death penalty news—-TEXAS

Feb. 1


Psychiatrist testifies on Cortez's future dangerousness—-A last minute
witness call from the defense tries to discourage the jury from sentencing
Raul Cortez to death row.

With the death penalty looming over Raul Cortez's head, defense attorneys
called an expert witness to implore the jury to sentence their client to
life in prison.

The defense called Dr. Mark Vigan to the stand after Collin County
prosecutors closed their case Friday during the punishment phase of
Cortez's capital murder trial for the deaths of Rosa Barbosa, Mark
Barbosa, Austin York and Matthew Self.

Dr. Vigan said he has conducted an extensive review of prison systems in
Texas and Louisiana from prison life to risk assessments among inmates and
prison staff members. He described the levels of risk classification for
inmates in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice system from inmates
kept in the general population to those placed in solitary confinement,
and aspects of their daily life from enrollment in religious programs to
how the prison serves meals to inmates with higher levels of risk.

Dr. Vigan told the jury that TDCJ has the ability to control inmates and
keep instances of violence and disruption to a minimum, no matter how high
their level of risk or future dangerousness.

"In my opinion, the TDCJ has the ability to control Raul Cortez, so that
he will be a low risk for violent behavior in the system," he said.

Dr. Vigan is no stranger to the defense witness stand. Collin County First
Assistant District Attorney Greg Davis reminded him of all the previous
cases he had testified for on behalf of the defense on the same topic
including the capital murder trial of Moises Mendoza, the Farmersville man
who raped, stabbed and strangled 20-year-old Rachelle Tolleson and burned
her body in an open field, and Patrick Murphy, one of the famed Texas
Seven who escaped from a prison near Kenedy and went on a state-wide crime
spree that ended with the murder of an Irving police officer.

He also said the only interview he had done with Cortez was on the
Thursday before his testimony and that he had not done a psychological
assessment of the defendant because he deemed it was not necessary for the
scope of his testimony.

Dr. Vigan also denied tailoring his conclusions or assessments to fit the
defense's needs in this or any other trial.

"My attempt is to present what I find to the defense attorneys and the
jury what I find," he said. "If they (defense attorneys) decide not to
present it, then I choose not to come."

(source: McKinney Courier Gazette)