For a Texas jury that convicted Jose Angel Moreno of capital murder, evidence in the case made it easy to decide if his crime was deliberate, a caveat for a death sentence.
Moreno had dug the grave of his victim, 18-year-old University of Texas-San Antonio student John Cruz, well before Cruz was abducted and fatally shot.
Now, more than 21 years later, Moreno, 39, is set to die Thursday evening for a kidnapping and murder authorities said he had plotted for months because he believed Cruz, who worked in a San Antonio convenience store, was from a wealthy family who could afford to pay a ransom.
The lethal injection would be the 14th this year in America's most active capital punishment state.
The U.S. Supreme Court refused in January to review Moreno's case.
His lawyers, however, were in the courts trying to block the execution, arguing Moreno's jury was unable to consider evidence of a troubled childhood and other mitigating issues that could have influenced them to give Moreno a life sentence instead of death. The appeal is based on a Supreme Court decision two weeks ago in three other Texas cases where justices ruled instructions to jurors were improper, Moreno's attorney, Scott Sullivan, said.
"Does he have enough evidence under these new cases ... and should he get a new punishment phase?" Sullivan said. "I think we have the sufficient amount of evidence to pass along to a jury. I think we have a decent complaint here."
When considering punishment, jurors only were asked whether the slaying was deliberate and whether they believed Moreno would be a future danger.
"This guy was a stone cold killer — the worst," Ed Springer, the former Bexar County assistant district attorney who prosecuted Moreno, said this week.
A man and his son stumbled over the empty gravesite and called police. An officer later checking the site found it filled with dirt and trash covering Cruz's body.
"If it had not been for the fortuitous act of a man and son finding that hole, Cruz would never have been found," said Springer, now the Comal County district attorney. "This person was methodical. If he had not been caught, he'd have repeated and just keep getting better."
Evidence showed while Moreno was awaiting trial weapons were found in his Bexar County Jail cell, he had repeatedly been violent with jailers and threatened them and that he had tried to escape and jammed his cell door so it wouldn't lock properly. He also used paper clips to free himself and other inmates from handcuffs.
Jurors gave affirmative answers to the questions of deliberateness and future danger, meaning Moreno was sentenced to die.
Evidence showed Moreno, who was just over 18 at the time of the slaying, had made at least 9 attempts to abduct Cruz before he succeeded the night of Jan. 21, 1986, by blocking the road to Cruz's home with large rocks. When Cruz got out of his car to move them, Moreno ran up and ordered him back into the car at gunpoint.
He handcuffed and blindfolded Cruz, drove him to the gravesite and then shot him in the head at close range with a .44-caliber pistol. Then Moreno called Cruz's family and made a $30,000 ransom demand.
Moreno's voice was identified by informants. Police obtained a search warrant of his home where they recovered the murder weapon hidden under a mattress in his bedroom. He subsequently confessed. A shovel used to dig the grave and handcuffs used on Cruz were recovered from the home of Moreno's father, court records showed.
Moreno, who refused to speak with reporters in the weeks preceding his scheduled execution, made it only through the 8th grade. He had a history of using marijuana, cocaine, heroin, LSD and alcohol.
His execution is the 1st of 2 set for May and is among at least 14 scheduled in Texas in the coming months. Next week, Charles Smith, 41, is to die for the slaying of a Pecos County sheriff's deputy.
Convicted killer Jose Angel Moreno won a stay today, hours before his scheduled execution for the abduction and fatal shooting of a San Antonio college student more than 2 decades ago.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ordered further review of mitigating evidence on a 5-3 vote.
His attorneys argued that Moreno's jury was unable to consider evidence of a troubled childhood and other mitigating issues that could have influenced them to give Moreno a life sentence instead of death.
The appeal was based on a Supreme Court decision 2 weeks ago in 3 other Texas cases where justices ruled instructions to jurors were improper, attorney Scott Sullivan said.
The court had voted 4-4 on the appeal Wednesday night, with 1 judge abstaining, meaning the request to stop the execution was "neither granted nor denied," Sullivan said. He asked the court to reconsider, and the request was granted today.
Moreno was about a month past his 18th birthday in 1986 when evidence showed he abducted John Cruz, also 18, handcuffed and blindfolded him, drove him to a site in Bexar County where he had dug a grave, then shot Cruz in the head and buried him. Then he made ransom calls demanding $30,000 from Cruz's family.
13 inmates have been executed in the nation's busiest death penalty state this year. Another inmate is set to die next week.
