Wednesday 26 January 2011

Condemned killer of 3 in Texas loses at high court

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused an appeal from a San Antonio gang member who was condemned to death for a triple homicide more than decade ago.
The court's rejection, delivered without comment, would appear to clear the way for Bexar County prosecutors to seek an executiondate for Miguel "Fat Boy" Paredes.
Paredes, 28, is identified in court records as belonging to the Hermanos Pistoleros Latinos prison gang and is one of three men convicted of slayings that evidence showed were related to a September 2000 drug deal that went wrong.
The two others, John Anthony Saenz and Greg Alvarado, are serving life prison terms. Alvarado pleaded guilty. Saenz, identified as a former sergeant in the gang known as the HPL, went to trial and claimed self-defense. Jurors convicted him but decided against the death penalty.
The bodies of Nelly Bravo and Shawn Michael Cain, both 23, and Adrian Torres, 27, all from San Antonio, were found bound and wrapped in a carpet and set on fire along a remote stretch of road in Frio County, southwest of San Antonio. Evidence showed the three, all rival gang members, were fatally shot inside Saenz's house.
Paredes, listed in prison records as 5-feet-6 and 254 pounds, was 18 at the time of the shootings. He argued in earlier appeals that jury instructions at his trial in San Antonio may have been faulty and his trial lawyer may have been deficient in not objecting to the instructions. He also contended that there were problems with the makeup of the grand jury that reviewed his case and the trial jury that convicted him and decided he should die. Lower courts upheld his conviction.
Paredes' appeals lawyer, Michael Gross, did not immediately respond to a phone message left Monday by The Associated Press.
Evidence showed the three gang members ambushed the three victims inside Saenz's home. Torres, who prosecutors said belonged to the Mexican Mafia, came to collect drug money owed to him, accompanied by Cain and Bravo.
A neighbor testified that after hearing gunfire, he watched a three-vehicle caravan leave the house, then in the following days saw people cleaning the place, laying new tile and hosing out the bed of a pickup truck.
Another key witness was Saenz's younger brother, Eric, who told the jury his brother described the shootings to him in detail. Defense lawyers disputed his testimony, saying he had four drug charges dropped when he became a paid informant for federal authorities investigating the gang.
Paredes' trial lawyers argued that he was one of 20 brothers and sisters living in the San Juan Homes, a San Antonio public housing project where youths are pressured to join street gangs, and that he was following orders of HPL leaders when he took part in the slayings.
During the punishment phase of his trial, prosecutors told jurors that Paredes was responsible for another killing, took part in a shooting that left two people wounded, was involved in an abduction, burned and disposed of the body of a drug overdose victim and had arrests for driving without a license, driving while intoxicated and for unlawfully carrying a firearm.

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