The November execution of convicted killer David Santiago Renteria will remain in place after a Texas appeals court ruled a district court judge had no legal right to postpone the execution.
Renteria, who was convicted and sentenced to death in the 2001 killing of a 5-year-old girl he kidnapped from an El Paso Walmart, will remain scheduled to be executed Nov. 16.
The execution date was postponed indefinitely Aug. 29 after 327th District Court Judge Monique Velarde Reyes granted a motion to vacate the order setting the execution date and ordered the El Paso District Attorney’s Office to turn over all files and evidence it possessed in the case, appeal court documents state.
El Paso District Attorney Bill Hicks then filed an appeal of Reyes’ orders.
Reyes could not be reached for comment. However, her court coordinator, Gladys Acosta, said Reyes could not comment on the case since it remains pending.
Hicks and Renteria’s attorney, Tivon Schardl, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Hicks’ appeal was reviewed by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals — the highest criminal appeals court in the state of Texas.
The appeal came after Renteria filed a motion stating his constitutional rights to due process and equal protection would be violated if the El Paso District Attorney’s Office did not turn over all documents in his case, appeal court documents state.
Reyes granted the motion vacating the execution date and ordering the DA’s Office to turn over all evidence.
Hicks then filed his appeal Sept. 7 asking the appeals court to overturn the ruling.
The main focus of Hicks’ appeal was whether Reyes even had the authority to vacate the execution date and order the DA’s Office to turn over evidence — legally known as discovery — years after Renteria’s trial, conviction and sentencing.
Hicks argued Reyes’ “orders compelling (DA’s Office) to disclose its entire file during post-conviction proceedings exceed its authority, as there is no statute or other basis that authorizes such post-conviction discovery.”
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reviewed the appeal and issued an opinion Sept. 18, siding with Hicks and the El Paso District Attorney’s Office.
The justice stated since the last action was handled in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Reyes’ court had no jurisdiction over the case. Therefore, Reyes did not have the authority to vacate the execution date nor order the DA’s Office to release any evidence.
The justices wrote in their opinion, “Renteria’s conviction and sentence had been affirmed on direct appeal, and this Court’s (Texas Court of Criminal Appeals) mandate had issued. Therefore, the trial court did not have general jurisdiction over Renteria’s case.”
They added the claims of constitutional violations were unfounded since the 14th Amendment is “a source of individual rights, not a source of state-court jurisdiction.”
“Without a pleading before her (Reyes) invoking a legitimate source of district-court jurisdiction, (Reyes) had no freewheeling jurisdiction to seek to safeguard Renteria’s Fourteenth Amendment rights,” the justices wrote in their opinion.
The justices then ordered Reyes to “immediately rescind” her orders, vacating the execution date and ruling for the DA’s office to turn over all evidence in the case.
Kidnapping, murder of Alexandra Flores
Alexandra Flores, 5, was Christmas shopping with her family Nov. 18, 2001, at a Lower Valley Walmart, located at 9441 Alameda Ave., when Renteria kidnaped her.
Alexandra was captured on store surveillance video exiting the store about 5:15 p.m. with Renteria, court documents state. Her parents then realized she was missing and unsuccessfully searched for her.
The next day, Alexandra’s body was found about 7:10 a.m. naked and partially burned in a carport near Downtown El Paso, the El Paso Times reported.
An autopsy revealed Alexandra was strangled to death, court documents state.
A palm print from a plastic bag found over Alexandra’s head was identified by the El Paso Police Department latent print as being from Renteria, court documents state.
An investigation by police also revealed a vehicle registered to Renteria was at 9441 Alameda Ave. at the time and date of Alexandra’s disappearance.
Renteria, who worked as a warehouse worker and laborer, also told police he was at the location at the time and date of her disappearance, court documents state.
On Nov. 20, 2003, a jury convicted Renteria of capital murder and sentenced him to death.
In 2006, a Texas appeals court upheld the conviction but ordered a new sentencing phase because of the “exclusion of evidence showing the defendant’s remorse violated due process by preventing defendant from rebutting the State’s case when the State left jury with false impression and emphasized it,” an appeal opinion stated.
The new sentencing hearing was held in 2008, and Renteria was again sentenced to death.
Several other appeals have been filed in the case but have been denied, court records show.
Renteria is one of eight El Pasoans currently on death row.
Aaron Martinez may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AMartinezEPT.
This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: Texas appeals court upheld David Renteria’s execution date
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