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Railroad Killer Trial Nears End

May 17, 2000

HOUSTON (AP) _ The fate of alleged railroad killer Angel Maturino Resendiz may come down to which expert jurors believe as they try to determine whether he was insane when he killed a Houston woman.

Closing arguments were expected today in the capital murder trial for the 1998 rape-slaying of Dr. Claudia Benton.

Attorneys for the 40-year-old Mexican citizen acknowledged that he is responsible for nine murders in three states but entered a plea of innocent by reason of insanity in Benton’s slaying.

If found innocent, Maturino Resendiz likely would be sent to a mental institution for an undetermined time and still would face at least six other capital murder cases.

A guilty verdict would mean either lethal injection or life in prison, with no chance of parole for 40 years.

Maturino Resendiz did not testify. Besides Benton, he is accused of killing five other people in Texas, two in Illinois and one in Kentucky from 1997 to 1999.

Each side presented a psychiatrist and a psychologist who interviewed and tested Maturino Resendiz at the Harris County Jail. The defense experts determined he was a paranoid schizophrenic; the prosecution witnesses said he was sane, aside from a personality disorder.

Both defense psychologist Larry Pollock and forensic psychiatrist Bruce Cohen blamed severe paranoid schizophrenia for the alleged killing spree. They said the illness rendered the suspect unable to know right from wrong.

However, jail psychiatrist Melissa Ferguson testified that Maturino Resendiz showed no signs of severe mental disease when he arrived after his July 13 surrender to a Texas Ranger. She later prescribed antipsychotic medicine for a depression-related psychosis he developed behind bars.

Court-appointed psychologist Ramon Laval testified that although Maturino Resendiz suffers from several personality disorders and harbors ``strange″ beliefs, he was knew what he was doing when he killed Benton.

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