death penalty news—-TEXAS

June 10


Court commutes killer's sentence to life

An inmate from San Antonio had his death sentence commuted to life
Wednesday after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals decided he was
mentally impaired and ineligible for execution.

Timothy Cockrell who was convicted of the robbery-slaying of 35-year-old
Sandra Deptawa, who was found bound, gagged, beaten and strangled in the
bathtub of her home in 1992.

Evidence showed Cockrell, now 45, was part of a 3-man crew that had helped
Deptawa move into her new home two days earlier and returned under the
guise of repairing a table damaged during the move. He then killed her and
stole jewelry, a vacuum cleaner, a television and a handgun, then drove
off in his victim's car, evidence showed.

In his confession to police, he said he intended to steal the items to
support a $600-a-day cocaine habit, acknowledged tying and gagging the
woman, but said he remembered little else because he was high and hadn't
slept for 3 days.

At his 1993 trial, prosecutors told jurors about Cockrell's long criminal
record, including 13 first-degree felony convictions over 10 years.

His mental capacity also was an issue at the trial. A defense witness
testified IQ tests given to Cockrell appeared to show he was in the lowest
3 % of the population. Prosecutors challenged the accuracy of the tests,
arguing scores so low probably would have meant Cockrell couldn't even
care for himself or follow directions. Jurors sentenced him to death.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2002 ruled it was unconstitutional to execute
mentally disabled people.

In 2005, attorneys for Cockrell raised the mental capacity claims and the
state appeals court sent the case back to the Bexar County trial court for
a hearing. The trial court recommended the sentence be commuted to life
and the appeals court Wednesday agreed.

On a MySpace social networking Web page, Cockrell describes himself as the
father of five daughters who have "no daddy to come to" and that he was
sent to death row "for something I didn't do."

Cockrell's case was 1 of 3 from the court involving death row inmates

In the 2nd case, the court rejected 7 challenges to the conviction and
death sentence of a Mexican national condemned for the slaying of a
suburban Dallas woman.

Moises Sandoval Mendoza was sentenced to die in 2005 following his
conviction in Collin County for the strangling and stabbing of 20-year-old
Rachelle O'Neil Tolleson. Evidence showed he also burned her body in 2004
to hide his fingerprints.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal in his case.

In the 3rd case, the appeals court ruled 7-2 in upholding the death
sentence of a man condemned for fatally shooting a Houston police officer
in 1991.

Attorneys for Shelton Denora Jones argued jurors weren't given proper
instructions about considering mitigating evidence before they decided
Jones should die for gunning down Bruno Soboleski, a police sergeant who
had stopped his patrol car to question Jones and another man standing in
the middle of a Houston intersection about 1 a.m. .

2 of the appeals judges said they would have granted Jones a new
punishment trial because jurors weren't allowed to properly consider
evidence Jones had been raised by his grandmother for much of the time
before he was 8, that he had a rare personality disorder and that he
generally had been well-behaved as a child and young adult.

But the court majority said the evidence was "a far cry" from the sort of
psychological mitigation evidence the U.S. Supreme Court has held should
be considered in death penalty cases.

(source: Associated Press)

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