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Hidalgo County Jury Rejects the Death Penalty

On August 26, 2011, a jury in Hidalgo County rejected the death penalty for Roberto Rojas, who was convicted of killing his mother-in-law, Amelia Rivera Flores, and three young children in 2008.  The youngest child, 2-year-old Osiel, was Rojas’ son and Silvestre and Mauro Garza, ages 6 and 8, were his stepsons. He also shot and attacked his ex-wife, Amelia Flores, but was stopped by her father, Ruben Flores, who wrestled the gun away from Rojas after coming home to the brutal scene.


Rojas has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.


According to The Monitor (“Roberto Rojas Granted Life,” August 27, 2011):


Jurors had been instructed to answer up to two questions to determine the sentence. First, they had to decide whether it was probable that Rojas will commit a violent act in the future. Only if they answered yes to that would they answer the second question of whether there were any mitigating factors that would warrant life in prison rather than the death penalty.


The jury answered yes to the first question, but at least ten of them agreed on the second question that some factors should save Rojas from death. The group reached the consensus after more than seven hours of deliberation.


You can read a full account at


This is the second time in the last two years that a jury in Hidalgo County has rejected the death penalty.  On September 28, 2009, a Hidalgo County jury rejected the death penalty for Mario Quintanilla, who had been convicted of the murder of a 23-year-old recent college graduate during a botched home invasion. Quintanilla testified in the sentencing phase, during which he suggested to the jury that he would accept a death sentence if it provided closure to the murder victim’s family.  Prosecutors assert that Quintanilla’s testimony led the jury to spare his life.

Another recent case provides further evidence of the arbitrary imposition of the death penalty, particularly in light of alternative sentencing options.  On July 29, 2010, a Hidalgo County jury resentenced John Allen Rubio to death for murdering his common-law wife’s three children in 2003. The case had been moved from Cameron County due to pretrial publicity.  The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Rubio’s original conviction and death sentence in 2007.  The court found that statements from Angela Camacho, the mother of the children and Rubio’s common-law wife, had been improperly admitted as evidence in the original trial.  Camacho pled guilty to her role in the murders and is serving a life sentence.


During his retrial, Rubio’s lawyers presented experts who testified that their client suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and believed that the children were possessed by demons. The jury rejected his plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, however, and resentenced him to death. Jurors did not have the option of sentencing Rubio to life in prison without the possibility of parole, since that form of punishment did not become law in Texas until September 2005.