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Texas attorney general's office nullifies Nueces County District Attorney Gonzalez's objection to John Henry Ramirez execution

Mark A. Gonzalez 0523 1.jpg
Posted at 11:00 AM, May 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-23 14:41:32-04

The Texas attorney general's office determined Friday that Nueces County District Attorney Mark A. Gonzalez's ethical objection to the death penalty has no bearing on the upcoming execution of John Henry Ramirez.

Ramirez was convicted of murdering convenience-store clerk Pablo Castro in 2004.

After a lengthy appeals process, it was determined on April 12 that Ramirez would be put to death Oct. 5.

On April 14, Gonzalez filed a motion to withdraw the execution date, citing the fact that he does not support the death penalty.

The attorney general's office determined that is not a valid reason to stop the execution.

'To be sure, article 43.141 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure sets out the exclusive circumstances under which the Court has such authority, and a District Attorney's shifting ethical position is not one of them,' the decision states.

While Gonzalez was not the district attorney when Ramirez was convicted, his office has sought execution dates for him four times in the past five years.

The letter also states that if Gonzalez is unwilling to "continue in this proceeding," the attorney general's criminal appeals division chief Edward L. Marshall would do so in Gonzalez's place.

In the motion withdrawing the execution date last month, Gonzalez wrote that the setting of the date came from an oversight. In a Facebook Live video that night he said he would no longer move to have Ramirez executed, or any other person in his jurisdiction.

"I've, for a while now, said that I don't believe in the death penalty," Gonzalez said. "My office is not going to seek the death penalty anymore. And that's just the way I feel."

KRIS 6 News asked, via a Public Information Request, for any communication from Gonzalez to prosecutors in his office establishing a policy to not seek the death penalty, or setting execution dates. We also requested any communication that discussed the topic in general terms.

The office could provide none.

We asked how staff were supposed to be aware of his rules when he had not communicated them. This was his response.

"Every death penalty case, every case that is even subject to the death penalty is my decision alone ultimately and so if I'm not going to seek death I think the office will know that I'm not going to seek death," Gonzalez told KRIS 6 News. "I don't need to tell them, 'Hey, by the way, I'm not seeking the death penalty so you can't seek it.' They don't get that choice. I'm the one who ultimately makes that decision."

Castro's family also weighed in on Gonzalez's motion with one of their own, which stated that the delays in the execution — which have been ongoing since 2012 — have "inflicted immeasurable harm on Pablo Castro's children."

Specialty producer Rachel Denny Clow contributed to this developing story. Check back with KRIS 6 News for updates.