THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF TEXAS
Ken Paxton

MEDIA ADVISORY: Rolando Ruiz Scheduled for Execution

Tuesday, March 7, 2017 – Austin

Pursuant to a court order by the 227th District Court of Bexar County, Rolando Ruiz is scheduled for execution after 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 7, 2017.

On January 18, 1995, Ruiz was found guilty of the July 14, 1992, capital murder of Theresa Rodriguez and was sentenced to death by the jury on January 20, 1995. Below is a summary of the evidence presented at trial.

 

FACTS OF THE CASE

In a voluntary statement taken on July 23, 1992, by the San Antonio Police Department:

Ruiz admitted to the July 14, 1992, murder-for-hire of Theresa Rodriguez. In this statement, which was read to the jury, Ruiz admitted that on the Friday before the first week in July, Ruiz was released from the Bexar County Jail where he was being held on a robbery charge. About six days later, on a Thursday, Ruiz was approached by Mark Rodriguez, who asked him if he wanted to make some money by robbing and killing Mark’s sister-in-law, Theresa Rodriguez. Ruiz spoke with the victim’s husband, Michael Rodriguez, at which time Michael instructed Ruiz that on the following Friday, July 10, 1992, Michael, Mark, and Theresa would go to the Macaroni Grill restaurant where he wanted Ruiz to rob and kill Theresa immediately after they arrived at the restaurant. Michael told Ruiz he would pay him one thousand dollars up front and another thousand when the job was complete, and Ruiz agreed. 

On Friday night, pursuant to the plan, Ruiz went to the Macaroni Grill prepared to commit the murder, but saw a security guard and called it off. Ruiz and Michael spoke the next day and agreed to carry out the plan that night at the movies once the Rodriguezes left the theater. However, the Rodriguezes did not show up that evening. On Tuesday, July 14, 1992, Mark told Ruiz that they were presently at the movie theater; Ruiz was to go there and follow them home. Ruiz followed them home from the theater where he parked his car, approached Mark, and pretended to ask for directions. Michael exited the car, opened the trunk and gave Mark a gym bag. Ruiz asked Mark, “Do I do it?” to which Mark replied, “Yes.” Michael got back in the car and parked it in his garage.  Ruiz then walked up to the passenger side of the car and, as Theresa opened the car door, pointed the gun to her head and shot her once. Without taking her purse, Ruiz ran back to his car and drove away. After leaving the scene, Ruiz spent the rest of the evening playing basketball. Ruiz received final payment for the murder on July 17, 1992.

 

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On October 21, 1992, a Bexar County grand jury indicted Ruiz for the capital murder of Theresa Rodriguez committed for the promise of remuneration. 

On January 18, 1995, Ruiz was found guilty by a jury for the offense of capital murder as charged in the indictment. After a separate punishment proceeding, Ruiz was sentenced to death on January 20, 1995.

On February 25, 1998, Ruiz’s conviction and sentence were affirmed by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on direct appeal. Ruiz did not seek certiorari review of that judgment in the Supreme Court.

On September 15, 1997, Ruiz filed an application for state habeas corpus relief, and an evidentiary hearing was held in the state trial court on July 9, 1998. 

On April 2, 2003, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ultimately denied Ruiz’s state habeas application.

On February 18, 2004, Ruiz filed a federal petition for writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division.

On August 29, 2005, the federal district court denied Ruiz the relief requested in his federal habeas petition. The court later granted Ruiz a certificate of appealability (COA) on one issue on October 12, 2005.         

On February 10, 2006, Ruiz appealed the district court’s decision to the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and concurrently filed an application for an additional COA.

On August 10, 2006, the Fifth Circuit issued a published opinion affirming the judgment of the district court and refusing to grant Ruiz the requested additional COA. The Fifth Circuit then denied Ruiz’s petition for rehearing en banc on September 14, 2006.

Ruiz filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court on December 13, 2006. The Supreme Court denied review on March 19, 2007.

On April 3, 2007, the trial court issued an order setting Ruiz’s execution date for July 10, 2007.

