Monday, August 29, 2011

Dad gets life for killing 2-year-old son, two stepsons, mother-in-law; mom wounded (Edinburg, Texas)

Dad ROBERTO ROJAS SMILED when he got life in prison and escaped the death penalty in the state of Texas. AFTER SLAUGHTERING FOUR HUMAN BEINGS. No wonder the poor surviving mom and her surviving family members are outraged.

Roberto Rojas granted life
August 27, 2011 12:25 AM
Elizabeth Findell
The Monitor

EDINBURG—It seemed Amelia Flores couldn’t stand to hear the verdict.

Flores, the lone survivor of a 2008 rampage that left her three young children and mother dead, rushed from the courtroom Friday night after hearing that a jury had decided against giving her ex-husband Roberto Rojas the death penalty.

Rojas, 45, was convicted last week of killing his mother-in-law and the children and shooting Flores, 27. The youngest child, 2-year-old Osiel, was Rojas’ son and Silvestre and Mauro Garza, ages 6 and 8, were his stepsons.

Jurors sentenced Rojas to life in prison without parole.

Emotions were heated from the Flores family after Judge AĆ­da Salinas Flores (no relation) read the decision. After Amelia Flores left, her brother Panchito Flores, 24, approached jurors with a heated statement.

“I can’t believe you had mercy on him when he had no mercy on my nephews,” he said. “You’re showing everyone in the world that you can kill your whole family, your own son, and still live.”

Rojas showed little emotion when he walked from the room, except to wave to his family and give them a slight smile.

Jurors had been instructed to answer up to two questions to determine the sentence. First, they had to decide whether it was probable that Rojas will commit a violent act in the future. Only if they answered yes to that would they answer the second question of whether there were any mitigating factors that would warrant life in prison rather than the death penalty.

The jury answered yes to the first question, but at least ten of them agreed on the second question that some factors should save Rojas from death. The group reached the consensus after more than seven hours of deliberation.

Prosecutors had tried to persuade the jury that the only appropriate punishment for Rojas was death as they wrapped up closing arguments for sentencing Friday morning.

"There is nobody more dangerous than the man that sits there," Assistant Criminal District Attorney Michelle Puig said as she gestured to Rojas.

But defense attorney Sergio Valdez argued there was no evidence that Rojas would commit another violent act. He pulled out dual easels to argue that the emotional response surrounding the horror of the crime should be discounted as based on bias, prejudice or sympathy.

"(Amelia Flores) said ‘my kids are no more’ and she cried, and you cried with her," he said. "You sympathized. But that is not evidence (that Rojas will harm someone again)."

Valdez described Rojas as a well-behaved prisoner who never tried to escape and had every incentive to continue that pattern. His jail records included a request to change cells and a request for a Bible.

Rojas wanted to take responsibility for his crimes and wanted the maximum sentence, but the jury couldn’t decide based on that and were compelled to address the two specific questions, Valdez said. He said the very fact that Rojas had requested the maximum sentence could be seen as a mitigating factor for life in prison.

"There’s an irony in the (question), and it’s a tragic irony," Valdez said.

Puig responded that the violence the night of the murders was more than enough to indicate a probability of future violence.

"If you think about what happened that day, you know what he’s capable of," she said. "We need to remember the crime. . .Where was your remorse then?"

Puig characterized the defense as trying to distract jurors from thinking about the night of the murders. She said the considering the family’s pain should not be discounted as bias or prejudice.

"It’s the aftermath," she said.