death penalty news—-TEXAS

April 27


Supreme Court refuses 4 Texas death row appeals

A Dallas-area man condemned for an attack that left 3 people dead during
the robbery of their home in San Antonio more than 15 years ago moved a
step closer to execution with the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal Monday to
review his case.

Arnold Prieto, 35, of Carrollton, is 1 of 3 men convicted in the fatal
stabbings of Rudolfo Rodriguez, 72, his wife, Virginia, 62, and Paula
Moran, 90, a family friend of the San Antonio couple.

In another death row case, among 4 Texas cases turned down Monday by the
high court, the justices refused to review the case of Yosvanis Valle, 33,
a Cuban native and alleged gang member. He was condemned for the fatal
shooting 10 years ago of a drug dealer in Pasadena, just outside Houston.

2 other condemned Texas murderers both convicted of fatally shooting
Houston police officers also lost appeals although their cases are
earlier in the legal process following their convictions.

They included Robert Jennings, 51, convicted of killing Elston Howard, an
undercover Houston vice cop, in 1988; and Alfred Brown, 27, condemned for
the slaying of Charles Clark, who was shot after responding to a robbery
in progress at Houston check-cashing store.

None of the 4 inmates has an execution date.

In Prieto's case, 2 of the murder victims, the Rodriguez couple, were the
great-uncle and great-aunt of his two companions, brothers Guadalupe and
Jessie Hernandez, also of Carrollton. Jessie Hernandez, 1 day short of his
17th birthday on the day of the killings and ineligible for the death
penalty, received a life prison term for his involvement in the 1993
robbery-slayings. Charges were dropped against Guadalupe Hernandez because
prosecutors said they had insufficient evidence.

Rodriguez and his wife operated a check-cashing business from their San
Antonio home. The couple and Moran, who had been a nanny to their children
and lived with them, were fatally stabbed with a knife, a screwdriver and
possibly an ice pick. Rodriguez had 17 stab wounds. His wife had 31
wounds. Moran was stabbed 8 times.

Prieto told police in a confession he and his friends, high on cocaine,
intended on robbing the business when they traveled from Carrollton to San

In Valle's case, a Harris County jury deliberated about 6 hours in 2001
before deciding he should be executed for the 1999 slaying of 28-year-old
Jose Martin Junco.

Prosecutors described Valle as a member of La Raza Unida A Race United a
prison gang, and contended he assassinated other gang members to move up
in the ranks. Records indicate at the time of the Junco slaying Valle had
been released on mandatory supervision after receiving an eight-year
sentence for possession a sawed-off shotgun.

Known as "El Cubano," he also was linked by authorities to a slaying at a
convenience store and to the killing of 2 other gang members.

In his appeals, attorneys argued he had been abused while growing up in
Cuba and that his poverty led to his aggressive behavior later in life.
Court documents did not address how he arrived in the United States.

Jennings, whose criminal record goes back to age 14, first served prison
time in 1975 at age 17 for robbery. He was paroled from a 30-year term in
1988 and Howard was gunned down 2 months later at a Houston book store
where he was arresting the store clerk for showing movies without a city
permit. Jennings had walked in with the intention of holding up the place,
shot the officer twice, then shot him 2 more times after a struggle.

An appeal of his case to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals inexplicably
languished in that court for nearly 11 years.

In Brown's case, besides the killing of Clark, 45, also gunned down was a
clerk at the check-cashing store, Alfredia Jones, 27. One of Brown's
friends, Elijah Dwayne Joubert, was sent to death row for her slaying.

Clark died one day short of his 20th anniversary with the Houston

Evidence showed Joubert approached Jones as she arrived to open the store
for the day, then allowed her to make a telephone call to another store
that would tell them she was open for business. Instead, she used a code
word that alerted the 2nd store to the robbery Clark responded to the
robbery call and was shot when he went inside.

(source: Associated Press)

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