Two More Executions Set for November
Death row inmates Mario Swain and Ramon Hernandez both lost appeals
By Dec. 28, 2002, Lola Nixon's friends were worried about her. She hadn't shown up to dinner the night before, so they went to her Longview home to see if she was OK. When they arrived, they found that the home had been broken into and there was blood throughout the house.
Police quickly found a lead: 23-year-old Mario Swain, who'd been driving a pickup truck that neighbors spotted outside Nixon's home the night she disappeared. Swain agreed to talk to police. Although he initially tried to inculpate two different men as being responsible for an attack on Nixon, each had an alibi. Ultimately, Swain confessed: Nixon came home while he was burglarizing her house; he bludgeoned her with a tire iron, put her into the trunk of her car, and drove to a field, where he left her. She was still breathing, he said, but barely conscious. After a three-day trial, Swain was sentenced to death. Among other points, Swain argued on appeal that police never read him his rights until after he'd confessed, making the introduction of his statements at trial a violation of due process. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals disagreed, however, and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals followed suit.
Swain is set for execution Nov. 8; unless his date is stayed, he will become the 489th person executed in Texas since reinstatement of the death penalty.
Also this month, on Nov. 14, the state is set to execute Ramon Hernandez, convicted of the kidnapping, robbery, rape, and murder of Rosa Rosado. Hernandez, his girlfriend, and another accomplice snatched Rosado from a San Antonio bus stop in 2001, took her to a motel room and raped and killed her; Hernandez sent his girlfriend out for a shovel, and the crew buried Rosado after cleaning her body with bleach. Hernandez's girlfriend confessed to police and directed them to Rosado's body, buried in a shallow grave. Hernandez confessed, but blamed the other accomplice for the killing. Regardless, he was sentenced to death a year later.
Hernandez's DNA was also matched to the rape and murder of two middle school girls in San Antonio in 1994. The two, Sarah Gonzales and Priscilla Almares, were abducted, and their bodies found in some roadside brush. Each had been raped and asphyxiated. The two deaths were combined with Rosado's, and Hernandez was charged with a single count "engaging in a common scheme" to rape and murder when tried in 2002.
Like Swain, Hernandez claimed on appeal that his confession to police was involuntary and should have been suppressed, because he was suffering withdrawal from an anti-anxiety drug at the time he was questioned. His appeals have been denied, most recently in March. Hernandez is slated to be the state's 490th inmate to face execution.