Media Advisory: John Manuel Quintanilla scheduled for execution
VICTORIA – Pursuant to a court order by the 377th Judicial District Court in Victoria County, John Manuel Quintanilla is scheduled for execution after 6 p.m. on July 16, 2013.
In 2004, a Victoria County jury found Quintanilla guilty of murdering Victor Billings in the course of committing or attempting to commit robbery.
FACTS OF THE CASE
The facts of the crime were not summarized by any court reviewing the case, which focused on the specific facts surrounding Quintanilla’s confessions.
Quintanilla and another man walked into a game parlor in Victoria, Texas, in the evening hours of November 24, 2002. Victor Billings, a retired law enforcement officer, was playing games inside, as was his wife of forty years, Linda. Quintanilla and his partner wore pantyhose masks and carried long rifles. One robber went into the parlor office while Quintanilla ordered the clerk, standing next to Mrs. Billings, to give him the money in her apron. She complied. Quintanilla later stated he stole some two thousand dollars from the game parlor that day. Quintanilla was pointing his rifle at the employee and Mrs. Billings. Victor Billings walked up to his wife and Quintanilla shot him twice. Billings grabbed the muzzle of the gun and Quintanilla shot him a third time, knocking him flat to the ground. Billings died of these gunshot wounds to the torso. Two patrons ran out the front door and Quintanilla shot at them from the rear of the facility. The shots were head high and struck the front door area.
At punishment, the State additionally presented testimony of Dr. Richard Coons, a forensic psychiatrist, who opined on the basis of a hypothetical question greatly resembling the facts of this case that such an inmate would probably be a future danger, and would be a greater risk if sentenced to life than if he were sent to death row.
After the State rested its punishment case, the court convened a hearing outside the presence of the jury. Trial counsel for Quintanilla indicated they would rest, in obedience to their client’s instructions. The trial court questioned Quintanilla regarding his awareness and understanding of his right to present evidence on punishment and the possible benefit of such evidence. Quintanilla confirmed that it was his considered wish not to present evidence in mitigation or regarding future dangerousness. Before the jury, defense counsel rested.
On the following day, before argument began and outside the jury’s presence, the court again addressed Quintanilla and emphasized the possible benefits of presenting evidence in mitigation. The court additionally pointed out that trial counsel had the expertise and experience to make determinations regarding useful evidence, and that without any punishment evidence from the defense, the jury’s decision would be based solely on the State’s presentation. Quintanilla repeatedly indicated that he had fully discussed this issue with his attorneys and that his decision was made freely, knowingly and voluntarily. Defense counsel indicated that they disagreed with Quintanilla’s decision but did not believe him to be incompetent in any way, and the court concurred. Counsel added that this had been an “ongoing situation” for the two years he had represented the defendant, and that both attorneys had counseled Quintanilla at great length for those two years without success in changing his position.
In 2003, a Victoria County grand jury indicted Quintanilla for murdering Victor Billings while committing or attempting to commit robbery on or about Nov. 24, 2002.
In 2004, a Victoria County jury found Quintanilla guilty of murdering Victor Billings. The jury recommended capital punishment, and on Dec. 14, 2004, the court sentenced Quintanilla to death by lethal injection.
On June 27, 2007, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Quintanilla’s conviction and sentence.
Quintanilla did not file a petition for a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court.
On June 22, 2006, Quintanilla sought to challenge his conviction and sentence by seeking an application for a state writ of habeas corpus with the state trial court, while his direct appeal was pending.
In 2007, the trial court held an evidentiary hearing on the ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim and issued findings of fact and conclusions of law.
On June 4, 2008, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals adopted the trial court’s findings and conclusions and denied habeas relief.
On May 30, 2009, Quintanilla filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus with the federal district court for the Southern District of Texas.
On Jan. 25, 2011, the federal district court denied Quintanilla’s petition for writ of habeas corpus. A Certificate of Appealability (COA) was denied.
On Oct. 17, 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit denied COA.
On Jan. 6, 2012, Quintanilla filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court.
On March 19, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Quintanilla’s petition for writ of certiorari.
On July 9, 2013, Quintanilla filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
On July 11, 2013, the U.S. district court transferred Quantanilla's petition for a writ of habeas corpus to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY
Under Texas law, the rules of evidence prevent certain prior criminal acts from being presented to a jury during the guilt-innocence phase of the trial. However, once a defendant is found guilty, jurors are presented information about the defendant’s prior criminal conduct during the second phase of the trial – which is when they determine the defendant’s punishment.
At punishment, the State presented testimony that Quintanilla committed another five armed robberies or burglaries, and attempted to commit a sixth, beginning in September 2002 and continuing through January 2003. Further, Quintanilla stabbed and sliced guards with improvised weapons and razor blades while trying to escape from the county jail in January 2003. Penitentiary packets revealed that Quintanilla pled guilty to second-degree felony burglary of a habitation in 1995 and received a 10-year sentence. Quintanilla also pled no contest to five other burglaries in 1995. www.tdcj.state.tx.us