an alley
before shooting Officer Jackson, according to court testimony. Officer
Jackson fired 3 rounds from an assault rifle before collapsing. After the
shooting, Mr. Lizcano dropped to the ground and surrendered.
After the brief hearing, in which Mr. Lizcano did not testify, County
Criminal Court Judge Phil Barker ruled that the evidence against Mr.
Lizcano was sufficient to forward to a grand jury for review. The judge
also raised Mr. Lizcano's bail, from $1 million to $1.5 million.
Whether the death penalty becomes an international issue in this case
remains to be seen, because the Mexican government and Dallas police
disagree over whether consular officials were properly informed that Mr.
Lizcano had been arrested.
Dallas police say they faxed notice of the arrest to the Mexican consulate
in Dallas on the day Mr. Lizcano was arrested, but that was a Sunday, and
the consulate did not see the official notice of the arrest until Monday.
Mr. Lizcano's attorneys said they are still waiting to view his taped
statement to police and have not determined whether he was properly given
access to diplomatic help.
Last year, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands,
decided that the U.S. should review complaints by 51 Mexican citizens
facing execution in several states because of charges that the Mexican
government had not been informed of their arrests.
The Vienna Convention of Consular Relations, a treaty signed by U.S.
officials in 1969, requires that governments notify the appropriate
embassy when a foreign citizen charged with a serious crime requests legal
help from his home country's diplomats.
This year, the U.S. Supreme Court stopped short of ruling on a long legal
battle over whether an international court can decide if a defendant's
rights in a state criminal case had been violated. President Bush ordered
states to review the cases cited by the international court.
But since then, the Bush administration has withdrawn from the provision
in the Vienna treaty that gave the international court final say in
determining whether a defendant's rights had been violated according to
Mr. Lizcano entered the U.S. illegally more than four years ago and
settled in Dallas. About five weeks before the shooting, he was arrested
on a misdemeanor "terroristic threat" charge after allegedly threatening
his girlfriend with a knife. He was arrested again several days later on
charges of driving while intoxicated.
Suspect not flagged
At the time of his previous arrests, federal Immigration and Customs
Enforcement agents did not flag Mr. Lizcano for deportation because the
charges were not serious enough to catch the attention of overworked and
understaffed agents stationed at the jail, said Ken Cates, special agent
in charge for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in North Texas.
"We're simply overwhelmed on a daily basis by the number of illegal aliens
of every sort that populate the United States," Mr. Cates said. "On any
given day there are many, many, many illegal aliens."
Agents work to deport the "worst of the worst" they see at the jail -
about 200 each month - typically with convictions on felony charges.
The office has been under a hiring freeze for three years, and one of the
2 positions assigned to the Dallas County jail system is vacant, Mr. Cates
"While he had two arrests, he had no convictions," he said. "He had no
documented criminal history whatsoever. He simply did not rise to the
Even at full staffing levels, Mr. Cates said, it would be impossible to
deport all undocumented residents who pass through the jail because the
sheer numbers would overwhelm jail space and federal court dockets.
"There's a million things in my career that we'd wished we'd seen in
advance and done something different," Mr. Cates said. "This case
exemplifies that. The reality is the sheer number of illegal aliens
(source: Dallas Morning News)
Lubbock Man Going To Trial For Capital Murder
The Lubbock man accused of kidnapping and killing his wife is now one step
closer to a trial. A Lubbock grand jury indicted Steven Lovato on a
capital murder charge in the death of his wife, Michele Lovato.
One of the reasons Lovato is being charged with capital murder is because
Lovato is also accused of kidnapping his wife. Police say Steven and
Michele were in the process of getting a divorce when he showed up at her
home in the 2900 block of Fordham on November 12th.
Lovato allegedly used a knife from Michelle's kitchen to kidnap her. Hours
later, Michelle's body was found in a van near 106th and Chicago. She had
been stabbed to death.
Tuesday, the grand jury felt there was enough evidence for the case to go
trial. If convicted, Lovato faces life in prison or the death penalty.
(source: KCBD News)
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