death penalty news—-TEXAS

March 18


Inmate loses appeal in death-penalty case

A federal appeals court has rejected a condemned Texas man's appeal of his
conviction and death sentence for the baseball bat murders of his live-in
girlfriend and her teenage son.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the appeal of David
Martinez, 35, who argued his trial attorneys were deficient and his
sentence was unconstitutional.

Martinez was on parole after serving 5 months of a 5-year sentence for
attempted sexual assault when he was arrested for the July 1994 slayings
of Carolina Prado, 37, and her son, Erik, 14, in San Antonio.

Both had their heads bashed with repeated blows from a baseball bat.
Prado's younger daughter, who was 10 at the time of the slayings,
testified against Martinez, telling a Bexar County jury she saw him kill
her brother.

Martinez told officers who arrested him that he "killed them just like
cockroaches," then in his confession said the slayings occurred after he
drank a 12-pack of beer and a large bottle of rum. He later testified at
his trial, however, that police coerced him into making a confession and
denied any role in their deaths.

"I can't say I'm sorry for killing them because I did not kill them," he

Jurors didn't believe him, convicted him of capital murder and sentenced
him to death.

It's possible he could ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the ruling
posted late Monday by the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court. He does not
have an execution date.

In his request for what's known as a certificate of appealability,
Martinez said his trial lawyers should have allowed him to testify at a
pretrial hearing where his request to suppress his confession was denied.
His attorneys unsuccessfully argued at that hearing the confessions were
involuntary because Martinez was drunk.

Among numerous other claims rejected by the appeals court, Martinez also
argued authorities conducted an illegal search of his grandmother's San
Marcos house where he was arrested, that his pornographic magazines were
improperly seized from Prado's home, and that his trial attorneys should
have objected to parts of the prosecution opening statement and to
testimony from police officers regarding blood discovered on the baseball
bat and on Martinez's clothing.

Martinez, known as "Snoopy" and "Bam Bam," had a lengthy juvenile criminal
history in the Rio Grande Valley that began at age 13 when authorities
said he broke into a neighbor's house and stole her panties.

At the time of his 1994 arrest, he was wanted for violating parole because
he never reported to his parole officer.

(source: Associated Press)


North Texas man loses death row appeal before Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to review the case of a North
Texas man on death row for the robbery, beating, rape and strangling of a
93-year-old woman in her home.

William A. Murray, 39, was condemned for the 1998 death of Rena Ratcliff,
killed in her small home in Kaufman, east of Dallas, where she lived
alone. The convicted murderer's mother had once cared for the elderly
woman as a home nursing aide.

Murray does not have an execution date. Executions in Texas, the nation's
most active death penalty state, have been on a de facto hold since
September after the Supreme Court agreed to look at constitutional
challenges to lethal injection procedures. A ruling is expected no later
than this summer.

The Supreme Court's denial comes about eight months after the 5th U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals upheld lower courts that denied five claims from
Murray, including one that his trial court did not require psychological
examinations when he said in 1999 he wanted appeals dropped and execution
expedited. He later changed his mind, but a motion to reinstate his
appeals was denied.

A psychological expert said that, based on an informal examination, he had
no reason to doubt Murray's competence when he testified that his appeals
should be waived.

Murray later said that when he said he wanted to be executed for the sake
of the victim's family, he knew his death would be a mistake and that he
was being influenced by depression and suicidal thoughts. Lower courts
denied his claim.

At the time of the slaying, Murray had been out of prison just a few
months after serving only 3 months of a 10-year term for burglary.

After his arrest, Murray told his mother he killed the woman in a drug
frenzy after breaking into her home. Evidence showed Murray had 2 earlier
marijuana convictions.

According to court documents, Murray attacked Ratcliff after she woke up
while he was in her room looking for valuables and confronted him.

Police acting on a warrant that tied Murray to an earlier burglary
arrested him when they found evidence linking him to the Ratcliff slaying.

(source: Associated Press)