death penalty news—–TEXAS

Nov. 10


Cuban man executed Tuesday for Houston slaying

A Cuban-born man identified as a leader in a Hispanic prison gang was
executed Tuesday evening for the robbery-slaying of a Houston drug dealer
more than 10 years ago.

Yosvanis "El Cubano" Valle, 34, had denied fatally shooting 28-year-old
Jose Martin Junco at a Houston home in June 1999 but said there was little
he could do to avoid lethal injection once he lost appeals in the courts.

"I'm not going to blame nobody; I'm going to blame myself," Valle said
from the death chamber gurney, speaking alternately in English and
Spanish. "I'm sorry from all my heart.

"That's the reality of life. I am sorry. I got to pay for it."

He addressed the parents of a man whose death he was blamed for but for
whose killing he was not convicted.

"I was forced to do it," he said. "I was a gang member."

He apologized for his broken English, thanked the warden and chaplain and
expressed loved to everyone.

"I feel good. I love my family. I love you Jesus," he said.

He became the 21st prisoner executed in Texas this year when he was
pronounced dead at 6:21 p.m. CST, nine minutes after the lethal drugs
began flowing into his arms.

Valle's appeals were exhausted after the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this
year refused to review his case. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
last week rejected a request from his lawyers that his death sentence be
commuted to life in prison.

Junco, known as "Yogi," was confronted at his Houston home by several men
connected to a prison gang who had targeted him for robbery. Court
documents showed the June 1999 holdup was a test devised by Valle to see
if one of the gang members, Kenneth Isaac Estrada, had the courage to
shoot Junco.

After the shooting, Valle, identified as leader of the group, bragged
about how he emptied the 10 shots from his 9 mm pistol into Junco.
Evidence showed Estrada shot the victim once.

"My people turned on me," he told The Associated Press recently from a
small visiting cage outside death row. "I know one thing: I know the
person I am. I'm not this monster that the state of Texas is trying to
make me look like."

Estrada was arrested after Junco's girlfriend identified him as one of the
gunmen. She was in the house at the time of the shooting.

Valle was arrested when his fingerprint was found in a car tied to another
slaying, one of several authorities tied to him.

Estrada, tried separately, got life in prison.

The witnesses Valle spoke to in the death chamber were relatives of
Gregory Garcia, 20, killed 2 months after Junco with a shotgun belonging
to Valle, according to evidence.

Valle wasn't charged with his slaying, but prosecutors told Harris County
jurors about it to show his propensity for violence, something jurors had
to consider in punishment.

Valle said from death row that witnesses who testified against him
"changed their story."

"People were lying," he said. "It's frustrating to talk about this,
changing back and forth, making deals in a way that looks good to them."

One of Valle's trial lawyers, Robert Morrow, said the state's case was
"based on a lot of snitch testimony." He also said Valle's punishment
defense was hampered by witnesses unable to leave Cuba because of U.S.
government restrictions on travel between the 2 countries.

"I felt we were hamstrung," he said.

Valle grew up in Cuba and came to the U.S. at age 14 to join his father.
That was nearly a decade after his father had been expelled from Cuba and
came to the U.S. as part of the Marielitos immigration wave in 1980.

At his trial and in appeals, attorneys argued Valle had been abused as a
child living in poverty in Cuba, leading to his aggressive behavior, and
then had difficulties fitting in when he came to America.

As a juvenile, he was convicted of aggravated assault and was sent to the
Texas Youth Commission, then went to state prison with an eight-year
sentence for a weapons possession conviction. In prison, he joined the
gang La Raza Unida, or A Race United.

Prosecutors said Junco's robbery and slaying, about 2 years after Valle
was released from prison, was intended to raise money for gang members and
their relatives.

Valle, described as a sergeant in the gang, had been out of prison about
two years when Junco was shot and robbed of a cookie tin containing money,
a small amount of drugs, pornographic photos and 2 rifles.

3 more Texas prisoners are set to die next week.

Valle becomes the 21st condemned inmate to be put to death in Texas this
year and the 444th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on
December 7, 1982. Valle becomes the 205th condemned inmate to be put to
death in Texas since Rick Perry became governor in 2001.

Valle becomes the 44th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in
the USA and the 1180th overall since the nation resumed executions on
January 17, 1977.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)