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by Diego Cevallos

Texas to Execute Man With 6 Year-Old Mind (2000)

(IPS) MEXICO CITY -- Texas executed a Mexican immigrant Tuesday night after rejecting expert medical opinions that the condemned man was mentally incompetent, and ignoring appeals from the Mexican government to spare the man's life.

"Any execution is a failure of justice, and so was this one. Everything possible was done to prevent it, but the efforts were in vain," Alfonso Garcia, spokesman in Mexico for the human rights watchdog group Amnesty International, said in an interview with IPS.

Mexican immigrant Angel Maturino died by lethal injection at a prison in Texas, where he had been held since 1999. He was condemned to death for the 1998 murder and rape of doctor Claudia Benton.

Maturino was also implicated in 14 more homicides committed in the 1990s in Texas, California, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and Illinois. All the victims were slain close to railways, earning him the nickname the "railroad killer."

The Mexican foreign ministry released a statement deploring the execution and stating that it "was carried out in spite of medical evidence that he suffered severe mental disturbance, which in principle should have rendered him ineligible for the death penalty."

Maturino's execution, originally set for May 10, was postponed so that psychiatric and psychological tests could be performed. He claimed to be "half angel and half man," and said he had been impelled to murder by an "evil force," and at the same time by "the will of God."

Last week judge William Harmon, of the 178th district criminal court in Houston, Texas, heard the medical evidence. Although four of the five experts were of the opinion that Maturino was insane, the judge ruled that he was "sufficiently competent" and would not be spared the death penalty.

The Supreme Court has ruled that convicts who are "mentally incompetent" shall not be executed.

"Maturino's case was a very difficult one because he had committed so many brutal crimes, although we maintain the position that he was not mentally fit," said Amnesty International spokesman Garcia.

The administration of Mexican President Vicente Fox lodged a series of appeals with the U.S. justice system attempting to prevent the execution, and even convinced the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, based in Costa Rica, to ask the United States to postpone the execution until all available legal means had been exhausted.

But neither these actions, nor a telephone call from Mexican Foreign Minister Ernesto Derbez to Texas Governor Rick Perry, pleading for clemency, had any effect.

The Mexican foreign ministry's communique said that it had "monitored the case promptly and continuously from the start, and had resorted to every possible domestic and international recourse to preserve Mr. Maturino's life, according to our country's staunch commitment to defend the human rights of its citizens abroad, and its absolute opposition to the death penalty."

Maturino was the sixth Mexican to be executed in the United States since it restored the death penalty in 1976, when the Supreme Court lifted the ban on capital punishment that the court itself had imposed four years earlier. The death penalty remains illegal in 12 of the 50 states in the U.S.

The last Mexican to be put to death by the U.S. legal system prior to Maturino was Javier Suarez, executed in Texas in August 2002. "The failure in the Maturino case will not end our efforts to stop the use of the death penalty in the United States and other countries," human rights activist Garcia said.

Maturino, who before his arrest was on the FBI Top Ten Most Wanted List, asked for the death penalty during the trial, rather than a life sentence.

He was born in a small town in Puebla, a state near Mexico City, and grew up virtually as a street child. He was 14 when he first entered the United States as an undocumented immigrant.

He was arrested 16 times in the United States for minor robbery and other crimes, and deported eight times. However, he kept returning to the U.S.

Unlike the cases of other Mexican immigrants in which the failure of the authorities to notify the Mexican consulate of their arrest served a key role in the legal strategy of their defense attorneys, this requirement was duly fulfilled after Maturino was arrested.

The International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled in late March 2004 that the United States had violated the rights of 51 Mexican nationals by sentencing them to death without having provided them with the opportunity for consular assistance at the time of their arrest and trial.

Thanks to this ruling, in 2004 the execution of Mexican immigrant Osvaldo Torres in Oklahoma was prevented, and his death sentence commuted to life imprisonment.

The other immigrants sentenced to death, and who did not have the benefit of consular assistance, are awaiting review of their cases.

Amnesty International maintains that "the death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment," and constitutes "a violation of the right to life."

"The death penalty is irrevocable and can be inflicted on the innocent. It has never been shown to deter crime more effectively than other punishments," the organization states.

There were 2,148 known executions in 2005 -- 94 percent of them took place in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States. In 2004, 7,395 people in 64 countries were sentenced to death, according to Amnesty International.

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Albion Monitor   June 27, 2006   (

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