Man convicted of 1998 murder files motion for DNA testing again

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Ruben Gutierrez

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CAMERON COUNTY, Texas (KVEO)—Ruben Gutierrez, who was convicted of murdering an 85-year-old woman in 1998, has filed a motion for DNA testing again.

Gutierrez, 43, is scheduled to be executed in October 2021 after years of appeals and delays.

On Wednesday, Gutierrez’s attorneys filed a motion for post-conviction DNA testing in the 107th District Court of Cameron County, Texas.

According to a news release from the attorney, the police collected several pieces of evidence containing biological material that has never been tested for DNA and can prove Gutierrez did not commit the murder.

“Mr. Gutierrez has sought DNA testing for more than a decade because he knows it will prove he did not commit this crime. The State should be leading the search for the truth, rather than fearing the truth will come out,” said Shawn Nolan, Gutierrez’s attorney.

In 1999, Ruben Gutierrez was found guilty of killing Brownsville resident Escolastica Harrison.

Through the course of the trial, it was revealed Gutierrez stabbed Harrison 13 times with a screwdriver as he and two others robbed the Brownsville home.

Gutierrez was sentenced to death in 1999 and remained on death row for 20 years as his execution date approached.

However, his first execution date was delayed in July 2019 due to a clerical error. When the next execution date approached in October 2019, another clerical error delayed Gutierrez’s death to 2020.

In all this time, Gutierrez maintained his innocence and his attorneys argued that DNA testing was never performed through the course of the investigation.

Harrison, the owner of a mobile home park in Brownsville, had a mistrust of banks, according to prosecutors. That same mistrust prompted her to stash cash away inside suitcases in her home. It was this habit, investigators said, that ultimately caused her to be the center of a murder investigation.

They believe this is evidence that would demonstrate he did not commit Harrison’s murder.

Last year, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals granted an appeal to lift the stay of execution for Gutierrez.

Gutierrez appealed for the stay of execution after he claimed, again, that DNA testing was never performed.

“Throughout his trial and in the subsequent proceedings, Ruben Gutierrez has maintained that he did not kill Escolastica Harrison and that he had no knowledge that others were going to assault or kill her. DNA testing could identify the actual perpetrator(s) of this crime,” according to the motion.

CBS 4 News spoke to Harrison’s family during a special report.

“Myself, personally, I just want to see an end to it,” said Harrison’s nephew, Alex Hernandez. “I just want closure. Life has gone on. My aunt would want me to go on. She would say ‘forgive him.’

During the special report, CBS 4 wanted to get Gutierrez’s side of the story and made the trip to Livingston, Texas, where he is currently incarcerated.

Gutierrez initially agreed to a sit-down interview, but later declined.

“I’m sorry.. I apologize for that. I had a visit this week, the lawyer told me not to do it.” Gutierrez told CBS4.

“Can you tell me, did you murder Miss Harrison,” asked CBS4. “No..” Gutierrez answered.

Ruben Gutierrez declines to be interviewed, 2019.

The state court has denied and dismissed several requests made by Gutierrez. One of those requests included a free-standing motion to delay his execution due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, the Federal District Court granted Gutierrez’s motion for stay of execution.

In April 2019, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice changed execution procedures, stopping all “religious or spiritual advisors” from being in the execution chamber.

Reporter Marybel Gonzalez speaks to Gutierrez, Livingston, Texas

Under the new protocols, the TDCJ says chaplains will be available to the inmates until they are transferred to the execution chamber and from there they must remain in the witness room.

Gutierrez said the new protocol violates his religious beliefs. After his request was denied, Gutierrez filed a lawsuit requesting “a reasonable accommodation to have a Christian chaplain in the execution chamber when he is executed.”

The court came to the conclusion that there are “legal and factual” questions raised by Gutierrez that support his claims.

Barring any more litigation, Gutierrez will face execution on October 27, 22 years after he was convicted of Harrison’s murder.

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