Aug. 06, 2008
By JOHN MORITZ and NATHANIEL JONESjmoritz@firstname.lastname@example.org
FORT WORTH — An Arlington killer scheduled to die Thursday for gunning down a store manager during a robbery in 2001 lost a bid Tuesday to have his execution date set aside when a judge rejected the argument that putting him to death would violate international law.
Lawyers for Heliberto Chi, a 29-year-old native of Honduras, had asked state District Judge Phillip Vick of Fort Worth to at least postpone the execution on grounds that their client was denied an opportunity to visit with a representative from his native country at the time of his arrest and in the days after.
"How can we expect other countries to honor their agreements with us if we do not honor our agreements with other countries?" lawyer Wes Ball said after Vick declined to set aside the date.
Ball’s argument was similar to the one rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court late Tuesday on behalf of Jose Medellin, a Mexican citizen.
Chi would be the first inmate from Tarrant County to be executed since the Supreme Court ruled in April that the three-drug protocol used in lethal injections does not violate the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Chi, a former employee of the K&G Men’s Superstore in south Arlington, was convicted of gunning down K&G manager Armand Paliotta after persuading the man to let him inside after hours.
Once in the door, Chi pulled a gun and fatally shot the 56-year-old Paliotta in the back and wounded cashier Adrian Riojas, 19. Chi ran to a waiting pickup and fled with two accomplices. He was arrested after six weeks in Los Angeles.
Prosecutors have long insisted that the evidence against Chi is airtight.
Ball said that he intends to continue Chi’s appeals. Even if the courts reject the appeal on the basis that his execution would violate the international Vienna Convention, Ball said, he will appeal on grounds that the United States has a separate treaty with Honduras that allows that country’s citizens to visit with their consulate if they encounter legal trouble in the United States.
Americans have the same rights in Honduras under the treaty, which was signed by both countries in 1928, Ball said.
John Moritz, 512-476-4294 Nathaniel Jones, 817-548-5414
Texas Department of Criminal Justice
Summary of incident
On 3/24/2001, in Arlington, Chi and one co-defendant murdered the manager of a men's clothing store during a robbery. Chi entered a men's clothing store armed with a .38-caliber handgun while the co-defendant waited in the car outside. Chi fatally shot the 56-year old white victim in the back. Chit also shot an 18-year old Hispanic male in the back. The second victim was transported to a local hospital, where he was treated and released.