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Texas court stays execution on intellectual disability grounds

Texas court stays execution on intellectual disability grounds
Ramiro Ibarra was sentenced to death for the 1987 sexual assault and murder of a 16-year-old girl. File Photo courtesy of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice

Feb. 25 (UPI) -- The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has stayed the execution of a man who says he's intellectually disabled and thus can't constitutionally be put to death.

The court handed down the ruling Wednesday, ordering a lower court to review the merits of Ramiro Ibarra's arguments.

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Ibarra, 66, was sentenced to death in 1997 for the sexual assault and murder of 16-year-old Maria Zuniga a decade earlier in McLennan County. He was scheduled to be executed March 4.

Ibarra has challenged his death sentence a number of times on intellectual disability grounds, saying it violates the Eighth Amendment, which bars cruel and unusual punishment.

The court declined the stay on seven other claims presented by Ibarra's lawyers, including that the state relied on "outdated and unreliable DNA tests" to secure his conviction, that the state presented false and misleading evidence, that the death sentence was based on false testimony, and that his execution would violate due process.

Ibarra is the third death-row inmate scheduled to be executed in Texas this year who has received a stay.

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