Texas court sentences 2 death row inmates to life

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Steven Butler was sentenced to death in 1988 for the shooting death of Velma Clemons in the robbery of a Houston-area dry-cleaning store where she worked in 1986. Photo courtesy of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice

May 25 (UPI) — A Texas appeals court on Wednesday sentenced two death row inmates to life in prison, both for intellectual disability.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals convicted Steven Anthony Butler, 60, and Juan Ramon Meza Segundo, 59, after previously dismissing both of their intellectual disability claims, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Butler, a native of Natchez, Mississippi, was sentenced to death in 1988 for the shooting death of Velma Clemons in the 1986 robbery of a Houston-area dry-cleaning store where she worked.

Butler’s attorneys argued that he was intellectually disabled and that his execution would violate Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment. They said he may not have been fit to stand trial since he had blamed imaginary people for his crimes.

Segundo, meanwhile, was sentenced to death for the 1986 rape and murder of Vanessa Villa, an 11-year-old girl, at her home in Fort Worth. Her mother had left her house alone to run errands and the girl was found strangled to death in her bed.

DNA evidence linked Segundo to the 2006 crime, and prosecutors charged him with two other rapes and murders, the Texas Tribune reported.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted Segundo’s scheduled execution in October 2018 based on questions from his attorneys about his intellectual disability. His IQ was tested at 75, and his brother testified that he fell down the stairs as a baby and seemed “always in a daze”.

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