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Texas Inmate’s Execution Blocked

August 7, 2003

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) _ After a flurry of late appeals, a federal court blocked the execution of a man convicted of strangling a 3-year-old boy, agreeing that his claims of mental retardation should be reviewed.

Jose Alfredo Rivera, 40, received the news from a prison chaplain about three hours after he could have been put to death Wednesday evening, and after he had already eaten what he believed would be his final meal.

Defense attorneys contend that Rivera, with a long history of violence and inhalant abuse, not only was innocent of strangling Luis Daniel Blanco, but was mentally retarded, making him ineligible for execution under a Supreme Court decision a year ago.

Rivera was informed of the reprieve by a prison chaplain.

``He said he was not surprised because he has faith,″ Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said. ``He was praying with the chaplain and wearing a black beaded rosary.″

Rivera insisted he was innocent and contended a woman was the only person involved in the death of the child 10 years ago at a park in Brownsville.

Veronica Zavala, 28, who lived next door to the boy’s family and has also been convicted of the boy’s murder, changed her version of the crime numerous times and wrote prosecutors absolving Rivera.

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