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Inmate Executed After Refusing Offers Of Legal Help

January 31, 1987

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) _ Convicted killer Ramon Hernandez, a ″real good jail house lawyer,″ was put to death Friday after spurning legal efforts officials said almost certainly would have kept him alive.

Hernandez, convicted of killing a gasoline station mechanic during a burglary, received a lethal injection at 1:05 a.m., after executioners had difficulty finding a suitable vein in the long-time drug user’s arms. He was declared dead at 1:13 a.m.

Hernandez refused outside legal help for his defense, fearing acceptance would force him to surrender his right to represent himself in court.

″Had he been willing to participate, I think a stay would have been granted,″ Attorney General Jim Mattox said shortly after the execution. ″His unwillingness hastened the process.″

Hernande, 44, could have remained alive for maybe a year, Mattox said.

″But based on the trial record, he certainly would have been executed eventually,″ he said.

On Thursday, he rejected the assistance of his former defense attorney at trial, Richard Lovelace, who unsuccessfully challenged in the state and federal courts the inmate’s competency to made legal decisions.

When the Supreme Court rejected a final effort at 12:38 a.m., the state proceeded with the execution.

In his final statement, Hernandez, 44, declared his love for his common-law wife, Velma, who watched him die, and his four children.

″I’ll always love you. You know that,″ he said. He smiled and added, ″That’s it.″

Mattox, who informed Hernandez of the Supreme Court rejection, said the convict was concerned to the end that the courts recognized his desire to represent himself.

″He did not want to be represented by attorneys,″ Mattox said. ″He was a real good jail house lawyer - better than most.″

The case was ″very strange, highly unusual,″ said Assistant Attorney General Bill Zapalac.

″There are provisions in the law that anyone can file on behalf of an inmate. But if the inmate refuses to have it considered, the court doesn’t have to consider it.″

Hernandez was convicted of capital murder in the June 20, 1980, killing of Oscar Frayre at an El Paso service station.

Frayre was asleep at the station, which was closed for the night, when Hernandez broke in, according to evidence presented at trial. He was fatally shot during a struggle. Hernandez denied any involvement.

″Nobody wants to die,″ Hernandez said in an interview this week. ″But sometimes people have to make a stand.

″I have a paramount right to represent myself. If I get a stay, I won’t be making a stand. Seeing that I’m a human being, it’s very important for me not to die. But at the same time, it’s important for me to make a stand.″

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