death penalty news—-TEXAS

April 6


Take pains to spare innocent

Re: "Restoring Justice — Lawmakers move urgent reform closer to reality,"
Sunday Editorials. I join you in thanking and congratulating state Sen.
Royce West and Sen. Rodney Ellis for their leadership in helping innocent
people who may have spent years in prison for crimes they did not commit,
and for establishing an innocence commission to lessen the chances of an
innocent person being sent to prison — or worse, to death row.

If our district attorney, Craig Watkins, has already brought about the
exoneration of 19 innocent men from just the Dallas area, how many more
innocent are among the hundreds on death row? How do we expect previously
incarcerated people to succeed without help?

We get 500 of them monthly returning to Dallas to look for jobs and
housing. If we refuse to help them, crime due to recidivism puts all
citizens at risk.

I reluctantly still believe we must resort to the death penalty in certain
horrible criminal cases, but we must use every possible methodology to
avoid putting innocent people to death.

We have killed innocent people and will do more if we don't follow the
lead of West, Ellis and Watkins. I know this because I was there. All of
us want a safer Texas, but not at the expense of innocent people.

Charles T. Terrell, former chairman of the board, Texas Criminal Justice
Department, Addison

(source: Letter to the Editor, Dallas Morning News)


Hearing set in judge's misconduct case

The Texas appeals court judge who declined to keep her office open late
the night of an execution will appear before a state panel on misconduct
charges in August.

Sharon Keller, the top judge in Texas' highest criminal appeals court,
will have a public hearing before a specially appointed judge Aug. 17, the
Judicial Conduct Commission said Monday.

Keller is accused of ignoring execution day procedures on the Court of
Criminal Appeals and bringing "public discredit on the judiciary" by
refusing to keep the court open past 5 p.m. Attorneys for Michael Wayne
Richard say keeping the office open later may have helped in their appeal
efforts hours before Richard was executed.

Keller has said she did nothing to stop attorneys from using other
established routes for after-hours appeals.

(source: Associated Press)


Man admits to unsolved murder before execution

In the final hours of his life, condemned murderer Luis Salazar talked not
of the stabbing that led him to death row but of another murder, one he
had gotten away with.

Encouraged to confess by his spiritual adviser, Salazar told investigators
that he stabbed a San Antonio convenience store clerk, leaving her to die
in a beer refrigerator case on Easter in 1992 a confession that solved an
old case in which he had never been a suspect, San Antonio Police Chief
William McManus said Monday.

"We were at a standstill until this confession," McManus said.

Salazar was executed March 11 for the 1997 attempted rape and stabbing
death of a San Antonio mother, a crime that occurred more than five years
after the clerk's death. His confession to the killing of 19-year-old
Melissa Morales came just a little more than an hour before he was

McManus said Salazar also confessed to a 3rd murder in the San Antonio
area, but investigators believe the victim in that case survived.

Police notified Morales' family late last week that the long-dormant case
had been solved.

"At least now we can have some peace," said Alma DeLeon, Morales' mother,
who helped fight for a Texas law requiring convenience stores to have
surveillance cameras. "We felt a lot of anger through the years. We just
knew. We just had faith in God, we knew this day would come."

Since Morales' death, her family has celebrated an annual Mass in her
honor, praying for closure in the April 19, 1992, case. This year's will
be special, said DeLeon, who cried during a news conference with McManus.

DeLeon said she is relieved that Salazar cannot hurt anyone else, but she
wishes she could face him to tell him and ask him, "Why?"

Police believe robbery was the motive. Salazar had been given probation
for aggravated robbery in convenience store holdups several years before
Morales' murder.

Morales' sister, Stephanie DeLeon, was 9 when her sister was killed, and
she said the murder forced her to grow up quickly.

"We never forgot about her. She's with us every day of our lives," she

The store near St. Mary's University where Morales was killed didn't have
a surveillance camera, and because of her death and several other violent
incidents at convenience stores, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, then a House
representative, introduced legislation requiring cameras and other safety
measures in Texas stores.

In 1993, Texas law began requiring cameras, outdoor lighting and cash
registers in clear view from the outside for stores open overnight.

"I'm just so thankful that Melissa's family kind of has closure," said the
San Antonio Democrat who has known Morales' grandparents for 40 years. "I
always knew her death was not in vain because we really changed things."

(source: Associated Press)


Texas Death Row Inmate Helps Solve Cold Case

About 1 hour before he was executed for the 1997 stabbing death of a
woman, a San Antonio man confessed to law enforcement authorities about an
unsolved murder in 1992.

According to a news release from the San Antonio Police Department, as
Luis Cervantes Salazar was getting ready March 11 to be put to death for
the fatal stabbing of Martha Sanchez, he told a Texas Ranger that he
killed Melissa Morales, a convenience store clerk, during a robbery at a
Stop n Go at Woodlawn and 36th Street on Easter Sunday. Morales was
stabbed 13 times.

Texas Rangers then contacted SAPD cold case detectives about Salazar's
confession, and upon confirmation, notified Morales' parents and
grandparents on April 2.

After the slaying, Morales' relatives were instrumental in getting a bill
passed that required convenience stores in Texas to install security

(source: KSAT News)