Federal judge rules DNA testing allowed in Ruben Gutierrez case

Local News

Brownsville convicted murderer scheduled for July death penalty (Source: Ruben Gutierrez // Mug shot via Texas Department of Criminal Justice)

BROWNSVILLE, Texas (KVEO) — A federal district court judge ruled in favor of death row inmate Ruben Gutierrez’s request for DNA testing in his case. Gutierrez’s attorneys expect the state to appeal that ruling.

A federal court found the Texas statute that guarantees testing of material for DNA was unconstitutionally applied when they denied DNA testing in Gutierrez’s case.

Gutierrez has asked for “access to fingernail scraping” to confirm the identity of the person who committed the murder of Escolastica Harrison.

“The district attorney in Brownsville, has repeatedly refused our requests for access to this material without explanation,” said Shawn Nolan, Gutierrez Attorney, in a statement. “If he is so sure that Mr. Gutierrez’s conviction and death sentence are sound and that Mr. Gutierrez deserves to die, there can be no reason to continue to refuse our reasonable requests for this testing, which would be done automatically by law if this case happened today.”

Gutierrez filed a motion claiming that DNA testing was never performed; evidence, he says, that would demonstrate he did not commit the murder. The stay of execution was granted at the time by a federal district court.

Gutierrez was scheduled to be executed on June 16, 2020. He was previously scheduled to be executed on Oct. 30, 2019. However, due to a clerical error on behalf of the Cameron County District Clerk, a stay of execution was ordered on Oct. 11, 2019. 

Prosecutors said Gutierrez was attempting to steal more than $600,000 that Harrison had hidden in her home in Brownsville when he killed her in 1998.

Gutierrez has been on death row for the past 20 years after he was found guilty of capital murder.

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