Thursday, September 13, 2007

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has ruled in favor of two death-row inmates. The court overturned a conviction and threw out a death sentence. Judge Sharon Keller wrote the dissent in these two cases again. According to Houston Chronicle,

The court said John Allen Rubio's conviction and death sentence four years ago
were improper because statements from his common-law wife, Angela Camacho,
whose three daughters he was convicted of beheading, erroneously were allowed
into evidence.

A new sentencing hearing was ordered for Raymond Deleon Martinez, convicted of
fatally shooting Houston bar owner Herman Chavis.

The court also upheld the conviction and death sentence of Travis Trevino
Runnels for the 2003 fatal stabbing of a supervisor at a state prison in
Amarillo. Runnels, from Dallas, was serving a 70-year term for aggravated
robbery when he attacked 38-year-old Stanley Wiley.

And the court dismissed an appeal from another death row inmate, Steven
Staley, who challenged an order last April from his trial judge that he must
take anti-psychotic medication. Staley, convicted in the 1989 slaying of Fort
Worth restaurant manager Robert Dorsey Reed during a robbery, argued it was
unconstitutional for him to be ordered to take drugs that would restore his
competency and make him eligible to be put to death.

In the Rubio case, three statements Camacho made about the slayings -- two in
writing and one on a videotape -- were offered into testimony by a police
officer at Rubio's trial. The trial judge, over objections from Rubio's
lawyers, allowed the testimony.

"Given Camacho's unique position as both accomplice to the crime and direct
witness to (Rubio's) motivations, her specific, detailed testimony obviously
had great significance," the court said.

The judges in the majority also noted Camacho herself was facing indictment
for capital murder when she talked with police.

"Obviously, then, she could have been under some pressure to modify her story,
given her own participation in the murders," the court said. "That is
precisely the type of issue (Rubio) was not able to address on

In a dissent written by Sharon Keller, the appeals court's presiding judge,
and joined by two other judges, Keller said while admitting Camacho's
statements into evidence was an error, it was harmless because the jury
rejected Rubio's defense that he was legally insane.

"It is difficult to see how cross-examining the interrogating officers, who
can only speculate as to Camacho's motives and influences to testify, would
have anywhere near the same effect as cross-examining Camacho herself."

A day after Rubio was convicted for the March 2003 slayings, the same Cameron
County jury decided he should be put to death.

Camacho avoided a possible death sentence by taking a plea agreement two years
ago that sent her to prison with three life terms.

Rubio, 27, had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. He admitted to
suffocating, stabbing and decapitating Julissa Quezada, 3; John Esthefan
Rubio, 1; and Mary Jane Rubio, 2 months. The children were found dead at the
family's squalid apartment after Rubio's brother called police. The two girls
had been stuffed into a plastic garbage bag. The boy was on a bed.

Rubio had told a judge he wanted to be executed but since then has pursued
appeals. Lawyers raised 12 points of error from his trial. By overturning the
conviction on the first point, judges did not rule on the other 11 and sent
the case back to the trial court.

Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos, who was not in office at
the time of the trial, said he plans to retry Rubio and again seek a death

"There is sufficient evidence to uphold a conviction on a new trial," the
prosecutor said.

The appeals court in Austin said while the admission of Camacho's statements
did not automatically merit reversal, "the only real issue in contention at
the guilt-innocence phase was (Rubio's) state of mind." The court said the
primary relevant evidence came in statements from Rubio and Camacho.

"The crucial evidence to rebut (Rubio's) contention that he was not guilty by
reason of insanity came almost exclusively from one source: Camacho's
statements," the court noted. "We can say that her statements likely
contributed to the jury's verdict of guilt, such that the error in admitting
her statements at trial clearly prejudiced (Rubio's) case."

Rubio's trial lawyers said the violence and senselessness of the murders meant
he had to be insane at the time. Rubio blamed a witchcraft-practicing mother
and grandmother casting a spell for causing the children to become possessed,
and his attorneys argued the story was almost too far-fetched for someone with
an IQ of 76 to concoct. As a child, his IQ was measured at 92, which is in the
normal range.

Psychiatrists testifying in the trial said Rubio's chronic drug use,
especially his inhaling of spray paint, contributed to the murders.

Prosecutors suggested it was an overall life of depravity, including
prostitution, drugs and a filthy apartment, that led to a decision to kill the

In a dissent written by Sharon Keller, the appeals court's presiding judge,
and joined by two other judges, Keller said while admitting Camacho's
statements into evidence was an error, it was harmless because the jury
decided Rubio was not legally insane.

"Mental illness can indeed excuse criminal conduct, but only for a narrow
range of offenders," she wrote. "Given the evidence in this case, it seems
clear to me that John Rubio is not within that range."

A fourth judge, Lawrence Meyers, dissented from the majority ruling but did
not join in Keller's opinion.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

The death penalty is a difficult and sensitive subject. I personally do not aggree with it, but I cannot see texas ever aboloshing it either.

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Anonymous said...

After alot of research on the John Allen Rubio case, I personally do not believe that he was given a fair case and that regardless if he does get a new case, the outcome of all the lies will always be there. How the invesigators got Camacho to change her story when she had said the truth the first time, I am not against the death penalty if and when there is a fair and truthful trial.

Anonymous said...

Hi,im Alexandra Read.. Robert ReAds daughter. I have a brother who is schitzophrenic like steven staley, and..actually was triggered by the murder of my father.. and he even knows better not to kill anyone and never would. I hope to god Texas never abolishes the death penalty.