Texas Court of Appeals Grants Stay of Execution for Nicaraguan Man

  • By:heather foelsing
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An undocumented man from Nicaragua—Bernardo Tercero—was found guilty of capital murder in October of 2000 and received the death penalty as punishment for the conviction. Now years later on the eve of Tercero’s planned execution, the Texas Court of Appeals, the highest criminal court within the state, has granted a stay of execution.

Tercero Files Writ of Habeas Corpus

According to Tercero and his lawyers, Tercero was under 18 years of age when he committed the murder of Robert Berger at Park Avenue Cleaners in Houston, Texas, in March of 1997. But evidence from the trial suggests otherwise; in fact, when Tercero was convicted, it was by a jury who was of the belief that Tercero was 20 years old when he committed the murder and armed robbery.

Following his conviction, Tercero filed a writ of habeas corpus—or a petition to challenge the legality of his imprisonment—with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. His writ of habeas corpus was filed under the notion that he was less than 18 years old when he committed the crime and received the punishment of death. The court denied relief.

On August 24, 2015, Tercero’s lawyers tried again. This time, a writ of habeas corpus was filed under the assertion that a denial of due process occurred, with the claim that false evidence was presented at Tercero’s trial.

Legal Advocates for Tercero Claim Psychosis

The latest push to save Tercero’s life revolves around three primary factors: first, Tercero shows signs of psychosis and limited brain function, a finding that—had trial lawyers presented at the time of Tercero’s initial conviction—may have spared him the death penalty; second, that false evidence was presented during his trial, including witness evidence stating that Tercero was a good student in Nicaragua; and third, that the original lawyer who represented Tercero was one of the state’s worst death row advocates.

Texas Court Grants Relief

While Tercero has not be pardoned, his execution—which was scheduled for Wednesday—has been temporarily suspended. Thanks to hard work on the part of Tercero’s appellate lawyers, as well as action on the part of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (which concluded that Tercero’s right to a fair trial had been violated) the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has ordered Tercero’s case back to trial court in Harris County. Tercero is now 39 years old.

The Importance of a Qualified Criminal Defense Lawyer

Tercero’s case is one shocking and tragic example of how flawed the criminal justice system can be. For those who have been convicted of a serious crime in Texas, including murder, a qualified criminal defense attorney is a necessity; penalties for crimes in Texas are harsh. If you’re facing criminal charges in Houston, call the lawyers at The Hill Law Firm today. For legal advocates whom you can trust, reach us now at 713-623-8312.

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