A very controversial execution is set for tonight in Huntsville, and it is expected to proceed despite objections to the lethal injection by groups ranging from Amnesty International to anti death penalty organizations, 1200 WOAI news reports.
Ramiro Hernandez Llanas, 44, was condemned for the 1997 murder of Baylor University Professor Glen Lich. Lich had hired Hernandez to do odd jobs around his Kerr County ranch, and Hernandez lured Lich out of the house and the killed him, and then assaulted Lich's wife in her bedroom.
But civil rights groups say there are a number of reasons why the execution is 'inexcusable' and should not take place.
Maurie Levin, a civil rights attorney and tireless death penalty opponent at the University of Texas School of Law says first of all, Hernandez is a Mexican citizen, and the same sorts of consular protects which have been raised in previous executions apply to him. In fact, when Hernandez killed Lich, he was on the run from a murder in his native Nuevo Laredo, where he had been sentenced to 25 years in prison.
But Levin says Hernandez is mentally disabled, and executing him violates a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court prohibition that executing people with mental disabilities is illegal.
Texas courts have determined that Hernandez does not meet the threshold for mental disability, but Levin has a problem with the legal proceeding that resulted in Hernandez being sentenced to death.
In order to win a death sentence, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the criminal is a 'continuing threat to society.' Levin says one of the reasons a forensic psychiatrist testified that Hernandez is a threat is that he is from Mexico and is part of a 'cultural group that tends to have low economic status, low achievement, diminished social skills, greater drug use and increase levels of criminal conduct,' all claims which have been debunked and discredited.
"His eligibility for execution is based on testimony that stereotypes Mexicans," she said.
Attorneys have also brought up the issue of the state's refusal to inform the defendants where it obtains the supply of Pentobarbital used to execute killers by lethal injection, only pointing out that last week's execution of 'Fiesta Killer' Tommy Lynn Sells went off without a hitch.
Levin says inmates are trapped in the ultimate 'Catch 22' by the state's refusal to provide that information.
"In order to make an Eighth Amendment (cruel and unusual punishment" claim you have to show that the method of lethal injection would cause pain and suffering," she said. "The absurdity of that statement is that you have to have that information to make that showing in the first place."
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on Tuesday rejected Hernandez' request for his sentence to be commuted to life in prison, meaning he is almost certain to be executed tonight.
"I think that Mr. Hernandez' execution in particular, really pushes even Texas' standards backwards," she said.