June 20, 2009
Nebraska Supreme Court dismisses lethal-injection appeal
The Nebraska Supreme Court has dismissed a challenge to Nebraska's new lethal injection law filed earlier this month by death row inmate Raymond Mata Jr.
In filing a motion on Mata's behalf, attorney Jerry Soucie, with the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy, said the lethal injection bill, passed by the Legislature in late May and going into effect Aug. 30, was flawed.
He also filed a motion to replace Mata's death sentence with a sentence of life imprisonment. That motion was overruled as moot.
Soucie said he wasn’t surprised by the court's ruling Friday. It will pave the way for issues to be raised in future appeals, he said. It also clarified the issue of the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction.
Mata was sentenced to death for the 1999 killing of his former girlfriend's 3-year-old son, Adam Gomez. Prosecutors said Mata, of Scottsbluff, dismembered the boy, and kept some of his remains in the home to intimidate the mother.
Mata's motion said, among other things, LB36 unconstitutionally delegated authority to the executive branch to determine the lethal injection protocol and procedures. Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning has said the crafting of the law was thorough, taking into account what other states have done and what the U.S. Supreme Court has found to be constitutional.
In dismissing the case, the court said the only circumstances that have changed since Mata filed a similar motion in October were the passage of time and of the lethal injection bill.
"What has not changed, however, is this court’s lack of jurisdiction based on the facts of this case as they currently exist," the court said.
Bruning said Mata's death sentence was affirmed by the court in an earlier ruling, and that decision is final.
"Criminals who commit the ultimate crime deserve the ultimate penalty," he said.
Soucie said he would file a new state appeal on behalf of Mata in the next week to 10 days.
(source: Lincoln Journal Star)
Inmate Personal Information
Crime and Trial Information
* County of conviction: Keith (on
change of venue from Scottsbluff
* Number of counts: One
* Race of Victims: Hispanic
* Gender of Victims: Male
* Date of crime: on or about March
* Date of Sentencing: 06/01/2000
On appeal from second death
State v. Mata, 668 N.W.2d 448 (Neb. 2003) (reversing in part and
remanding for new penalty phase hearing, holding that violation of
Ring v. Arizona in imposing death sentence was plain error), cert.
denied, 543 U.S. 1128 (2005); State v. Mata, 745 N.W.2d 229 (Neb.)
(affirming sentence and staying execution because electric chair
violates 8th amendment), cert. denied, 129 S.Ct. 228 (2008); see
also State v. Rogers, 760 N.W.2d 35 (Neb. 2009) (abrogating State v.
Mata, 668 N.W.2d 448, holding that it is a mixed question of law and
fact whether a statement was voluntarily made, whether a custodial
interrogation has occurred, whether sufficient Miranda warnings
were given to the suspect, whether properly advised Miranda rights
On appeal after second death sentence:
1. whether Nebraska's capital sentencing scheme violates the 8th
2. whether the aggravator instruction was unconstitutionally vague;
3. whether jurors are required to unanimously agree on the means by
which a capital defendant manifested aggravator of exceptional
4. whether the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment in
federal and state Constitutions is a restraint upon the exercise of
5. whether death by electrocution violates prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment
Retired FBI Special Agent Shares Firsthand Account Of 1999 Murder Case
Ron Rawalt, Chadron State College graduate and retired FBI Special Agent, spoke about his experience with the 1999 murder of 3-year-old Adam Gomez in Scottsbluff Thursday evening in the Student Center. Rawalt was a guest of the Justice Studies department and about 100 students and community members attended his presentation.
“The Scottsbluff Police Department coordinated and directed the investigation. They put together a good team. In no way do I want to say that I solved this. All I did was help,” he said.
Rawalt participated in evidence gathering and investigation in the case. He reviewed the background of individuals involved, their relationships to one another, their gang involvement, and the neighborhood where the crime was committed. He also provided a timeline leading up to the murder and dismemberment of Gomez.
The boy’s mother, Patricia Gomez, and the suspect, Raymond Mata, Jr., with whom she was romantically linked, were seen in Torrington a couple days after the boy’s disappearance in March 1999. When Torrington law enforcement officials denied a request by Scottsbluff law enforcement officials’ to send body recovery divers into a small lake near where the couple were spotted, the Scottsbluff Police Department contacted Rawalt seeking assistance.
Rawalt pointed out that being able to call on his friends and co-workers from decades of experience, with the FBI helped him bring resources to the situation and make the most of what he called “some lucky breaks” in the collection of evidence.
Before he arrived in Scottsbluff from his home in North Platte, he asked an officer on the phone if the trash in the area of Gomez’s home had been searched. The officer and his colleagues were focused on looking for a body and, in their sleep deprived state, had not thought of searching dumpsters. They quickly found out that trash had not been collected in the neighborhood. At Rawalt’s urging, sanitation crews stopped the collection process which would have resulted in the loss of key evidence within an hour.
“I was fresh and could offer secondary opinions. They were tired. I told them to get some sleep. It’s easy to miss evidence in that condition,” he said.
One of the interesting dynamics Rawalt noted among his colleagues during the Gomez case was the opinion of prosecuting attorney Doug Warner, who had opposed the death penalty before the case, but sought it for Mata.
He showed slides of the child’s bone fragments and flesh found in a refrigerator, a skillet, a dog’s food dish and sewer lines.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. It is one of the worst crime scenes in my career,” he said.
Rawalt’s friend and the nation’s leading pathologist, Richard Rodriguez, was also able to respond to Rawalt’s request for help. Rodriquez conducted a supplemental forensic exam of Gomez’s skull at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology concluding that a blow to the head killed the child. He was deposed in D.C. and audio recordings and transcripts of his testimony were used in the trial.
“For some reason, I had his home phone number in my wallet. I can’t tell you why I had it, but I did,” Rawalt said.
Mata was found guilty of murder in 2000 and sentenced to death. As of press time, he is still on Death Row.
A uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.
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