The U.S. Supreme Court in January refused to review Moreno's case.
Moreno, 39, declined to speak with reporters in the weeks preceding his scheduled punishment.
Investigators determined Moreno, who dropped out of school after the 8th grade and who had a history of drug and alcohol use, tried at least nine times to abduct Cruz, finally succeeding the night of Jan. 21, 1986, by luring Cruz from his car by blocking the road to Cruz's home with large rocks. When Cruz got out to move them, Moreno ran up and pulled a gun on him.
People walking in the area had discovered the empty grave site and called the sheriff's department. An officer checking the site later found it filled with dirt and trash covering the body of Cruz, who was attending the University of Texas at San Antonio and working in a convenience store.
Over the years Moreno's case crawled through the courts while appeals challenged whether he was mentally retarded and should be ineligible for execution, and whether informant information used to arrest him was proper.
Evidence showed while Moreno was awaiting trial, weapons were found in his jail cell, he tried to escape and he was adept at using paper clips to free himself and other inmates from handcuffs, earning him the nickname "Houdini." On death row, he was found a couple years ago hiding a black widow spider in a peanut butter jar.
"I just think the guy was a budding serial killer," Ed Springer, a former Bexar County assistant district attorney who prosecuted Moreno, said this week. "I think he would have continued if he had not been caught then."
Prosecutors said Moreno saw Cruz's family as a cash source after he learned they'd won a multimillion-dollar settlement of a lawsuit against a tire manufacturer stemming from the death of a relative in a traffic wreck. In a ransom phone call monitored by police, Moreno was told proceeds from the suit were in a trust fund and not immediately available.
His recorded voice was identified by informants. Police searched his home and recovered the .44-caliber pistol used in the slaying. They also recovered the shovel used to dig the grave and the handcuffs he used on his victim.
Moreno subsequently confessed.
Next week, Charles Smith, 41, is scheduled to die for the slaying of a Pecos County sheriff's deputy.
Practice safe sex.....Marry a death inmate...You'll never get none
seriously: I think Obama should have made them liquidate all their assets both business AND PERSONAL so they could climb over their own pile of s***; instead of expecting the American tax payers to do it.
Sept 1, 2019 20:35:38 GMT -5
seriously: Wake up people! Don't you realize that WE THE PEOPLE don't need the rich, THEY NEED US...to do the work that makes them richer so they don't have to clean their own toilets; and all we get is industrialized meats and crops, GMO's, antibiotic resistance.
Sept 1, 2019 20:38:53 GMT -5
seriously: Patented seed crops, running small farmer's out of business, toxic waste, poisoned water, dirty air, deforestation, global warming. By the way, who even wants to live in a GLOBAL GOVERNMENT world with a GLOBAL ECONOMY?
Sept 1, 2019 20:41:57 GMT -5
seriously: America should be more like Switzerland, fix our own 'broken wagon' and let the rest of the world fix theirs...it's not an U.S.A. problem. Screw oil, it pollutes the earth...GO SOLAR, WIND, WATER POWER! Screw the utility companies!
Sept 1, 2019 20:48:33 GMT -5
seriously: That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it. Best way to topple the rich...eliminate money and go back to the barter system; let the rich wipe their own bums and clean their own toilets...for a change! No more "Groom of the stool" for them.
Sept 1, 2019 20:51:50 GMT -5
seriously: Then banks and wall street can crash all they want; why should we be dragged down with them.
Sept 1, 2019 20:53:16 GMT -5
alanthony 007: hi, its alanthony; attorney " bartner and solicitor " for Miss Darlie Routier. I was out of town working on a high profile case. I'm back with an unusual part of the Law that will set my client free, so shall we proceed. first, everyone must listen to
Nov 27, 2019 20:52:02 GMT -5
Jeffery Daughtery: Walter Barton (Arkie) has been on Missouri's capital punishment row for many, many years. He has been through 5 trials! Each time is guilty. He'll finally go to hell on May 19, 2020...
Feb 22, 2020 20:23:42 GMT -5
Jeffery Daughtery: This site has a locked ARKIE BOARD shouting out his innocence. Shout it out to the devil that his son will be home soon...
Feb 22, 2020 20:25:41 GMT -5
alanthony 008: why would anyone give a s*** about Barton, he is convicted of killing a nobody, and he,s one too.
Mar 20, 2020 4:19:50 GMT -5
alanthony 008: you know.. two pieces of tailor trash, its a waist were even typing about it .. so off he goes, who cares.
Mar 20, 2020 4:30:41 GMT -5