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In the Bible Belt, Christmas Isn’t Coming to Death Row

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When it comes to the death penalty, guilt or innocence shouldn’t really matter to Christians.  

NASHVILLE — Until August, Tennessee had not put a prisoner to death in nearly a decade. Last Thursday, it performed its third execution in four months.
This was not a surprising turn of events. In each case, recourse to the courts had been exhausted. In each case Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, declined to intervene, though there were many r…

Texas: Isidro Delacruz gets death penalty in Naiya Villegas murder

Isidro Delacruz
In the end, the photographs of a smiling 5-year-old girl juxtaposed with a menacing-looking Isidro Delacruz - staring straight into the camera on the night of the child's murder - might have helped jurors decide Delacruz needed to die.

A Tom Green County jury sentenced Delacruz, 27, to death late Tuesday in the slaying of 5-year-old Naiya Villegas after more than 3 years of trial delays.

The jury of 8 women and 4 men went into deliberation at 10:30 a.m. to answer the special issues questions that resulted in the death penalty on the 5th week of trial.

Delacruz appeared emotionless when 119th District Judge Ben Woodward read the sentence in the courtroom, with relatives of both families present alongside half a dozen Tom Green County Sheriff's deputies.

Delacruz grinned when staff on the defense team patted his shoulders as he walked out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

Family members had been meandering in and out of the courtroom throughout the day as they waited for the jury to make a determination.

The same jury found Delacruz guilty of capital murder last month in the child's death. Naiya died in an ambulance on the way to the hospital after her throat was slit twice in the middle of the night at her mother's home in the 2700 block of Houston Street on Sept. 2, 2014.

Delacruz's parents declined to comment Tuesday evening as family members hugged each other outside of the courthouse. Members of Naiya's family said they are thankful justice was served, adding they were planning to hold a vigil on the courthouse lawn when the case concludes.

"In the ultimate betrayal, Naiya's short life was brutally, maliciously ended," 51st District Attorney Alison Palmer said in a statement after the sentencing. "No family should have to endure the loss of a child, especially in these circumstances, at the hands of one who professed to love her.

"To the family of Naiya Villegas, you have my deepest sympathies. I hope this resolution brings them some measure of closure, and that they will remember the beauty of Naiya and know that she has found justice."

Delacruz's defense team declined to comment.

Attorneys took less than an hour each to argue their case Tuesday morning. Court-appointed attorneys Robert R. Cowie and William P.H. Boyles said Delacruz experienced personality disorders, learning disabilities and physical abuse during his upbringing, which affected him in adulthood. The defense told jurors life imprisonment is itself a death sentence in prison.

Palmer said Delacruz has proven he is incapable of accepting responsibility for his actions and can't follow rules. She argued a sketchy work history, drinking while on probation, numerous run-ins with the law and destructive conduct such as making shanks while he was awaiting trial in the Tom Green County Jail were all examples of impetuous behavior.

The punishment phase of trial had 2 delays when it began this month. Woodward halted trial for several days the first week of April because an official gave prosecutors new school records on Delacruz.

Defense attorneys immediately filed for a mistrial and a 6th continuance based on the receipt of the additional school files, but Woodward ultimately turned down their motions. Woodward also delayed proceedings for a day last week for undisclosed reasons.

About 100 witnesses were called to testify, including the child's mother, who broke down and nearly collapsed in the courtroom when she saw a picture of Delacruz's bloody hand print inside her house.

Trial began in January when some 350 San Angelo residents reported to the McNease Convention Center for jury duty.

"It was common to hear prospective jurors say they did not want to serve on this jury, but they would because it is their responsibility as a citizen," Palmer said. "Many said they knew the case would be difficult, but if their friends or family were involved as a victim or defendant, they would want responsible citizens on a jury to hear the case. I am humbled by this sense of civic duty and community."

12 jurors and 2 alternates were eventually impaneled after more than 7 weeks of tedious individual examination by attorneys.

"I thank all of the venirepersons who took time for jury selection, and I thank the 14 who so diligently served on this jury," Palmer said. "They have my deepest respect."

This was the 1st time Palmer had prosecuted a capital case seeking the death penalty that had gone to trial.

The last death penalty trial San Angelo saw was in May 1999, when a Tom Green County jury sent Luis Ramirez to death row when he hired a hit man who shot and killed fireman Nemecio Nandin because Nandin was having a relationship with Ramirez's ex-wife.

Delacruz's case will automatically be filed for appeal.

Source: gosanangelo.com, Ngan Ho, San Angelo Standard-Times, April 17, 2018


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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