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Clemency recommended after Mexico plea

Oklahoma's parole board recommended clemency for a death row inmate Friday after Mexico's ambassador to the United States argued that he should be spared in one of 51 U.S. cases cited in world court ruling.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A state board recommended clemency for a death row inmate Friday who supporters say was denied his rights as a Mexican citizen.

Gov. Brad Henry will consider the recommendation of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. Osbaldo Torres, 29, is slated to be put to death May 18 for slaying an Oklahoma City couple during a burglary in 1993.

Torres is one of 51 Mexicans on death row across the country cited in a March 31 ruling by the International Court of Justice in the Hague, Netherlands. The world court found their rights were violated because they were not told they could receive help from their governments as guaranteed by the 1963 Vienna Convention.

Torres is the first Mexican on death row to seek relief under the world court ruling.

Mexican Ambassador Carlos de Icaza told the board that in addition to Torres’ rights’ being violated, the facts of the case fail to show he committed the murders.

A group of 10 former diplomats, professors and law school faculty members has filed legal briefs in support of Torres’ appeal, which is pending before the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.

The group has urged the court to review the case, saying failure to do so has international repercussions.

Torres and a second man were convicted in 1996 in the deaths of Francisco Morales and Maria Yanez. The couple were shot and killed as they lay in bed in their Oklahoma City home.

Torres’ attorneys argue that he and his family weren’t even told they could contact the Mexican consulate. Torres’ parents, who illegally crossed from Mexico into the United States in the mid-1980s, saved their earnings from his father’s welding job and his mother’s cleaning work to pay for their son’s legal defense.

The Torres family contacted the consulate after Torres had been on death row for nearly a year.

Torres’ first trial ended when the jury could not reach a verdict. In his second trial, Torres and co-defendant George Ochoa were both found guilty and sentenced to death.

No execution date has been set for Ochoa, who has several appeals pending, including one claiming that he is mentally retarded.