Mexican citizen executed in Texas for killings of wife, kids

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) - A Mexican citizen on death row in Texas was executed Wednesday night for the sledgehammer killings of his wife and two children more than 26 years ago.

Roberto Moreno Ramos was condemned for the 1992 deaths of his 42-year-old wife Leticia, 7-year-old daughter Abigail, and 3-year-old son Jonathan at their home in Progreso, located along the Mexico border.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals turned down Ramos' request to stop his execution. His appellate attorney had argued Ramos' trial lawyers failed to present any evidence about his mental illness and abusive childhood that could have persuaded jurors to spare his life.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on Monday declined to recommend either a commutation of Ramos' sentence or a six-month reprieve.

The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for the punishment Wednesday night when it denied two appeals seeking to halt the execution.

Three retired justices who had served on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals filed court documents with the Supreme Court on Wednesday in support of stopping the execution. The ex-judges allege the appeals court appointed an incompetent appellate attorney who early in the post-conviction process failed to investigate Ramos' case.

Mexican officials had called for Ramos' execution to be stopped, arguing his case was part of a group of Mexican citizens condemned in the U.S. who were never told when first arrested that they could get legal help from the Mexican government.

The 64-year-old Ramos became the 21st inmate put to death this year in the U.S. and the 11th given a lethal injection in Texas, the nation's busiest capital punishment state.

In court documents, Ramos' appellate attorney, Danalynn Recer, had argued Ramos suffered from bipolar disorder most of his life, including during the time of his family's killings, as well as brain damage that affected his ability to control his impulses and regulate his emotions.

Recer said Ramos was also brutally beaten as a child by his father.

Ramos was born in Aguascalientes, Mexico, and grew up in Guadalajara and Tijuana before his family moved to the United States in 1970.

"No fact-finder or decision-maker entrusted with Mr. Moreno Ramos' life has ever been provided with evidence of (his) 'diverse human frailties' to assist them in dispensing the most severe punishment under law," Recer said.

But the Texas Attorney General's Office said Ramos' death sentence was appropriate due to his "violent and dangerous nature."

Authorities said Ramos bludgeoned his family members and then buried them underneath his home's bathroom floor so he could marry the woman he was having an extramarital affair with at the time.

In court filings, the attorney general's office highlighted testimony from Ramos' then-19-year-old son, who told jurors at Ramos' 1993 trial that his father "would continue to commit criminal acts of violence."

In 2004, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, found Ramos was part of a group of 52 Mexican citizens awaiting execution in the U.S. who weren't advised of their consular rights under the Vienna Convention when first arrested. It recommended they be tried again to determine if consular access would have affected their cases. Then-President George W. Bush directed states to reopen the cases.

But the Supreme Court in 2008 overruled Bush's directive, saying only Congress can require states to follow the international court's ruling.

Including Ramos, six Mexican citizens have been executed since being named in the international court ruling and all the executions were carried out by Texas, according to the Mexican government.


Lozano reported from Houston.


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