A man who escaped prison in his native Mexico while serving a murder sentence was headed to the Texas death chamber Wednesday for the fatal beating a former Baylor University history professor and attack on his wife more than 16 years ago.
Ramiro Hernandez-Llanas, 44, was in the U.S. illegally when he was arrested for the October 1997 slaying of Glen Lich. Ten days earlier, Lich, 49, had given him a job helping with renovations at his ranch near Kerrville in the Texas Hill Country in exchange for living quarters.
Hernandez-Llanas would be the sixth Texas prisoner executed this year and second in a week to receive lethal injection with a new supply of pentobarbital. Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials have refused to identify the source of the powerful sedative, contending secrecy is needed to protect the provider from threats of violence from capital punishment opponents. The U.S. Supreme Court in a related case last week backed that position.
Texas and other states that have the death penalty have been scrambling for substitute drugs or new sources for drugs for lethal injections after major drugmakers -- many based in Europe with longtime opposition to the death penalty -- stopped selling to prisons and corrections departments.Hernandez-Llanas' appeals were exhausted and the Texas parole board on Tuesday refused to delay his sentence or commute it to life in prison.
Hernandez-Llanas was among more than four dozen Mexican citizens awaiting execution in the U.S. when the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, ruled in 2004 that they weren't properly advised of their consular rights when arrested. A measure mandated by the U.S. Supreme Court to enforce that ruling has languished in Congress.
Euclides del Moral, a Mexico Foreign Ministry deputy director general, said Tuesday there were "certain gray aspects" in the consulate notification in Hernandez-Llanas' case. "The execution of a Mexican national is of great concern," he said.
However, the issue never surfaced in Hernandez-Llanas' appeals, which focused primarily on claims that his mental impairment made him ineligible for the death penalty. Testimony from psychiatrists who said he was not mentally impaired and would remain a danger was faulty, his attorneys argued.
He wouldn't be facing execution "but for the testimony of two experts, neither of whose testimony can withstand a moment's scrutiny, and neither of whom should have been permitted to testify at all," lawyers Sheri Johnson and Naomi Torr said.
According to trial testimony, Hernandez-Llanas lured Lich from the rancher's house on Oct. 14, 1997, by telling him that there was a problem with a generator, then repeatedly clubbed Lich with a piece of steel rebar. Armed with a knife, he then went inside the house and attacked Lich's wife.
When he was arrested hours later, he was sleeping in the bed where he had wrapped his arm around the terrorized woman, who managed to wriggle from his grasp and restraints without waking him and call police.
Evidence showed Hernandez-Llanas was in Texas after escaping from a Mexican prison, where he was serving a 25-year sentence for a 1989 bludgeoning murder in Nuevo Laredo. He was linked to the rape of a 15-year-old girl and a stabbing in Kerrville. While awaiting trial, evidence showed he slashed another inmate's face with a razor blade. In prison, he was found with homemade weapons.
"This is exactly why we have the death penalty," said Lucy Wilke, an assistant Kerr County district attorney who helped prosecute Hernandez-Llanas. "Nobody, even prison guards, is safe from him."