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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0 responses to “DA’s Office Does Right”

  1. It is good to hear a story like that even though it was a tragic, decency from the prosecution seams to be a thing of the past in most places. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. It made sense not to prosecute him at age 70. Why waste so much of Tax payers money. Over time he realized his guild and sorry, so let him outlive his life in prison.

  3. Judging by the positions taken by former HCDA’s, I do not envision such an event happening back then, or, thank God, if the old attitutes were continued under a “new” HCDA.

  4. Off the subject…..but any legal remedies for dismissed (harrassed and intimidated) juror who reports activities to the judge, only to be the one dismissed? Since when does reasonable doubt not mean reasonable doubt? Guess that’s one way to get rid of the lone dissenter and the need to “continue deliberations.” No wonder so many innocent are sent to their deaths in these travesties of justice. Scales of justice? Please. What an eye-opener in the inner-workings and manipulation of the Texas criminal justice system.

    • I don’t know of any legal remedies, but shining some light on this might keep it from happening again. Can you give me some details, either here or via email?

  5. Actually, decent things are done by prosecutors all the time. This was simply bigger than most of them.

    • SC is right: prosecutors do decent things all the time. Maybe even most of the time.

      The problem is that when a prosecutor doesn’t do the decent thing, somebody’s life often gets ruined (and that somebody is not always the accused).

      Houston has beautiful sunny days all the time. Then there are hurricanes.

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