Texas Condemned killer wins sentencing trial anew Defense was poor

By Michael Graczyk

Associated Press Writer

HOUSTON (AP) -- The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals threw out on Wednesday the death sentence of an Amarillo man convicted of killing three neighbors seven years ago.

The state's highest criminal court agreed with attorneys for Jimmie Lucero, 52, that his trial lawyers did a poor job of investigating his background and presenting mitigating evidence to a jury that decided in 2005 that he should die.

The court sent the case back to his trial court in Amarillo for a new sentencing trial.

Lucero was convicted of fatally shooting Pedro Robledo, 71, his wife, Maria, 72, and the couple's daughter, Maria, 31. Another daughter was seriously wounded in the September 2003 attack but survived.

Evidence showed Lucero had been feuding with his neighbors for some time. Pedro Robledo was shot with a shotgun as he pulled up in front of his Amarillo home. Robledo's wife and daughter were killed inside their house.

Appeals attorneys argued that lawyers ignored signs of Lucero's mental illness, that he was incapable of helping out in his own defense and that he should have been ruled incompetent to stand trial.

In an earlier appeal rejected by the Court of Criminal Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court, Lucero's lawyers contended that his death sentence was improper because a jury foreman read passages of the Bible to holdout jurors who subsequently voted to impose the death penalty.

The Court of Criminal Appeals found the introduction of the Bible into the jury room to be "harmless error." Two jurors who switched their votes said the reading of the Scripture and its content had no impact on their votes.

In two other death penalty cases, the court refused an appeal from John Steven Gardner, 54, convicted of fatally shooting his estranged wife at her Collin County home in 2005. The court also refused an appeal from Juan Carlos Alvarez, 33, a Mexican national condemned for his participation in three shootings that left four people dead over a two-week period in Houston in June 1998.

Published: Fri, Sep 17, 2010