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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

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Book challenges capital punishment sentences


As a response to the debate on capital punishment in US politics, former Mexican Consul General of Houston Ricardo Ampudia advocated for the eradication of the procedure in his latest book, “Black, Brown and Invisible: Minorities on Death Row,” at a panel discussion last Thursday at the University of St. Thomas.

Ampudia’s opening statement revolved around the case of Ricardo Aldape, who spent 14 years on death row for the death of a Houston police officer.

According to Scott Atlas, a panelist and former member of the Vinson & Elkins firm, Aldape was the first Mexican national released from death row.

“Aldape was innocent,” Ampudia said. “He was a victim of irrationality, xenophobia and a legal system that wanted to find a scapegoat.”

Four months after Aldape was released from the Texas prison system he returned to Mexico, where he died in a car accident on his way home.

Ampudia remembers when he heard the news and afterwards devoted four years to writing this book.

“Ricardo Aldape’s case was a part of my life,” Ampudia said. “As part of my consulate duties I had to pick up the case and interview him more than 15 times, examine the facts and plan a strategy. All of this made me have a very close relationship with him. My duty was to support and defend my fellow citizen.”

At the time, the death penalty was still practiced in Mexico, so Ampudia was no stranger to the concept. Yet, as a government official this proved to be one of his most daunting tasks.

“My work was to protect and advise Mexican nationals who have different kinds of problems in this country,” Ampudia said.

“Dealing with the topic of death penalty was a daunting task. I remember the look in the eyes of my Mexican compatriots as they were about to lose their lives at the hands of our northern neighbors.”

During his tenure as the Mexican consul general, Ampudia had nine cases of Mexican nationals on death row. Aldape’s case was unique to Ampudia, who described how he handled the case.

“I examined this phenomenon from a different position,” Ampudia said.

“I tried to make him feel through my words and my actions that he was not alone in a strange land and that his own nation did not abandon him.”

This case was compared to the case of Anthony Graves, who was also released from death row. Nicole Casarez, a panelist and professor at the University of St. Thomas, shared the details of her effort to exonerate Graves.

“Those who have seen people on death row have seen the anguish not only of the condemned, but their family,” Ampudia said.

“I insist that the idea of an eye for an eye has not worked. Crime has not reduced due to the death penalty. I believe, from my experiences of seeing people sentenced to their death, that this is not the answer.”


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