U. S. Supreme Court upholds Oklahoma death sentences

On the first day of its new term, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear appeals from four Oklahoma death row inmates. Oklahoma's attorney general asked for an execution date for one.
by Chris Casteel Modified: October 1, 2012 at 9:09 pm •  Published: October 1, 2012

— The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected the final appeal of a man convicted of killing an Oklahoma City couple in 1993 and turned away petitions from three other Oklahoma death row inmates.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt requested an execution date for George Ochoa after the high court, without comment, declined to hear his case.

On the first day of its new term, the court rejected appeals from two other men sentenced to death for Oklahoma County slayings and from a death row inmate convicted of murder in Tulsa County. Those three have not exhausted their appeals and may get another chance to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their cases.

Ochoa, 38, was sentenced to death for killing Francisco Morales and Maria Yanez in their Oklahoma City home; both were shot multiple times while their children were in the house.

The jury was unable to reach a verdict in Ochoa's 1995 trial, but a second trial the following year resulted in the death sentences. Ochoa's accomplice, Osvaldo Torres, also was tried and sentenced to death for the murders, but former Gov. Brad Henry commuted his sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole, Pruitt's office said Monday.

In his federal appeals, Ochoa contended that Oklahoma wrongly interpreted a Supreme Court ruling that restricted the execution of mentally retarded people and should have judged his mental capacity at the time of the crime rather than at the time of his trial.

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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