Death Watch: Segundo Awaits 5th Circuit

Death row inmate scheduled for execution Oct. 10


Ten executions have been carried out this year in Texas, and if the state has its way, there'll be another six before the new year – more than double 2017's total. Tarrant County native Juan Segundo is in line as No. 11, on Wednesday, Oct. 10, though his recently appointed counsel is still working on his case.

Segundo was sentenced to death in 2006 for the 1986 rape and murder of 11-year-old Vanessa Villa. The case went cold until 2005, when old evidence was entered into the DNA database CODIS and matched with Segundo's. (The state also connected him to the 1995 rape and murder of Maria Navarro; several women accused him of attempted sexual assault.) As a child, Segundo lived in extreme poverty with an unstable family. He allegedly suffered a traumatic head injury as a toddler, but was never taken to a doctor. During his trial's punishment stage, a neuropsychologist testified that Segundo's "extensive history of inhalant abuse" and failure to have a "stimulating background upbringing" may have caused "significant brain dysfunction."

In May, Segundo's lawyers filed a request for relief in federal court (still pending), arguing that Segundo's right to adequate and professional representation was "undermined at every stage of litigation." Among other violations, Segundo's trial attorneys referred to him as "Speedy Gonzalez," a "tard," and a "dumb bastard," and ignored requests from their experts for information to support Segundo's intellectual disability. The filing also asserts Segundo's trial counsel and the courts relied on unscientific "Briseno factors" (guidelines based in part on the fictional Lennie from John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men) to assess Segundo, a method rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court last year in Moore v. Texas. Lastly, the appeal argues Segundo was improperly denied funds to investigate his claims of intellectual disability, creating "a procedural defect in the proceedings" that was "exacerbated by the deprivation" of reliable counsel through every stage of litigation.

Segundo also requested a stay of execution on July 27. Two months later, the district court denied a certificate of appealability and transferred both of his requests to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has yet to rule.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

death penalty, Juan Segundo, Vanessa Villa, Maria Navarro, intellectual disability, ineffective assistance of counsel, 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, execution

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