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Texas inmate’s half sister sparks death sentence fight

The Texas death row inmate stabbed a man 29 times, robbing him of $1.25

By Mary Ann Cavazos
Corpus Christi Caller-Times

AUSTIN, Texas — John Henry Ramirez isn’t ready to die after all.

The Texas death row inmate was convicted of capital murder in 2008 for the July 19, 2004, stabbing of convenience store clerk Pablo Castro.

Castro was stabbed 29 times and robbed of $1.25 as he was taking out trash at a convenience store on Baldwin Boulevard.

Ramirez, now 27, had decided months ago that he wanted to expedite his execution by ending his legal fight to appeal his conviction.

He was brought to 94th District Judge Bobby Galvan’s court on Friday for a hearing on the issue.

But the hearing was canceled because Ramirez changed his mind.

Ramirez told a psychologist last month he had started having second thoughts about giving up the legal fight because he found out he has a paternal half sister.

The teenage sister and her mother wrote to him and urged him to stay alive after media coverage about his wish to waive appeals. Ramirez told the psychologist that he wants to get to know his newly discovered sibling.

“Now I got a little hope - a lifeline to hold on to. (I’d like to) give her a chance, see where it goes,” Ramirez said.

A new hearing, which will focus on the merits of his latest appeal, will be at 9 a.m. Wednesday in Galvan’s court. The judge will make his recommendations to the Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin. That court would then make a ruling on the appeal.

Before changing his mind, Ramirez wrote a letter in June to Galvan explaining why he wanted to waive his appeals including that he didn’t want to continue to waste taxpayer money. “I hope justice will be served for the family and friends of Pablo Castro in a speedy fashion,” he wrote. “They’ve waited long enough!”

He also asked the judge to allow him to address his family, Castro’s family and the media when he receives his execution date.

Ramirez gave additional reasons to the psychologist for wanting to speed up the process. The psychologist’s report says he described being on death row as “boring, tedious, tiring ... just a trash life.” He said he was bitter, frustrated and depressed, according to the psychologist’s report. Ramirez acknowledged during the psychologist’s evaluation that he would feel differently about his appeals if he wasn’t depressed.

“But why stall the inevitable? It’s on their terms,” he told the psychologist. “I’d understand if I had support, (someone to) just show me you care ... I prefer to go on my own terms. It’s a personal choice, not like I’m being forced to the decision.”

Ramirez also said during the evaluation he wasn’t afraid to die and spoke about finding God.

“I found God a long time ago but I’m not gonna turn holy roller since I ruined my life. God ain’t going save me,” Ramirez told the doctor.

Now that Ramirez has decided to continue to fight his conviction the appeals process could stave off execution for years.

On average, Texas death row inmates spend about a decade on death row before they are executed, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Castro’s killing was one of three robberies Ramirez, Angela Rodriguez and Christina Chavez were accused of committing together in the same night. The two women were caught that night and are serving prison time. Ramirez eluded authorities until his 2008 capture near Brownsville.

Ramirez remains in the Nueces County Jail as he awaits a Wednesday hearing.

Copyright 2011 SCRIPPS Howard Publications