Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Texas executes a man for 2001 murder of 5-year-old

 The 23rd Execution of 2023

Texas executed David Renteria on on November 16, 2023, for the 2001 murder of 5-year-old Alexandra Flores. Renteria, 53, was the eighth person executed in Texas this year and the second execution of day following the Alabama execution of Casey McWhorter, reported The Texas Tribune.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied a late petition from Renteria's legal team just before his execution that alleged the El Paso District Attorney’s Office violated Renteria’s constitutional rights by failing to turn over case documents. Other legal efforts failed to halt the scheduled execution.

At 7 p.m., Renteria was injected with a lethal dose of pentobarbital. He died 11 minutes later.

“To the victims of the family, there is not a day that goes by that I do not think about that fateful event of that day and what transpired,” Renteria said as part of his final statement. “To the people that have shown compassion and that have been there for me you are my true family and I have been pleased. I am a man of many faults for those I have hurt and caused pain in their life, I beg for forgiveness.”

Cecilia Esparza, Renteria's sister, and three friends were present at the execution, according to the El Paso Times.

In 2003, Renteria was convicted of killing Alexandra while he was on probation for indecency with a child. Security camera footage showed a man who appeared to be Renteria leading the child out of an El Paso Walmart on Nov. 18, 2001, according to court documents. The girl was Christmas shopping with her family when she disappeared.

The next day, her partially-burned body was found in an alley 16 miles away from the Walmart. An autopsy found she was hit twice in the head and strangled by hand before being set on fire.

Alexandra's family, including her sister, Sandra Frausto, and brother, Ignacio Frausto, also attended the execution, according to the El Paso Times.

A jury sentenced Renteria to death. Five years later, after an automatic appeal resulted in the same conviction from an appeals court, Renteria again received a death sentence.

Renteria claimed Barrio Azteca gang members forced him to kidnap the child and dispose of her body, according to court documents, but he maintained that he did not murder the girl. Renteria said he feared for his family’s safety if he refused to help the gang members, whom he alleged murdered Alexandra.

After the El Paso District Attorney’s Office declined to turn over case files related to the murder to Renteria’s lawyers earlier this year — which the office had done for a previous capital case — his legal team asked District Court Judge Monique Velarde Reyes to postpone the execution. The El Paso District Attorney’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.

Renteria’s attorneys argued that declining to produce documents related to the case, which they suspected contained information about the involvement of gang members in the crime, violated his constitutional rights to due process and equal protection.

On Aug. 29, Reyes granted that request, ordering the district attorney’s office to produce the documents and postponing Renteria’s Nov. 16 execution date indefinitely.

El Paso District Attorney Bill Hicks appealed Reyes’ order, questioning if the district court judge has the authority to postpone the execution. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals — the state’s highest criminal appeals court — heard the appeal and overturned Reyes’ order, rescheduling Renteria’s execution date.

“Without a pleading before [Reyes] invoking a legitimate source of district-court jurisdiction, [Reyes] had no freewheeling jurisdiction to seek to safeguard Renteria’s Fourteenth Amendment rights," the appeals court wrote in its September order.

Renteria’s lawyers subsequently filed a petition for removal to bring the case in front of federal courts. Last month, U.S. District Judge Frank Montalvo denied Renteria’s motion.

 “We are basically saying we have been shut out of this equal protection claim that the El Paso district judge found had merit,” said Humphreys McGee, an assistant federal public defender in the Capital Habeas Unit, who represented Renteria.

Before his execution, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the motion on Thursday.

Renteria had another petition against the state over its use of expired drugs to kill prisoners. That petition was in front of the Criminal Court of Appeals.

The ongoing controversy has not stopped the Texas Department of Criminal Justice from extending the use-by dates of its lethal doses of pentobarbital, the only drug used in Texas executions, after retesting their potency levels. Similar legal challenges to halt executions in light of the practice have been unsuccessful this year.

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