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Dallas Morning News

TEXAS - Death sentence overturned for foreign national

Court upholds decision to toss out death sentence----Argentine laborer was convicted in 1995 Plano murder

A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld a district judge's decision to throw out a death sentence for an Argentine laborer convicted of a 1995 Plano murder.

Former Texas Attorney General John Cornyn had asked for a new sentencing hearing in 2000 for Victor Saldano after a psychologist testified during sentencing that Mr. Saldano was more likely to pose a danger, in part, because he was Hispanic.

A U.S. district judge agreed last year with Mr. Cornyn's intervention, ordering a new hearing.

Collin County District Attorney John Roach had appealed the ruling, saying Mr. Cornyn should not have intervened.

But in Tuesday's ruling, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the lower court, finding evidence that Mr. Cornyn's action "furthers the state's goal of ensuring that capital sentencing is untainted by racial prejudice."

Mr. Roach, the trial judge when Mr. Saldano was convicted in 1996, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Mr. Saldano has confessed to killing 46-year-old Paul King in 1995, when he abducted Mr. King, drove to a secluded road near Lake Lavon, shot him five times and stole his wallet.

Dr. Walter Quijano, a clinical psychologist from Conroe, had testified that one of the 24 factors that made Mr. Saldano a greater threat to society was his Hispanic background.


Court thwarts death sentence over race issue

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has sided with the Texas attorney general, thwarting an attempt to reinstate a death sentence in a case that has drawn international attention.

The 3-judge panel's decision blocked an effort by Collin County District Attorney John Roach to restore Victor Hugo Saldano's death sentence. The U.S. Supreme Court threw the sentence out because Saldano's ethnicity was considered in the trial's penalty phase.

Saldano, 32, of Argentina, was condemned for the 1995 abduction, robbery and shooting of Paul King in that North Texas county.

The appeals court ruling reaffirms the authority of Attorney General Greg Abbott and his predecessor, now U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, to assert that testimony about Saldano's ethnicity should not have been allowed.

Roach had sought to intervene in the appeal.

"Simply because the district attorney would have made a different decision does not mean that the attorney general is inadequately representing the state's interest," the court stated this week.

The court disagreed with Roach's argument that his interests conflicted with the attorney general's.

"The fact remains that the attorney general and the district attorney share an identical interest in this case: to see that justice is done," the opinion states.

Stanley Schneider, hired by the Argentine government to represent Saldano, said, "No prosecutor should be allowed to try and execute someone, using race as a possible factor. To his credit, Mr. Abbott has taken a very strong position in this regard."

A spokesman for Abbott's office declined to comment. Roach did not respond to requests for comment.

Saldano's case drew widespread attention in South and Central America, said attorney Scott Atlas, hired by 5 Latin American countries and 6 civil rights organizations to join in the case.

"The countries in Latin America were quite offended by the notion that someone of Latin American heritage was somewhat more likely to be a danger than someone not Hispanic," Atlas said.

He was referring to testimony by psychologist Walter Quijano in the penalty phase of Saldano's trial in 1996. Quijano said that Saldano's ethnicity could be a factor in whether he posed a future danger, citing the over-representation of blacks and Hispanics in the prison system.

A jury finding that a defendant poses a future danger to society is one of the conditions for the death penalty.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the sentence in 1999, but the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with Cornyn in 2000 and threw it out.

"Because the use of race in Saldano's sentencing seriously undermined the fairness, integrity or public reputation of the judicial process, Texas confesses error and agrees that Saldano is entitled to a new sentencing hearing," Cornyn wrote to the Supreme Court.

The high court's decision led to the reversal of four other Texas death sentences and prompted the Legislature to ban the use of racially charged testimony.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the death sentence again in 2002, but a federal district court overturned the sentence and refused to allow Roach to intervene.

Roach then appealed to the 5th Circuit Court. He has 14 days to seek a review by the 3-judge panel, the entire court or the Supreme Court, Atlas said.


En Texas, EE.UU. Revocaron la pena de muerte para Saldaño

El argentino tendría un nuevo proceso

La Corte Federal del Quinto Circuito de Nueva Orleáns, en los Estados Unidos, confirmó la revocatoria de la pena de muerte impuesta al argentino Víctor Hugo Saldaño, condenado en 1996 por la Corte Penal del condado de Collin, a raíz del asesinato de un ciudadano norteamericano.

