Mexican national Ramiro Hernandez-Llanas already had done some carpentry work at Glen Lich's ranch near Kerrville in the Texas Hill Country when he negotiated a deal with the former Baylor University history professor to live on the property in exchange for helping out with ranch renovations.
Ten days later, Lich was fatally clubbed with a metal bar outside his home and his wife was attacked by a man covered with blood and threatening her with a knife. Hernandez-Llanas was arrested, still sleeping in the bed where he had wrapped his arm around Lich's terrorized wife, but unaware the woman summoned police after managing to flee from his grasp and restraints without waking him.
On Wednesday, Hernandez-Llanas, 44, was set for lethal injection that would make him the second Texas prisoner within a week executed with a supply of pentobarbital newly obtained from a source Texas prison officials have refused to identify.
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected appeals from another Texas death row inmate, Tommy Lynn Sells, whose attorneys argued unsuccessfully they needed the name of the drug supplier to verify its potency to determine he wouldn't be subjected to unconstitutional pain and suffering. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice contends the information needs to be withheld to keep the new drug provider from threats of violence from death penalty opponents.
Sells quietly went to his death Thursday with the new drug.
Hernandez-Llanas also was a plaintiff in Sells' lawsuit. On Monday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a reprieve he won from a lower court, putting his punishment back on track. Attorneys for the condemned prisoner declined to appeal because the Supreme Court turned down the same request from Sells.
On Tuesday, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted 7-0 to refuse to commute his sentence to life in prison or delay his execution. Attorneys had disputed the testimony of two psychiatrists at his trial in 2000 who told jurors Hernandez-Llanas was not mentally impaired and would remain a danger.
"Killing him is barbaric as well as unlawful," attorneys Sheri Johnson and Naomi Torr told the parole board.
The Supreme Court last week refused to review an appeal that included similar concerns that Hernandez-Llanas' was mentally impaired, making him ineligible for execution under high court rulings.
Evidence showed Hernandez-Llanas was in the U.S. illegally and had escaped from a Mexican prison, where he was serving a 25-year sentence for murder. He also was linked to the rape of a 15-year-old girl. While awaiting trial in the Kerr County case, evidence showed he slashed the face of another jail inmate with a razor blade. In prison, he was found with shanks, handmade weapons.
Testimony at his trial showed he lured Lich from the house the evening of Oct. 14, 1997, by telling the rancher there was a problem with a generator, then beat Lich as he was examining the machine.
"He just didn't hit to kill him," Lucy Wilke, one of the Kerr County trial prosecutors, recalled this week. "He just bludgeoned him again and again and again."
Mexican government officials said 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, found in 2004 they weren't advised of their consular rights under the Vienna Convention when they were arrested. That court urged new hearings in courts where those people were convicted to determine if consular access would have affected their cases.
A year later, President George W. Bush agreed with the international court and urged the new hearings be held. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, overruled Bush, saying only Congress could require states to follow the international court's ruling. Congress has not done so.
Wilke said the consulate was involved in Hernandez-Llanas' case since his arrest.
Euclides del Moral, deputy director general for the Mexico Foreign Ministry's Office of Protection of Mexicans Abroad, said Tuesday there were "certain gray aspects" of the consular notification in this case but acknowledged Hernandez-Llanas' options to avoid execution "are very few."
Hernandez-Llanas would be the sixth inmate executed in Texas this year. Another is set to die next week.