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Texas executes man convicted of taking money to murder woman

By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Texas on Tuesday executed a man convicted of accepting $2,000 to murder a woman from the victim's husband and her brother-in-law, who were looking to collect $400,000 from life insurance policies they took out on her.

Roland Ruiz, 44, was put to death by lethal injection at the state's death chamber in Huntsville for the murder of Theresa Rodriguez, 29, in 1992 in the San Antonio area, a prisons official said.

The execution was the 541st in Texas, the most of any state since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. It was delayed for several hours as the U.S. Supreme Court considered a last-minute appeal.

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In a final statement, Ruiz offered his apologies to the victim's family.

"Words cannot begin to express how sorry I am and the hurt that I have caused you and your family. May this bring you peace and forgiveness," he was quoted as saying by prison officials.

Lawyers for Ruiz had asked the court to halt the execution, saying he previously received inadequate counsel and because holding him on death row for a quarter of a century, mostly in solitary confinement, amounted to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

"The delay is attributable to no lapse in Mr. Ruiz’s diligence - instead, it is entirely attributable to the state’s failure to provide competent lawyers," they said in legal filings.

Justice Stephen Breyer recommended that the execution be halted. He expressed concern over Ruiz spending more than 20 years in solitary confinement and said this case was appropriate to conduct constitutional scrutiny of extended solitary confinement.

Attorneys for Texas said the appeal lacked merit because Ruiz had failed to show a reason why federal courts should step in.

Ruiz was 20 when he reached a contract murder deal with brothers Michael and Mark Rodriguez, who were looking to collect the life insurance money.

Ruiz shot Theresa Rodriguez once in the head with a .357 caliber handgun after she pulled into her home's garage, according to court papers, which also said he confessed to the crime.

The two brothers were each given life sentences.

The father of the murder victim told the San Antonio Express-News ahead of the execution that it would not bring relief for the family.

"There’s never closure," Eddie Sanchez, Rodriguez’s father, was quoted as saying.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by James Dalgleish, Lisa Shumaker and Nick Macfie)

 
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