DA’s Office Does Right
From UH Law professor David Dow:
In December 2008, Mariano Rosales obtained federal habeas relief on a Batson claim. The district court found that race had improperly influenced the prosecution’s decision to strike at least three jurors. The attorney general elected not to appeal. Rosales was convicted in connection with a tragic shooting in 1985. Rosales’ wife Mary was having an affair with Hector Balboa. Rosales went to confront them. Upon entering the house where the two were sleeping together, Rosales fatally shot Pete Rodriguez. He then shot 14-year-old Rachel Balboa, the younger sister of Hector. She also died. Rosales next shot Patricia Balboa, another sister of Hector, and the girlfried of Rodriguez. She survived. Rosales finally shot Hector Balboa three times. He survived. Rosales’ wife hid throughout the ordeal and was not physically injured. Rosales was convicted and sentenced to death for the shooting of Rachel Balboa. That conviction was vacated in the federal habeas proceedings. He was not prosecuted for any of the other three shootings. When he arrived on death row in December 1985, Rosales was 46 years old. Rosales will turn 70 this July. Once the attorney general’s office elected not to appeal the grant of habeas relief, Rosales’s lawyers approached the Harris County District Attorney’s office and offered to plead guilty to the second murder (the murder of Pete Rodriguez), and well as the attempts on Patricia Balboa and Hector Balboa, and accept consecutive life sentences, in exchange for the DA’s decision not to seek death again, in the case of either of the two homicides. The DA’s office agreed that it would be a waste of resources to seek another death sentence against an elderly man who would almost certainly die of natural causes before any death sentence could be carried out. When the final plea was entered earlier this week, members of the Balboa family addressed Rosales. They told him he had destroyed their family and extinguished innocent lives, while ruining others. Rosales nodded in agreement. He told them how truly sorry and remorseful he is. The Balboas also told Rosales they knew he had grievously injured his own family, and Rosales nodded in agreement with that observation as well. Finally the Balboas told Rosales they did not want to see him die, and that they forgave him. Rosales himself was visibly moved and started to cry. It took flexibility, creativity, and sheer decency for the DA’s office to facilitate this plea agreement. Despite resistance from some career prosecutors, the DA’s office understood that Rosales is an elderly and truly apologetic man who presents no danger to anyone inside prison, and that it would be a waste of resources to seek another death sentence. Pat Lykos and Jim Leitner deserve the credit for making this deal come about.
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