State of Texas executes Abel Ochoa

Last night, the State of Texas executed Abel Ochoa after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider his petition and rejected his motion for a stay. He was the second person put to death in Texas this year and the third nationwide. Seven more executions are scheduled through May.

Read coverage from the Houston Chronicle/The Marshall Project and the Texas Tribune.

*Original post*On February 6, 2020, the State of Texas is scheduled to execute Abel Ochoa.  He was convicted of killing his wife and elder daughter on August 4, 2002 in Dallas. He also killed his younger daughter, father-in-law, and sister-in-law. Ochoa is a deeply religious man and is sincerely remorseful for his crime, which was completely out of character and fueled by his drug addiction at the time.  He has dedicated his 16 years on death row to serving as a positive influence on other inmates, on correctional officers, and on other individuals he encounters.  According to both current and former guards, Ochoa is a valued member of the prison community and has a calming influence on everyone around him. Considered a model inmate, he makes the prison safer for both guards and inmates. 

On February 4, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles unanimously rejected Ochoa’s application for clemency. On February 5, his attorneys filed an application for a stay of execution with the U.S. Supreme Court on the basis that he still has a lawsuit pending in district court against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). The suit alleges that TDCJ’s policies and practices interfered with his clemency process in violation of his constitutional and statutory rights. Prison officials had refused to allow Ochoa to make his final plea for life in a filmed clemency interview unless he first secured a court order. 

Ochoa’s attorneys simultaneously filed a petition for writ of certiorari asking the Court to resolve two questions: 1) whether state actors can evade judicial review of unconstitutional policies or practices that impact condemned individuals nearing their execution date and 2) whether the State’s intentional interference in the clemency process can violate an individual’s due process rights.

Read more about this case from the Texas Tribune.

Texas is responsible for the first execution nationwide in 2020, putting John Gardner to death on January 15.  In Georgia, Donnie Lance was executed on January 29, while Jimmy Fletcher Meders was granted clemency on the day he was scheduled to be executed.

There are currently seven additional executions scheduled by the State of Texas through May.