2 Texas death row inmates lose Supreme Court appeals; 2 others lose at lower federal court


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HOUSTON — Two Texas death row inmates, including one condemned for the fatal shooting of a San Antonio police officer in 2001, lost appeals Monday at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Two other Texas men with death sentences lost appeals at a lower federal appeals court, also moving them closer to lethal injection.

None of the four prisoners has an execution date.

In the San Antonio case, the Supreme Court refused to take up the case of Manuel Garza Jr., 33, who argued he had deficient legal help at his 2002 Bexar County trial for the slaying of Officer John Riojas. A lower appeals court earlier had rejected arguments that Garza had deficient legal help at his trial.

Evidence showed Riojas was trying to arrest Garza on several outstanding warrants when Garza tried to flee. The officer was shot with his own gun as the pair struggled.

The high court on Monday also refused to review an appeal from a Nicaraguan man sent to death row for fatally shooting a customer during a robbery at a Houston-area dry cleaning store.

According to prison records, Bernardo Tercero, 36, contended he was under 18 at the time of the 1997 slaying, making him ineligible for the death penalty. Tercero was condemned for gunning down Robert Berger during a struggle as Berger's 3-year-old daughter stood nearby. Tercero argued at his trial that the shooting was accidental. He and a companion fled with two cash registers.

He had multiple birth certificates with conflicting dates and insisted the accurate one showed he was younger than 18 at the time of the shooting. The high court's refusal on Monday also upholds a lower court decision.

The two other rejections came late Friday from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Randall Wayne Mays, 54, was condemned for a shootout that left two Henderson County sheriff's deputies dead seven years ago. His attorneys argued the former welder and oilfield worker had deficient legal help at his 2008 trial. They also argued unsuccessfully that sentencing Mays to death was unconstitutionally cruel because he's mentally ill.

Mays was convicted in the slaying of sheriff's Deputy Tony Ogburn after Mays barricaded himself in his home in Payne Springs, about 55 miles southeast of Dallas. A second officer, Paul Habelt, also was killed.

The appeals court also turned down a Harris County man, Juan Martin Garcia, 34, who was sentenced to die for a fatal shooting during an $8 robbery nearly 16 years ago.

Garcia's lawyers contended Garcia had poor legal help during his trial in 2000 and that he's mentally impaired and ineligible for the death penalty. The victim, Hugo Solano, 36, was shot three times in the head while he was in his van at his Harris County apartment complex.

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