Convicted Capital Murderer With Local Connection Loses Appeal

By: Paul J. Gately
By: Paul J. Gately

HOUSTON (August 17, 2012)--A Mexican man on Texas death row for strangling and raping a teenage girl in Waco 25 years ago has lost a federal appeal, taking him a step closer to execution.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 Friday, refusing Ramiro Ibarra's claims of mental impairment, deficient trial attorneys and that he should have received protections under an international treaty covering foreign nationals.

Ibarra, from Mexico, was in the U.S. illegally.

One judge would have allowed appeals regarding poor legal help at his trial.

Court records show 16-year-old Maria Zuniga was killed at her home in 1987.

Ibarra was a family acquaintance arrested the day her body was found but was released because of an improper search warrant.

He wasn't arrested again until 1996.

Ibarra already has lost an appeal in the Supreme Court, who said in May 2008 it would not hear his appeal.

He argued that he was mentally retarded and ineligible for capital punishment under court guidelines.

The 53-year-old Mexican national also contends he was denied legal assistance from the Mexican consulate after his arrest, which is a violation of Geneva Convention protections.

According to prison records, Zuniga was looking after two young nephews at her family's home in Waco when Ibarra attacked and killed her.

Ibarra was a Zuniga family acquaintance.

He was originally charged in 1987, but the complaint was later dropped after a judge suppressed key evidence because of the lack of a search warrant.

A change in the law, however, allowed authorities to present that evidence and Ibarra was indicted for capital murder in 1996.

He was convicted of the killing in September 1997 and attempted suicide the same day.

Two months later, he was convicted of sexual assault in an incident involving a young nephew in Bell County and was sentenced to life.

That case grew out of testimony during the capital murder trial.

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