Execution of man convicted in Brownsville murder to remain on hold

BROWNSVILLE — The State of Texas will not execute 41-year-old Ruben Gutierrez this afternoon for the killing of an elderly woman during a burglary two decades ago.

U.S. District Judge Hilda Tagle previously issued a stay of the Sept. 12 execution because Gutierrez, through no fault of his own, was in need of new attorneys.

The Texas Solicitor General’s Office challenged that stay, but on Monday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Tagle’s stay of execution, which will remain in effect for 90 days from the appointment of new counsel on Aug. 6.

A Cameron County jury convicted Gutierrez of murdering 85-year-old Escolastica Harrison at the Harrison Mobile Home Park on Morningside Road in Brownsville in 1998. Evidence during the trial showed that Gutierrez befriended Harrison so he could rob her of some of the $600,000 in cash that she had hidden in her home. According to police, Harrison did not like banks and hid money in a suitcase in her trailer home.

An autopsy revealed she had been beaten and stabbed 13 times with two different screwdrivers.

Gutierrez’s latest lawyers argued that they needed more time to learn about the convicted murderer and to go through the massive case record.

The man’s previous attorney said that she didn’t believe she had the expertise to represent the man at this stage of his litigation, and Tagle’s order notes that the attorney is no longer allowed to practice in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals because of rude behavior toward court staff.

The former attorney never disclosed that fact to Gutierrez.

Court records indicate that Gutierrez’s new attorneys may prepare civil rights litigation, may apply for clemency in an attempt to commute Gutierrez’s death sentence to life without parole and also want time to investigate what effort Gutierrez’s trial attorneys put into DNA testing crime scene forensic evidence.

Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz has said in previous interviews that if the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upholds the stay, which it did Monday, that he anticipated Gutierrez’s new attorneys would file a request to DNA test crime scene forensic evidence, which the DA’s Office will oppose.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice had not updated Gutierrez’s execution date.