Next week, a Smith County judge is expected to decide whether a Tyler man will be eligible to receive the death penalty when he is tried in February for the death of his former girlfriend’s child.
Doctors also noticed other signs of abuse on the baby’s body, including strangulation, broken ribs and severe bruising, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.
U.S. Marshals arrested Lopez in Mexico in July 2011. Autopsy reports showed the baby died from heart damage resulting from blunt force trauma to the chest, according to information from police. The Lopez trial is set for February 2013 in the Smith County 7th District Court and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the defendant. Lopez is being held in the Smith County Jail on bonds totaling $3 million.
Defense attorney Rick Hagan argued before Judge Kerry Russell that Mexican officials should have conducted a hearing with Lopez to decide whether they should extradite his client back to the U.S. in 2011 and that “Mexico is not duty-bound” to extradite anyone for the death penalty.” He added that Mexico will not return anyone to a country where they may face the death penalty.
Hagan also argued in a motion that the death penalty is unconstitutional and constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment.”
Russell replied that usually judges in death penalty states tend not to grant motions that the death penalty is unconstitutional and asked whether anything had changed. Hagan replied nothing had changed constitutionally to prohibit states from assessing the death penalty.
Smith County Assistant District Attorney Cynthia Kent told the judge in her arguments that the “U.S. has no authority to determine if a hearing should be held. It’s up to authorities in Mexico to have decided that.”
“We have a right as a sovereign state to seek the death penalty,” she said in court. She argued that Mexico had expelled Lopez and that the defendant is a U.S. citizen.
Ms. Kent also pointed to past case law in which lethal injection was found to be the most humane method of execution.
But Hagan argued that Texas “was not a passive recipient — they (the authorities) actively pursued Mr. Lopez.” Hagan also said in court that U.S. Marshals said when they brought Lopez back to the U.S. from Mexico that he had been beaten.
Ms. Kent responded in court that there was “nothing done by the U.S. to abuse Mr. Lopez.”
Russell said he makes rulings based on case law, and asked Hagan whether he had any case law to support his arguments on the death penalty.
“I wish there was more case law, judge,” Hagan responded.