death penalty news—-TEXAS

July 8


Sara Hickman to perform at Cathedral of Hope

The popular Austin-based singer and songwriter is part of a tour aimed at
creating dialog about the death penalty in Texas. Here's a press release:

Dallas, Texas – July 7, 2008 -The Cathedral of Hope will welcome
singer-songwriter Sara Hickman as its special guest musician for its 9 and
11 a.m. services on Sunday, July 20, 2008. The services are free and open
to all. At 7:30 p.m. that evening, Hickman will present "Music for Life:
Sharing Conversations on the Death Penalty" sponsored by Hope for Peace &
Justice and the Dallas Peace Center. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for
students and are available at Cathedral of Hope is located
at 5910 Cedar Springs; Dallas, Texas 75235.

Sara Hickman is an Austin, Texas-based singer, songwriter and speaker who
has recorded 14 albums. In October 2007, in cooperation with the Texas
Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Hickman launched "Music for Life:
Sharing Conversations on the Death Penalty," a 12-month tour of Texas
cities that seeks to raise the dialogue on the death penalty in Texas.
Joining Hickman in Dallas is John Cook, Mayor of El Paso, Texas, who
joined the tour in April. He will sing and play guitar. All opinions on
the death penalty are welcomed and encouraged to attend.

"I'm someone who wants to start a dialogue," Hickman said. "That's all. I
want to get Texas talking about the death penalty because we are the state
with the greatest number of executions, yet no one wants to talk about
what it means. I hope you will come out and join me, to ask questions, to
meet family members of murder victims, to meet family members of those
executed on death row. Come hear music and get involved at the same time.
This isn't easy. In fact, it's scary. But the conversation must begin, and
I hope it begins with you and me."

The Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (TCADP) is a grassroots
Texas organization comprised of individuals and groups who work to end the
death penalty in all cases, everywhere. TCADP is an inclusive organization
composed of human rights activists; death row prisoners and their
families; crime victims and their families; persons working within the
criminal justice system; and concerned citizens opposed to capital

The Cathedral of Hope, a congregation of the United Church of Christ based
in Dallas, Texas, is the world's largest liberal Christian church with a
primary outreach to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Local
and national church ministries, outreach programs, pastoral counseling,
Internet ( and television media touch thousands of
lives each day.

(source: Dallas Morning News)


Jury learns of cop killer's criminal past during sentencing hearing

A jury this morning continued to learn more the criminal past of a man
convicted of fatally shooting a police officer after a car chase in

The same jury that convicted Mr. Ruiz last month will consider whether he
should serve life with no parole opportunity or receive the death penalty.

In an effort to show the jury why Mr. Ruiz deserves to die for fatally
shooting Dallas Police Senior Cpl. Mark Nix in March 2007, prosecutors
presented more of Mr. Ruiz's past.

A Dallas police officer testified Tuesday morning that Mr. Ruiz led him on
a high-speed chase from Deep Ellum into South Dallas in November 2004
before wrecking his car. Mr. Ruiz attempted to run, but did not get far,
Dallas Police Officer Jerry Poston said.

Afterward Mr. Ruiz was arrested and his car searched. Inside police found
a silver and black .25 millimeter handgun.

The 2004 chase that Officer Poston described sounded similar to the one in
which Cpl. Nix was shot.

In the 2007 shooting involving Cpl. Nix, Mr. Ruiz led police on a
high-speed car chase, then crashed.

But instead of running as he did before, he hid in the car and fired one
shot through the window, striking Cpl. Nix in the chest. Cpl. Nix died
from the injury.

(source: Dallas Morning News)


Arlington killer given new execution date—-Execution scheduled for
Tarrant inmate

An Arlington killer whose date with the executioner was delayed last fall
while the U.S. Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of the
lethal injection process will head to the Huntsville death house next
month unless the courts intervene again.

Heliberto Chi, condemned for the March 2001 shooting death of clothing
store manager Armand Paliotta during an after-hours robbery, would be the
first inmate from Tarrant County to be executed since the Supreme Court
ruled in April that the 3-drug protocol used in lethal injections does not
violate the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Chi, 29, is scheduled to die Aug. 7.

A native of Honduras, Chi had once worked at the K&G Mens Superstore in
southwest Arlington and arrived at the store after 9 p.m. on the night of
the killing, saying that he was looking for his wallet. Workers allowed
him inside, where he pulled out a .357 revolver to carry out a robbery,
according to news accounts and court testimony.

