SAN ANTONIO – The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals recently issued an opinion in the case of a Bexar County man convicted of capital murder, reforming his death sentence to life in prison due to intellectual disability, according to the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office.
Geronimo Gutierrez, now 43, was sentenced to death in April 2002. Officials said Gutierrez was found guilty of the 1999 abduction and murder of Rick Marin.
Shortly after the trial, the Supreme Court of the United States held that intellectually disabled persons are exempt from the death penalty, officials said.
Gutierrez’s appeals raised the issue of his own intellectual disability since that ruling, as he has an IQ of 72, according to the district attorney’s office. Officials said the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines intellectual disability in the range of 65-75.
A separate Supreme Court ruling in 2017 found the framework for deciding intellectual disability claims applied to Gutierrez’s initial appeals were unconstitutional because they were not informed by the views of medical experts, officials said. Experts for the state and the defense have since agreed Gutierrez was intellectually disabled.
In 2019, officials said the Court of Criminal Appeals remanded this case to the trial court to make a new recommendation on the issue of intellectual disability.
The Court of Criminal Appeals accepted the trial court’s recommendation. Officials said the recent ruling of the court will bring the appeals of this case to an end.
“The appeals of death penalty cases are lengthy and costly for taxpayers. While the standards for executions of persons with intellectual disabilities have changed since this offense was committed, they still apply to people on death row,” Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales said in a statement. “The evidence of this defendant’s intellectual disability existed at the time of his trial. More than 18 years after his conviction, that evidence remains. This court ruling means this defendant will spend the rest of his life in prison and Mr. Marin’s family will not have to worry about this case coming back for trial. I hope this ruling brings them some peace.”
Officials said this case presented a single, narrow claim that Gutierrez’s death sentence was a violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments because he is intellectually disabled.
The District Attorney’s Office has spoken to Marin’s family, and they are comfortable with the result under these circumstances, according to the district attorney’s office.