BROWNSVILLE — A federal appeals court has cleared the way for the execution to proceed next week of a man condemned for the fatal stabbing more than 20 years ago of an 85-year-old woman.
Ruben Gutierrez, 43, is scheduled to die Tuesday for the 1998 killing of Escolastica Harrison at her home in Brownsville, which is in Texas' southern tip along the border with Mexico. Prosecutors said the killing was part of an attempt to steal more than $600,000 the woman had hidden in her home.
A federal judge in Brownsville stayed Gutierrez's execution Tuesday after concluding he would likely succeed on at least one of his legal challenges. But a panel of three judges on the New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit Court overturned that decision Friday.
Gutierrez' attorneys have long sought DNA testing of evidence they say could save him, and the presence of a Christian chaplain in the execution chamber. The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops has also filed a legal motion saying the state must provide Gutierrez access to clergy in the death chamber.
The Fifth Circuit panel ruled the issues at play in Gutierrez's case have been sufficiently litigated in state and federal court and the district court "abused its discretion" in the staying execution.
Gutierrez's attorney, Shawn Nolan, said his client will appeal the decision.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice, by policy, prohibits all religious or spiritual advisers from entering the state death chamber for an execution.