Continued from Page 1
A jury found Ruiz guilty of capital murder in January 1995 and sentenced him to death. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction and sentence in February 1998. He received three stays of execution from the courts during his time on Death Row to consider his claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, but all of his claims were ultimately denied in the state and federal courts.
Michael Anthony Rodriguez was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison. Mark Anthony Rodriguez was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Two other individuals, Joe Ramon and Robert Silva, also received life sentences. News articles state that Ramon accompanied Ruiz on the night of the murder and describe Silva as an intermediary who put Michael and Mark Rodriguez in touch with Ruiz.
Michael Rodriguez was a member of the notorious "Texas 7" who escaped from a maximum-security unit in south Texas in 2000. The fugitives committed several robberies while making their way north across the state, culminating in the murder of Irving police officer Aubrey Hawkins on 24 December while robbing an Oshman's sporting goods store. Six of the fugitives, including Rodriguez, were captured alive in January 2001. The seventh man committed suicide when capture was imminent. All six of the captured escapees were sentenced to death.
While on Death Row, Rodriguez blamed his wife's killing on "lust" after he met a college student in San Marcos. "My wife was a wonderful person, and didn't deserve this," he said in an interview. "I fell for a coed. It was stupid." He was executed in August 2008.
Mark Rodriguez was released on parole in 2011. In November 2016, he was arrested and charged with felony theft for allegedly collecting insurance checks from homeowners with hailstorm damage and then performing no work.
While on Death Row, where prisoners are held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, Ruiz wrote, "The isolation is really hard for me. Sometimes I feel desperate just to see or talk to another person ... I haven't hugged my mother since 1998, when I was in the county jail for a hearing ... I just wish I could hug her when she comes to see me."
In Ruiz's most recent appeals, his attorneys claimed that his 22 years of incarceration on Texas' Death Row constituted cruel and unusual punishment. Attorney Lee Kovarsky stated in a court briefing that the long period Ruiz spent on Death Row "is entirely attributable to the state's failure to provide competent lawyers." Attorney Burke Butler complained that the three stays of execution Ruiz received - one in 2007 and two in 2016 - caused "immense psychological pain and stress."
"Rolando Ruiz does not contest his guilt. He just doesn't want to be executed. Neither did Theresa Rodriguez," Judge Bert Richardson wrote for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in November 2016.
Ruiz's execution Wednesday night was delayed for nearly five hours as his lawyers filed three appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to win another stay. The Court rejected the third appeal at around 10:30 p.m., about an hour and a half before Ruiz's death warrant would have expired.
Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that he would have granted a stay so the Court could examine the "serious constitutional questions" raised by keeping a prisoner in solitary confinement for twenty years, "all the while under threat of execution." In the past, Justice Anthony Kennedy has also expressed concerns about the constitutionality of keeping prisoners on Death Row for long periods.
Theresa Sanchez Rodriguez's two sisters attended Ruiz's execution with their husbands. "I would like to say to the Sanchez family how sorry I am," Ruiz said in his last statement. "Words cannot begin to express how sorry I am and the hurt I have caused you and your family. May this bring you peace and forgiveness."
Ruiz's friend and half brother also attended the execution. Ruiz thanked them for their love and support. "I am at peace," he said. "Jesus Christ is Lord. I love you all."
The lethal injection was then started. He was pronounced dead at 11:06 p.m.
By David Carson. Posted on 8 March 2017.
Sources: Texas Department of Criminal Justice, court documents, public records, Associated Press, San Antonio Express-News, Texas Tribune.