Court lifts execution reprieve for San Antonio hit man

Blog News Posted on

Texas' highest criminal court lifted a reprieve on Wednesday that, for the second time in a decade, prevented a convicted hit man from being executed for the 1992 slaying of a San Antonio woman.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals didn't rule on the merits of the appeal filed by 44-year-old Rolando Ruiz, who was five days away from execution when the court stepped in on Aug. 26. Instead, the court ruled that his appeal was not legally proper and dismissed it, clearing the way for prosecutors in Bexar County to seek a new execution date for Ruiz.

Investigators said Ruiz collected $2,000 to kill Theresa Rodriguez at her home in San Antonio at the request of her husband, Michael, and a brother-in-law as part of a life insurance scheme.

Ruiz was convicted of being the triggerman in the plot. Michael Rodriguez also was convicted in the case — but he wound up on death row after becoming one of the notorious Texas Seven gang of inmates who escaped from a prison in December 2000 and killed a Dallas-area police officer. Rodriguez was executed in 2008.

In Ruiz's appeal, his attorneys argued that his trial lawyers and his original appeals lawyers failed to investigate and present mitigating evidence, like his long-term drug abuse and a troubled childhood, that could have convinced jurors to decide on a punishment other than death.

But in a 6-1 ruling with two judges not participating, the criminal appeals court said that claim had been "fully and completely vetted" by the federal courts over the past seven years. The court said the claims of poor legal help at Ruiz's trial had been "inspected, scrutinized, studied, probed, analyzed, reviewed and evaluated by the three main levels of the federal court system."

The court also said it had previously rejected the argument raised in the appeal that executing Ruiz more than two decades after his conviction amounted to unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment.

Ruiz came within an hour of lethal injection in 2007 before a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stopped his execution. In 2-1 ruling, the judges in the majority said they needed more time to review arguments of poor legal help in early stages of his appeals.

The case then was sent back to a federal district court, which denied the appeal. The 5th Circuit denied it again, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the appeal in 2014.

Legal News Media

Legal News is the top headline legal news provider for lawyers and legalprofessionals. Read law articles and breaking news from law firm's across the United States to get the latest updates. We reserve the right, at our discretion, to change, modify, add, or remove portions of the site at any time. Your This site is solely for your personal use. You are, of course, welcome to print or otherwise copy material from this site for your personal use. However, you may not distribute, exchange, modify, sell or transmit anything you copy from this Site, including but not limited to any text, images, audio and video, for any business, commercial or public purpose. Any unauthorized use of the text, images, audio and video may violate copyright laws, trademark laws, the laws of privacy and publicity and civil and criminal statutes.

 

American Bar Association – Start and Run a Law Firm

NewYorkStateBar.com – Starting a Law Firm