On July 2, 2007, a week before his scheduled execution date, Ruiz filed a subsequent application for state habeas corpus relief alleging that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance (IATC claim).

On July 6, 2007, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed the application as an abuse of the writ.

On July 9, 2007, Ruiz returned to federal court and filed motion for relief from judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b). The district court promptly denied Ruiz’s motion around noon on July 10, 2007, the day of Ruiz’s scheduled execution.

That same day, Ruiz appealed the district court’s decision to the Fifth Circuit. Ruiz also filed an appeal of the state court’s dismissal of his subsequent writ to the Supreme Court, as a well as an original petition for habeas corpus relief in the Supreme Court. Around 7:00 p.m., the Fifth Circuit issued a temporary stay of execution in order to allow for more time to review the issue before it.

Following additional briefing and oral argument, the Fifth Circuit issued a published opinion on October 11, 2007, reversing the lower court’s order denying Ruiz’s Rule 60(b) motion and remanding for consideration of Ruiz’s IATC claims on the merits. The Director’s petition for rehearing en banc was then denied on June 6, 2008.

Ruiz returned to federal district court and eventually filed an amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus on January 20, 2009. A two-day evidentiary hearing was held on Ruiz’s IATC claims on November 2 and November 3, 2010.     

On April 6, 2011, the federal district court denied Ruiz the relief requested in his amended federal habeas petition. 

On August 4, 2011, Ruiz appealed the district court’s decision to the Fifth Circuit, who affirmed the district court’s decision and denied Ruiz’s request for COA in a published opinion delivered on August 26, 2013.

Ruiz then filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in the Supreme Court on January 21, 2014. The Supreme Court denied review on May 19, 2014

On March 10, 2016, the state trial court issued an order setting Ruiz’s execution date for August 31, 2016.

On August 11, 2016, Ruiz filed a subsequent application for state habeas corpus relief in which he re-alleged his IATC claim. He also filed a motion for stay of execution to allow for consideration of his habeas application.

On August 26, 2016, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted Ruiz’s motion for stay. However, the court dismissed Ruiz’s subsequent petition as an abuse of the writ November 9, 2016.

On December 2, 2016, the state trial court issued an order setting Ruiz’s execution date for March 7, 2017.   

 

PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY

In addition to the cold-blooded nature of the murder, the jury heard evidence at the punishment phase of trial of Ruiz’s propensity for violence:

Samuel Perez testified that he knew Ruiz to be violent and to carry guns. Kristian Villareal testified that she had also known Ruiz to carry guns, and that he frequently got into fights. She stated that, in her opinion, Ruiz did not have a conscience, and she was concerned Ruiz would shoot the police when they came to arrest him. Rudolfo Espinoza then testified that he and Ruiz were in a neighborhood gang called the “Bad Boys,” and that Ruiz preferred to resolve disputes through the use of violence rather than verbally.

The State also presented evidence of a prior conviction for aggravated robbery committed on June 8, 1992. The evidence showed that Ruiz dragged his then-girlfriend Roxanne Conway out of her truck, then beat her with his fists and kicked her teeth out with his boots. Ruiz then pulled another woman out of the truck and stole the truck, leaving the women behind; when the truck was found a few minutes later, it had been vandalized. Conway admitted fearing for her life at the time of the assault.

The State further presented evidence of Ruiz’s violent misconduct while he was in jail. Bexar County detention officer Robert Guiterrez testified that on one occasion, Ruiz charged out of his cell in an attempt to attack another inmate, and that it took two officers to subdue Ruiz after this incident.  Evidence was also presented indicating that Ruiz was a member of the Texas Syndicate prison gang, and that on September 6, 1992, Ruiz and three members of the gang attacked another inmate who was being returned to his cell, which resulted in a detention officer being struck in the face.  On April 21, 1993, Ruiz was involved in another altercation in which four detention officers were assaulted. A video recording of a portion of this incident was played for the jury.

 

MISCELLANEOUS

For additional information and statistics, please access the Texas Department of Criminal Justice website at www.tdcj.state.tx.us.