La Corte de Beaumont ya había fallado en favor de la revocatoria el 17 de junio de 2003, pero un fiscal de Collin había apelado la medida. Finalmente, el miércoles último, una Corte Federal de Nueva Orleáns ratificó que Saldaño no será condenado a muerte, al denegar la apelación del fiscal y confirmar la sentencia revocatoria.

La resolución de la Corte de Beaumont ordena que Saldaño debe quedar en libertad, a menos que el estado de Texas, dentro de los 180 días desde la emisión de la orden, disponga iniciarle un proceso de sentencia o bien modificar la sentencia por la de prisión perpetua.

La cancillería argentina emitió ayer un comunicado en el que analiza la resolución de la Corte Federal de Nueva Orleáns como un triunfo de los derechos humanos.

Discriminado por ser latino

Como vale recordar, el proceso judicial seguido contra Saldaño fue considerado "viciado de consignas discriminatorias" por el abogado asesor de la familia del acusado, Juan Carlos Vega. Según el abogado, las pruebas de la discriminación fueron "la composición del jurado y el protocolo psiquiátrico, una especie de multiple choice que incluía cuatro preguntas netamente racistas y también el hecho de que el abogado defensor ni siquiera hablaba el idioma castellano".

Esos hechos fueron presentados ante la Convención Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, en la causa "Saldaño contra los Estados Unidos".

Texas, finalmente, sancionó la "ley Saldaño", que impide la invocación de la raza en los procesos de pena capital en dicho estado.


Federal Court Blocks Texas Death Sentence Over Racially Charged Testimony
Posted: April 5, 2004
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit has blocked a Texas District
Attorney's final attempt to restore the death sentence of Victor Hugo
Saldano, who was removed from Texas's death row in 2000 because of the use
of racially charged testimony at his trial. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled
that former Texas Attorney General John Cornyn was right to dismiss Saldano'
s death sentence because it was based on state testimony encouraging racial
bias.


La Nation - Argentina

Estados Unidos: revocan la pena de muerte para Víctor Saldaño El ciudadano argentino había sido condenado en 1996 en fallo que contenía consignas discriminatorias

Nuevamente los tribunales de justicia de los Estados Unidos se pronunciaron en favor de la revocación de la pena de muerte impuesta al ciudadano argentino Víctor Hugo Saldaño, informó la Cancillería. .

 Saldaño había sido condenado a muerte en 1996 en un polémico fallo que contenía consignas discriminatorias. . El 24 de marzo de 2004, la Corte Federal del Quinto Circuito de Nueva Orléans denegó la apelación del fiscal del distrito de Collin y confirmó la sentencia revocatoria de la pena de muerte de Víctor Saldaño, dictada el 17 de junio de 2003 por la Corte de Beaumont.

En su parte resolutiva, la sentencia de 2003 ordena poner en libertad a Saldaño a menos que el estado de Texas, dentro de los 180 días a partir de la fecha de emisión de esta orden, disponga iniciar un proceso de sentencia o cambiar su sentencia por prisión perpetua.

 De esta manera, se confirma la sentencia de la Corte de Beaumont, tras más de cuatro años de esfuerzos de la Argentina.

Con la confirmación del fallo del tribunal de Beaumont comenzará a computarse el plazo de 180 días para que el estado de Texas decida conmutar la pena o inicie un nuevo proceso en el que no se decidirá sobre la culpabilidad de Saldaño en el homicidio, sino exclusivamente sobre la pena correspondiente.


El Clarin

EL CASO DEL ARGENTINO VICTOR SALDAÑO

Fallo a favor de un condenado a muerte

La Justicia de los Estados Unidos volvió a pronunciarse a favor de la revocación de la pena de muerte a la que había sido sentenciado el argentino Víctor Hugo Saldaño por un asesinato cometido en ese país, informó la Cancillería argentina.

"El 24 de marzo de 2004, la Corte Federal del Quinto Circuito de Nueva Orleans denegó la apelación del fiscal del distrito de Collin y confirmó la sentencia revocatoria de la pena de muerte de Víctor Saldaño, dictada el 17 de junio de 2003 por la Corte de Beaumont", informó la Cancillería, según la agencia Télam.

Así, cobra vigencia la sentencia por la que se ordenó la libertad de Saldaño a menos que el estado de Texas, en 180 días, inicie un nuevo juicio o cambie su sentencia por prisión perpetua.