death penalty news—-TEXAS

Feb. 5


Convicted murderer's penalty retrial date set

Jury selection for the penalty phase of a retrial is set for April 1 of a
man whose death sentence was overturned because an expert witness
testified the defendant's ethnicity was one indicator that he was a future
danger to society.

Michael Dean "Spider" Gonzales was convicted in 1995 of the April 21, 1994
slayings of Manuel Aguirre, 73, and his wife Merced, 65, during a break-in
at their Odessa home.

He is among a half-dozen Texas death row inmates to receive a new
punishment trial because of testimony by Walter Quijano, former chief
psychologist for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. In those cases,
Quijano cited race and ethnicity as among several reasons a defendant was
a future danger to society. A jury must decide if a convicted murderer is
a future threat to impose the death sentence.

The case was sent back to Ector County, but District Attorney Bobby Bland
recused himself at the attorney general's recommendation to avoid the
appearance of a conflict of interest because his first assistant district
attorney used to be married to the lead investigator in the case.

In June 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a death sentence in
another Texas case because Quijano made what the high court said was
improper race-based testimony during the penalty phase of a trial.

The penalty phase of Gonzales' retrial will be held April 1 in Judge Bill
McCoy's 358th District Court, the Odessa American reported in its online
edition Wednesday.

(source: Associated Press)