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Texas court resentences 2 death row prisoners to life

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Texas court resentences 2 death row prisoners to life
Steven Butler was sentenced to death in 1988 for the shooting death of Velma Clemons during the robbery of a Houston-area dry cleaning store where she worked in 1986. Photo courtesy of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice

May 25 (UPI) -- A Texas appellate court on Wednesday resentenced two death row prisoners to life in prison, both on their claims of intellectual disability.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals resentenced Steven Anthony Butler, 60, and Juan Ramon Meza Segundo, 59, after previously denying both of their intellectual disability claims, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

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Butler, originally from Natchez, Miss., was sentenced to death in 1988 for the shooting death of Velma Clemons during the robbery of a Houston-area dry cleaning store where she worked in 1986.

Butler's lawyers argued he was intellectually disabled and that his execution would violate Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment. They said he may not have been competent to stand trial since he blamed imaginary people for his crimes.

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Segundo, meanwhile, was sentenced to death for the 1986 rape and murder of Vanessa Villa, an 11-year-old girl, at her home in Fort Worth. Her mother had left her home alone to run errands and the girl was found strangled to death in her bed.

DNA evidence linked Segundo to the crime in 2006, and prosecutors accused him of two other rapes and murders, The Texas Tribune reported.

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The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted Segundo's scheduled execution in October 2018 based on his lawyers' questions about his intellectual disability. His IQ was tested to be 75, and his brother testified that he had fallen down the stairs as a baby and seemed to be "always in a daze."

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