On November 16, 2023, the State of Texas executed David Renteria for a crime he maintained he did not commit. Renteria was convicted and sentenced to death in El Paso County for the 2001 murder of five-year-old Alexandra Flores. His appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, in which he alleged the El Paso District Attorney’s Office violated his constitutional rights by failing to turn over case documents, was denied, as was an appeal “focused on claims the state’s supply of pentobarbital, the execution drug, had degraded and would cause him ‘terror’ and ‘severe pain’ in violation of the Eight Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment,” according to the Associated Press.
It was the last execution in Texas this year. The State put eight men to death in 2023 (compared with five executions in 2022 and three in 2021 and 2020). Renteria was the fifth person from El Paso to be put to death. Eight other El Pasoans remain on death row (the trial of David Wood was moved from El Paso to Dallas).
Background on the case
David Renteria was raised as a Tigua Indian in the Roman Catholic tradition, growing up in the lower valley of El Paso on the Tigua reservation in Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, one of three federally recognized Native American tribes in Texas. The Catholic Church played a significant role in his childhood, providing him with a sense of safety, peace, and comfort that was missing at home. As a child, Renteria did his best to protect his mother and sister from his father’s temper and abusive behavior, which created an atmosphere of violence, hostility, and fear.
On death row, Renteria rededicated himself to his Roman Catholic faith and discovered a new purpose in life behind bars. He was one of 28 men chosen for the first class of the Faith Based Program for Death Row, through which he takes every opportunity to encourage and comfort people spiritually and to engage in positive, peaceful interactions. In his over twenty years of incarceration, Renteria has been a model inmate who has never once committed a violent or aggressive act.
According to Renteria, members of the Barrio Azteca gang, a notorious cross-border prison gang and drug cartel, threatened and coerced him into leading Alexandra out of a Walmart and into their car. The Aztecas then murdered Alexandra and forced Renteria to assist in the placement of her body. He is deeply remorseful for the coerced role he played in Alexandra’s murder and is haunted by what he witnessed that day.
Fifteen years after Renteria was convicted, the State disclosed that a witness had come forward with evidence corroborating his longstanding insistence that he acted under duress on the day Alexandra disappeared.
No court has properly examined this new evidence due to the woefully inadequate legal representation Renteria received during the appellate process. Moreover, El Paso prosecutors have fought to prevent the information from coming to light.
Earlier in the week, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles rejected Renteria’s request for the commutation of death sentence to a lesser penalty or, in the alternative, for a 180-day reprieve so his attorneys can properly investigate and present the recently disclosed evidence supporting his duress defense in court.