Ruben Ramirez Cardenas, a Mexican citizen living in Texas, was executed by the State of Texas on November 8, 2017. He was put to death for the 1997 murder of Mayra Laguna, his 16-year-old cousin.
Born April 7, 1970, Cardenas was 47 years old at the time of his execution. Though he grew up in Texas, he was originally from Guanajuato, Mexico.
At the time of his arrest in 1997, his occupation was listed as laborer. Cardenas did not have a criminal record before being convicted of the crime of capital murder.
The Kidnapping and Murder of Mayra Laguna
Mayra Laguna was abducted and killed on February 22, 1997.
She was taken by Cardenas from the bedroom she shared with her younger sister, in her family’s apartment in McAllen, Hidalgo County, Texas. This happened around 6 a.m.
Cardenas bound Laguna with duct tape before he took her from her home. He then put her into a vehicle driven by his then 24-year-old friend, Jose Antonio Lopez Castillo.
After taking her to a remote location, Ruben Ramirez Cardenas, 26 years old at the time, proceeded to rape the victim.
According to his confession, when he was unbinding her to set her free, the victim fought back. He beat her with his fists in retaliation. According to Cardenas, after punching her in the neck, she began to cough up blood and soon stopped breathing. Cardenas then disposed of her body in a canal.
According to court records, the victim’s sister had woken up as Cardenas was taking Laguna from her room. She immediately told her parents, who called the police. While the police were looking for Laguna, they spoke to Cardenas. Cardenas went into the police station for questioning voluntarily. He was arrested when the investigators noticed fresh scratch marks on his body.
After an interrogation, Cardenas gave a full confession. He said, “I didn’t plan on doing this, but I was high on cocaine.” Later in court, his lawyers claimed his confession was coerced.
After his confession, Cardenas led the police to multiple areas, including the locations where he raped Laguna and where he tossed the duct tape, and ultimately to her body. She was found in a canal in Rio Grande Valley in South Texas.
After his 1998 trial, Ruben Ramirez Cardenas was sentenced to death for his cousin’s murder.
Ruben Ramirez Cardenas: Appeals and Execution
Cardenas was scheduled for execution at 6 p.m. CST on November 8, 2017.
However, there were efforts on Cardenas’ lawyers’ part to delay or overturn the execution.
There were two federal lawsuits. One alleged that Cardenas’ due process and civil rights were being violated because state officials refused to provide evidence from the 1998 trial for new DNA testing. The other consisted of his lawyer Maurie Levin petitioning to have a phone available in the prison before and during the execution proceedings to facilitate communication with the courts and Texas’ governor. Both lawsuits were dismissed. Last-minute appeals based on these lawsuits were also struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.
So the execution proceeded. Cardenas did not make a final statement. He was given pentobarbital and was declared dead at 10:26 p.m. CST.
Cardenas did prepare a handwritten statement, in which he expressed gratitude and love to his family and friends and thanked his attorneys and the Mexican Consul. His final statement was:
“I will not and cannot apologize for someone else’s crime, but, I will be back for justice! You can count on that!”
Cardenas’ confession, capital murder conviction, and death sentence have been hotly contested by the Mexican government. It’s their contention that Texas law enforcement blatantly ignored international law by not advising Cardenas of his right to assistance from Mexico as a Mexican citizen. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto expressed his staunch opposition to the execution on Twitter Wednesday, condemning it as a violation of the ruling of the International Court of Justice.
Expreso mi firme condena a la ejecución del mexicano Rubén Cárdenas Ramírez en Texas, que viola decisión de la Corte Internacional de Justicia. Mi más sentido pésame a los deudos.
— Enrique Peña Nieto (@EPN) November 9, 2017
For the victim’s family, the execution of Cardenas came as a relief. Mayra Laguna’s sister Roxana Jones released a written statement on behalf of her family:
“After 21 years of waiting, justice was finally served. Words can’t begin [to] describe the relief it feels to know that there is true peace after so much pain and sorrow.”