Texas inmate wants to die, Supreme Court gives OK
HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — Texas inmate Daniel Lee Lopez wants to be put to death Wednesday evening for striking and killing a police lieutenant with an SUV during a chase more than six years ago, and the U.S. Supreme Court is allowing his wishes to be carried out.
The justices turned down an appeal from Lopez's attorneys who disregarded both his desire to die and lower court rulings that Lopez was competent to make that decision. The brief three-sentence order was issued about five hours before Lopez could be taken to the death chamber in Huntsville for lethal injection.
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Lopez's "obvious and severe mental illness" was responsible for his desire to use the legal system for suicide, illustrating his "well-documented history of irrational behavior and suicidal tendencies," attorney David Dow, who is representing Lopez, told the court. Dow also argued the March 2009 crime was not a capital murder because Lopez didn't intend to kill Corpus Christi Lt. Stuart Alexander.
Alexander, 47, was standing in a grassy area on the side of a highway where he had put spike strips when he was struck by the sport utility vehicle Lopez was fleeing in.
"I've accepted my fate," Lopez, 27, said last week from death row. "I'm just ready to move on."
Lopez, who also wrote letters to a federal judge and pleaded for his execution to move forward, said a Supreme Court reprieve would be "disappointing."
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Nueces County District Attorney Mark Skurka said Lopez showed "no regard for human life" when he fought with an officer during a traffic stop, then sped away, evading pursuing officers and striking Alexander, who had been on the police force for 20 years. Even when he finally was cornered by police cars, Lopez tried ramming his SUV to escape and didn't stop until he was shot.
"Daniel Lopez is amoral," Skurka said Tuesday. "He had no moral scruples, no nothing. It was always about Daniel Lopez, and it's still about Daniel Lopez.
"He's a bad, bad guy."
Lopez was properly examined by a psychologist, testified at a federal court hearing about his desire to drop appeals and was found to have no mental defects, state attorneys said in opposing delays to the punishment.
Deputies found a dozen packets of cocaine and a small scale in a false compartment in the console of the SUV.
Records show Lopez was on probation at the time after pleading guilty to indecency with a child in Galveston County and was a registered sex offender. He had other arrests for assault.
Testimony at his trial showed he had at least five children by three women, and a sixth was born while he was jailed for Alexander's death. Court records show he had sex with girls as young as 14 and had a history of assaults and other trouble while in school, where he was a 10th-grade dropout. Records also show he told the mother of one of his former girlfriends that he wanted the death penalty because he believed after his execution his children all would be eligible for Social Security benefits until they turned 18.
Lopez would be the 10th inmate executed this year in Texas, which carries out capital punishment more than any other state. Nationally, 18 prisoners have been put to death this year, with Texas accounting for 50 percent of them.
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