A Texas hit man on death row for a life insurance murder plot was executed after being denied a reprieve by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Rolando Ruiz was scheduled to be executed in Texas on March 7 after the nation’s highest court rejected his challenge to the sentence. He sought reprieve in part because of the lengthy time he spent on death row. Justice Stephen Breyer dissented in the decision to let the execution go ahead.
Texas had until midnight to execute Ruiz, and the state executed Ruiz at 11:06 p.m.
Ruiz had been on death row for 22 years, and his lawyers argued that his execution violated the 8th amendment because his solitary confinement was a “traumatic” condition.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Ruiz Shot & Killed a Woman in an Arranged Murder
According to the Associated Press, Ruiz, now 44, was convicted of killing Theresa Rodriguez, 29, in 1992 for $2,000. “Evidence showed her husband and brother-in-law both orchestrated her contract murder,” reported the AP.
The San Antonio woman was remembered as “naturally talented, excelling at everything she pursued — cheerleading, volleyball, piano, dance,” according to the San Antonio Express-News. “She was born into a close-knit Catholic family, the oldest of six children.”
CBS News reported that the murder plot was a “life insurance scheme.”
According to the Texas Attorney General, “Ruiz was released from the Bexar County Jail where he was being held on a robbery charge. About six days later, on a Thursday, Ruiz was approached by Mark Rodriguez, who asked him if he wanted to make some money by robbing and killing Mark’s sister-in-law, Theresa Rodriguez. Ruiz spoke with the victim’s husband, Michael Rodriguez, at which time Michael instructed Ruiz that on the following Friday, July 10, 1992, Michael, Mark, and Theresa would go to the Macaroni Grill restaurant where he wanted Ruiz to rob and kill Theresa immediately after they arrived at the restaurant. Michael told Ruiz he would pay him one thousand dollars up front and another thousand when the job was complete, and Ruiz agreed.”
2. The Lethal Injection Was the Fifth Nationally in 2017
Ruiz’ execution was the third in Texas in 2017 and the fifth nationally, according to CBS News.
The order of execution was in place until midnight on March 7. His execution was previously stayed twice, reported the Express News. The San Antonio newspaper reported that Ruiz “claimed that his attorneys did not properly represent him and follow leads in a psychologist’s report that could have reduced his sentence.”
According to the Texas AG, during the penalty phase of his trial, evidence was presented of past violent tendencies.
“Samuel Perez testified that he knew Ruiz to be violent and to carry guns. Kristian Villareal testified that she had also known Ruiz to carry guns, and that he frequently got into fights. She stated that, in her opinion, Ruiz did not have a conscience, and she was concerned Ruiz would shoot the police when they came to arrest him. Rudolfo Espinoza then testified that he and Ruiz were in a neighborhood gang called the ‘Bad Boys,’ and that Ruiz preferred to resolve disputes through the use of violence rather than verbally,” the AG report says.
3. Ruiz Pretended He was Asking For Directions Before Shooting the Victim
CBS News reported that Ruiz tried to fool the victim by approaching her husband for directions.
“As Theresa Rodriguez was getting out of the car, Ruiz put a .357 Magnum revolver to her head and fired,” CBS reported, adding that the victim’s husband stood to collect at least $250,000 in life insurance from his wife’s death.
The Texas AG described what unfolded this way: “Mark (the victim’s husband) told Ruiz that they were presently at the movie theater; Ruiz was to go there and follow them home. Ruiz followed them home from the theater where he parked his car, approached Mark, and pretended to ask for directions. Michael exited the car, opened the trunk and gave Mark a gym bag. Ruiz asked Mark, ‘Do I do it?’ to which Mark replied, ‘Yes.’ Michael got back in the car and parked it in his garage. Ruiz then walked up to the passenger side of the car and, as Theresa opened the car door, pointed the gun to her head and shot her once. Without taking her purse, Ruiz ran back to his car and drove away.”
He then went to play basketball, showing no remorse, according to the San Antonio Express News.
Theresa’s husband was executed years ago in a separate case, according to the AP. After being sentenced to life in prison for the murder-for-hire plot, he broke out of jail and was implicated in the murder of a police officer, reported the Express-News.
4. Ruiz’ Lawyers Argued He Had Poor Representation & It Was Cruel He’s Been on Death Row So Long
Ruiz has been on death row since 1995.
According to KWTX-TV, his lawyers argued to SCOTUS that Ruiz “had multiple execution dates and two reprieves, and the lengthy time was the result of poor state-appointed lawyers.”
Ruiz’ execution was delayed about four hours, reported the AP.
A friend wrote on a support page for Ruiz on Facebook: “My best guy friend ever! The childhood crush and love ❤️ my life is up for execution tomorrow for an act he was involved in as a young man! This is our 3rd time he’s up for execution! I’m happy but sad! I know Rolando Ruiz has been saved by our great Lord & Savior our God & Jesus Christ but at the same time the thought of him possibly leaving tomorrow hurts so bad! Prayers uplifted to his mother Monica & his stepfather Paul! Much love and prayers for all!❤️??”
5. Ruiz Was Allegedly Abused as a Child, Which Led Him to a Life of Substance Abuse
According to Death Penalty News, Ruiz was allegedly abused as a child, “which led him to be addicted to drugs and alcohol. Rolando also claims that because of his excessive use of drugs and alcohol, he has difficulty distinguishing between fantasy and reality.”
Ruiz had a previous aggravated robbery conviction, and the government has argued he’s been part of a prison gang.
Before the murder, he worked as a laborer, dropping out of school in 10th grade. “Rolando has previously been arrested and served time for assaulting his ex-girlfriend and stealing her vehicle. While in prison, he assaulted a jailer,” reported Death Penalty News.