Federal judge stays Gutierrez execution set for next week

BROWNSVILLE (AP) — A federal judge on Tuesday stayed the execution set for next week of a man condemned for the fatal stabbing more than 20 years ago of an 85-year-old woman.

Ruben Gutierrez, 43, was to die next Tuesday for the 1998 killing of Escolastica Harrison at her Brownsville home. Prosecutors said the killing was part of an attempt to steal more than $600,000 the woman had hidden in her home.

His attorneys, however, have long sought DNA testing of evidence they say could save him and the presence of a Christian chaplain in the execution chamber. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice, by policy, prohibits all religious or spiritual advisors from entering the state death chamber for an execution.

U.S. District Judge Hilda Tagle of Brownsville concurred Tuesday. In a three-page opinion, Tagle “concludes that Gutierrez has made a showing of likelihood of success on the merits of at least one of his DNA or execution-chamber claims.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals had granted Gutierrez a stay last October after his attorneys pointed out a flaw in his original death warrant.

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