Valley man’s execution put on hold again

Ruben Gutierrez

Ruben Gutierrez’s attorneys were granted another motion to extend the federal case challenging the state’s decision to put Gutierrez to death following his conviction in the 1998 murder of an 85-year-old Brownsville woman.

Attorneys requested Senior United States District Judge Hilda Tagle to extend the case, again allowing counsel time to prepare arguments.

Most of Gutierrez’s appeals have centered on untested DNA evidence collected at the crime scene. Items preserved by law enforcement included fingernail scrapings, a hair in the victim’s hand, and blood stains preserved by the police at the time of the murder.

Gutierrez was sentenced to death in 1999 but has maintained his innocence, arguing that testing the evidence could exonerate him.

According to The Brownsville Herald archives, Gutierrez told police after his arrest that he had been waiting in a park as the other two suspects, Rene Garcia and Pedro Gracia, went to rob Escolastica Cuellar Harrison.

Harrison was found beaten and stabbed to death with a screwdriver.

The man told authorities that he didn’t know they were going to kill Harrison. He also stated that he had gone into the house with Garcia days later, and that Garcia killed Harrison alone.

Prosecutors have argued that since there was a possibility of multiple killers, tested evidence that does not match Gutierrez will not necessarily exonerate him and therefore does not need to be tested.

Gutierrez was scheduled to be put to death on Oct. 30. The Texas Court of Criminal appeals halted the execution on Oct. 22 after attorneys successfully argued that the death warrant had been delivered without the proper seal from the court.

Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz said in October that the county would wait the required 91 days following a final judgment to schedule a new execution date.

esheridan@brownsvilleherald.com