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Bush Comments on Death Row Case

June 6, 2000

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) _ Texas Gov. George W. Bush said Tuesday that a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court throwing out a Texas inmate’s death sentence is proof that ``the system is working.″

On Monday, the court reversed the death sentence of Victor Hugo Saldano after prosecutors conceded the penalty was based in part on the fact that he is Hispanic. The court ordered a new sentencing hearing for Saldano, convicted of murdering a man for his wallet and watch in a Dallas suburb in 1996.

``I think it’s an indication that there are safeguards in the system,″ Bush said while campaigning in Augusta. ``What the attorney general is saying is, ’Let’s make sure we review all cases to make sure that everybody in this case gets a fair hearing.‴

``As I understand the facts, there is no question that the man did the crime. It’s the penalty phase that needs to be examined. I think the system is working,″ Bush said.

During the punishment phase of Saldano’s trial, a psychologist testified for the prosecution about Saldano’s ``future dangerousness,″ an aggravating factor that allows Texas courts to administer the death penalty instead of life in prison.

The psychologist listed 24 factors in his assessment, including Saldano’s ethnicity. He testified that blacks and Hispanics are over-represented in prison, and that Saldano’s Hispanic background ``was a factor weighing in favor of future dangerousness.″

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