Updated at: 12/04/2012 8:35 PM
By SEAN MURPHY
(AP) McALESTER, Okla. - An Oklahoma death row inmate whose attorneys had claimed he was mentally unfit to be executed was put to death Tuesday for the 1993 shooting deaths of a couple during a home invasion.
In the final moments before he was injected with lethal drugs, George Ochoa maintained he was wrongfully convicted of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Francisco Morales, 38, and Maria Yanez, 35, on Oklahoma City’s south side.
Strapped to a gurney with his arms outstretched, he proclaimed, "I’m innocent" when asked if he had any last words.
He blinked rapidly as the drugs began to flow and appeared to stop breathing after about a minute. The time of death was announced as 6:07 p.m. CST.
None of Ochoa’s relatives or attorneys witnessed the execution. But more than a dozen of the victims’ family members watched Ochoa die through glass beside the death chamber and on a closed-circuit television.
The punishment came less than a month after the state Pardon and Parole Board rejected Ochoa’s request that it recommend Gov. Mary Fallin reduce his death sentence to life in prison.
Investigators say Morales was shot 12 times and Yanez 11 times in their bedroom on July 12, 1993. Three of the couple’s children were inside the house at the time of the shootings and later testified at trial.
Ochoa, 38, claimed he had been shocked and suffered injuries during his incarceration, but prosecutors said his claims of hallucinations and harm were likely an attempt to feign mental incompetence. Courts prohibit the execution of people who do not understand why they are being punished.
Officials said earlier psychological evaluations showed no evidence of delusions or hallucinations, and that claims about such didn’t start until he was charged.
Ochoa’s attorneys had maintained that his mental status deteriorated in recent years and that the state’s process for determining competency is unconstitutional, claims that were rejected Monday by a federal judge and a federal appeals court in Denver.
Ochoa lost a late attempt at having his execution postponed when the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday denied his request for a stay.
Prosecutors said there was little evidence to suggest a motive for the killing, but no doubt that Ochoa and his co-defendant, Osbaldo Torres, 37, were responsible. Ochoa and Torres were stopped by police near the crime scene and were described by police as "sweating and nervous," court records show.
Torres, a Mexican citizen, was also convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death in the shootings, but his sentence was reduced by then-Gov. Brad Henry in 2004. Henry imposed a sentence of life without parole after Mexican government officials raised concerns that Torres was not given a chance to speak with the Mexican consulate after being accused, as required by international conventions.
Sean Murphy can be reached at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)