AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn today said the United States Supreme Court has granted a request by the State of Texas that the death sentence imposed in the capital murder case against Victor Hugo Saldano be vacated and remanded for a new sentencing hearing. The new trial will concern only the issue of punishment, not the judgment of guilt, which remains intact.
Saldano was convicted in 1996 of capital murder in Collin County for the murder of Paul King. Evidence presented at the trial showed that Saldano and an accomplice used a handgun to kidnap King from a grocery store parking lot. He was taken to a secluded spot on a country road where Saldano fatally shot King five times, including once in the head at point-blank range. Saldano stole King's wallet and watch.
"There is no doubt of Mr. Saldano's guilt. A jury properly convicted him of capital murder and that conviction remains in place. During the sentencing phase of the trial, there was sufficient evidence submitted to the jury of Mr. Saldano's 'future dangerousness,' justifying the imposition of the death penalty," Cornyn stated. "Unfortunately, however, evidence of the defendant's race was also introduced before the jury by a district attorney as a factor for the jury to weigh in making its determination. This violated Mr. Saldano's constitutional right to be sentenced without regard to the color of his skin."
Cornyn also said, "We've been conducting an audit over the past couple of months. We've identified eight other cases that may be similar. We will release our findings by the end of the week. We will continue to vigilantly monitor all death penalty cases. Our goal is to assure the people of Texas that our criminal justice system is fairly administered."
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