Attorneys for a Mexican citizen scheduled to be executed in Texas for the sledgehammer killings of his wife and two children say his life should be spared because he is a "bipolar, brain-injured" person who was severely abused as a child.
Roberto Moreno Ramos was set to die by lethal injection Wednesday evening for the 1992 killings of his 42-year-old wife Leticia, 7-year-old daughter Abigail, and 3-year-old son Jonathan at their home in Progreso, located along the Mexico border about 20 miles (32.19 kilometers) southeast of McAllen.
Ramos' attorney on Wednesday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop his execution, arguing that Ramos' constitutional rights were violated as lower courts refused to fully review his claims that his trial lawyers failed to present any evidence about his mental illness and abusive childhood that could have persuaded jurors to spare his life.
Also Wednesday, a federal judge in Austin dismissed Ramos' request to temporarily block the execution.
The request had been part of a lawsuit Ramos filed against the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals a day earlier.
The suit alleged the appeals court has not allowed Ramos to present claims he had ineffective trial and appellate lawyers.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have previously turned down requests to halt Ramos' execution.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on Monday declined to recommend either a commutation of Ramos' sentence or a six-month reprieve.
Mexican officials have called for Ramos' execution to be stopped, arguing that he's part of a group of Mexican citizens condemned in the U.S. who were never told when first arrested that they could get legal help from the Mexican government.
Three retired justices who had served on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals filed court documents with the Supreme Court on Wednesday in support of stopping the execution.
The ex-judges allege the appeals court appointed an incompetent appellate attorney who early in the post-conviction process failed to investigate Ramos' case.
Ramos, 64, would be the 21st inmate put to death this year in the U.S. and the 11th given a lethal injection in Texas, the nation's busiest capital punishment state.
Ramos was born in Aguascalientes, Mexico, and grew up in Guadalajara and Tijuana before his family moved to the United States in 1970.
Ramos' appellate attorney, Danalynn Recer, said Ramos has suffered from bipolar disorder most of his life, including during the time of his family's killings, as well as brain damage that has affected his ability to control his impulses and regulate his emotions.
"The decision to take his life was made and has since been repeatedly accepted without any decision-maker ever considering, the powerfully mitigating evidence of his cognitive impairment, brain dysfunction, debilitating symptoms of severe life-long mental illness and childhood characterized by shocking brutality and desperate poverty," Recer said in a statement.
But the Texas Attorney General's Office said Ramos' death sentence was appropriate due to his "violent and dangerous nature."
Authorities said Ramos bludgeoned his loved ones and then buried them underneath his home's bathroom floor so he could marry the woman he was having an extramarital affair with at the time.
In court filings, the attorney general's office highlighted testimony from Ramos' then-19-year-old son, who told jurors at his 1993 trial that his father "would continue to commit criminal acts of violence."
In 2004, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, found Ramos was part of a group of 52 Mexican citizens awaiting execution in the U.S. who weren't advised of their consular rights under the Vienna Convention when first arrested.
It recommended they be tried again to determine if consular access would have affected their cases. President George W. Bush directed states to reopen the cases.
But the Supreme Court in 2008 overruled Bush's directive, saying only Congress can require states to follow the international court's ruling.
Five Mexican citizens have been executed since being named in the international court ruling and all the executions were carried out by Texas, Jacob Prado Gonzalez, director-general for the protection of Mexicans abroad, said Monday at a Mexico City news conference in which he called on the U.S. to halt Ramos' execution.