Mexican to be executed

Police who stopped at a convenience store more than 20 years ago in South Texas determined two men at the business were drunk and told them to find a friend to drive them home.

Ruben Ramirez Cardenas and buddy Jose Antonio Lopez Castillo instead dropped off their designated driver after a short distance and Cardenas drove the rest of the way to his home in Edinburg — to get a bottle of brandy. Then they hit the road again and headed to an apartment where Cardenas' 16-year-old cousin, Mayra Laguna, lived about 16 kilometres away in McAllen.

Laguna was later found fatally beaten, her body rolled down a bank and into a canal near a lake in the Texas Rio Grande Valley.

Cardenas, 47, a Mexican citizen who grew up in the Texas Rio Grande Valley, is set to be executed Wednesday for Laguna's February 1997 abduction and slaying. He would be the seventh inmate executed this year in Texas, which carries out the death penalty more than any other state.

Attorneys for Cardenas say they plan to file multiple federal court appeals hoping to delay his punishment. They already appealed to state courts, arguing that evidence in his case should undergo new DNA testing because previous testing that pointed to him might not be reliable. Those courts rejected their arguments.

Prosecutors have called the DNA testing request a delay tactic. It's not clear if the lawyers will present the DNA argument at the federal level.

Attorney Maurie Levin, an attorney for Cardenas, said Tuesday the trial court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state's highest criminal court, used "legal technicalities" to block new DNA testing "that could prove his innocence."

Levin also argued the eyewitness testimony against Cardenas was shaky, contended that little physical evidence tied him to the killing and said a confession from him was obtained only after 22 hours of isolation and intense police questioning.

"All hallmarks of wrongful convictions," Levin said. "To permit his execution to proceed when there is potentially exculpatory DNA testing available violates the most basic notions of fairness and justice."

She added that the Mexican-born Cardenas wasn't told he could get legal help from the Mexican consulate.

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