Before leaving, he shot Paliotta, 56, and employee Adrian Riojas in the
back. Paliotta was mortally wounded but Riojas survived and testified
against Chi. The gunman and his getaway driver, Hugo Alejandro Sierra,
fled and split up.

Chi was arrested in Los Angeles after eluding police for six weeks. Sierra
was apprehended separately and is now serving a life sentence for his role
in the killing.

When Chi was facing an Oct. 3, 2007, death date, his lawyers attempted to
argue that their client was never told of his right under an international
treaty to speak with a representative of his home country before being
questioned by Arlington police. The Supreme Court rejected the argument
and his execution appeared to be imminent.

But he was among dozens of inmates nationwide who were spared when the
high court agreed to review the question of whether the inmates subjected
to lethal injection experience excruciating pain that is masked by a drug
that paralyzes the body.

An assistant to Arlington lawyer Wes Ball, who has represented Chi during
his trial and appeals, said it is uncertain what steps might be taken on
the inmates behalf before the execution date.

Since the Supreme Court allowed executions to resume, only 1 has been
carried out in Texas. However, 14 Texas inmates, including Chi, have been
given death dates, and 9 of them are scheduled to be carried out in the
next 6 weeks.

The widow of Chis victim, Acela Paliotta, told the Star-Telegram in
October that she and her two sons have kept Paliottas memory alive since
the day of the murder.

"As long as we are alive, he will continue to live," she said at the time.
She declined to be interviewed Monday.

(source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram)


Conviction upheld for El Campo man on death row—-Federal court rejects
bid in which man argued his lawyer mistakenly let Fort Bend jurors see
evidence barred from trial

The conviction and sentence of a former oilfield worker condemned for a
fatal stabbing during what was described as a "shopping" trip to rob
illegal immigrants was upheld Monday by a federal appeals court.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments from Samuel
Bustamante, of El Campo, who contended his trial attorney mistakenly
allowed jurors during deliberations to see an incriminating written
statement that had not been allowed into evidence during his trial in Fort
Bend County.

The jury decided Bustamante, now 38, should die for the January 1998
slaying of Rafael Alvarado, 27. Alvarado was stabbed at least 10 times
after he was picked up by Bustamante and three friends in Rosenberg.

In his appeal to the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit, Bustamante argued the
statement police took from his brother, Bill, prejudiced jurors because
they learned from it that he had "gone shopping" before and had told his
brother he intended to rob someone.

Bill Bustamante, charged with murder in another case, had refused to
testify. Prosecutors had attempted to have the statement read into
testimony by a police officer, but the trial judge refused.

Samuel Bustamante contended his trial lawyers were deficient because they
didn't inspect the exhibits before they were given to the jury and failed
to recognize an improper exhibit was among them.

Bustamante's lawyers didn't dispute he killed Alvarado but insisted the
victim wasn't robbed, meaning it shouldn't be a capital offense punishable
by death.

The appeals court, in its ruling, said "overwhelming evidence" showed
Bustamante intended to rob the victim during the murder.

"Bustamante's own confession provided damning evidence of his intent to
rob," the court said.

2 items carried the same exhibit number 107, one of them the statement not
allowed into evidence and the other a chart or graph that was admitted

Jurors inspecting evidence at the trial in 2001 discovered the statement
and sent a note to the judge, who then questioned them individually. 3
jurors said they had read at least portions of the statement and nine said
they heard at least some of it read aloud. All 12 said they could
disregard the statement if the judge instructed them to do so.

State District Judge Thomas Culver III gave them that instruction and
denied a mistrial request from Bustamante's lawyers.

Alvarado was attacked while riding in the back of a pickup truck. He
apparently managed to climb from the moving truck as it drove down a
deserted road and his body was found the next morning. He still had his
money and his jewelry.

Alvarado had been offered a ride by Bustamante and his companions some
time after 2 a.m., outside a bar in Rosenberg, southwest of Houston. Their
scheme was to pick up illegal immigrants after the bars closed and rob

Court records show Alvarado, a construction worker living in Richmond, was
singled out because his clothes were in good condition and he was wearing
gold jewelry. Court records did not indicate his immigration status.

Bustamante and his brother also were charged with the murder a month later
of a homeless man in Wharton County. Bill Bustamante agreed to a plea
bargain in that case and went to prison for 40 years.

Samuel Bustamante had a previous record for forgery in North Carolina,
where he served 6 months of a 1-year prison term.

He received 5 years in Wharton County for burglary, was released on parole
but returned with a 4-year term for possession of a prohibited weapon. He
was paroled from that conviction in 1991.

(source: Associated Press)