The Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to block the execution of a Texas man who contended that jurors relied on racist stereotypes and anti-Hispanic prejudices in sentencing him to death.
In a brief, unsigned order, the justices turned down a request from Wesley Ruiz, who was convicted and sentenced to death for the fatal 2007 shooting of Mark Nix, a Dallas police officer. There were no public dissents from Wednesday’s order.
Ruiz was scheduled to be executed on Wednesday evening.
Ruiz’s initial efforts to overturn his death sentence were unsuccessful. But Ruiz returned to court last month with signed affidavits from two jurors. One juror, the foreman at his trial, described Ruiz as “like an animal,” “a mad dog,” and “a thug & punk.” Another juror attributed an increase in crime to the growing number of Hispanic residents in her own neighborhood, and she disclosed that her sister had been violently assaulted by a man whom she believed to be Hispanic. The jurors relied on these stereotypes, Ruiz argued, to conclude that Ruiz was likely to be violent in prison and therefore should be sentenced to death.
After he failed to obtain relief in both the state courts and a federal district court, Ruiz sought emergency relief at the Supreme Court on Tuesday. He asked the justices to put his execution on hold and decide whether the court’s 2017 decision in Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado, carving out an exception for evidence that a juror was racially biased to a state rule that generally bars jurors from testifying about statements that might call the verdict into question, applies to sentencing proceedings in death-penalty cases.
Lawyers for Texas urged the justices to allow the execution to go forward as scheduled, dismissing Ruiz’s appeal as too little, too late. “Corporal Nix’s family,” the state concluded, “has waited for justice for sixteen years.”
This post is also published on SCOTUSblog.