Judge denies John Allen Rubio motion targeting former Cameron County DA

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In this July 29, 2010, file photo, John Allen Rubio is led from the courtroom by Hidalgo County Sheriff’s deputies after receiving the death penalty for the charge of capital murder in the 370th State District Court at the Hidalgo County Courthouse in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

A federal judge in Brownsville last Thursday denied Death Row inmate John Allen Rubio’s motion for discovery.

U.S. District Judge Fernando Rodriguez Jr. said in a brief order that Rubio, 43, is not entitled to the relief that he had requested.

“The Court will issue a separate Opinion containing the reasons supporting this Order,” Rodriguez wrote.

As of Monday morning, that opinion had not yet been filed into the record.

A jury in 2010 convicted Rubio of beheading Julissa Quesada, 3, John E. Rubio, 14 months, and Mary Jane Rubio, 2 months. They were the children of Rubio’s common-law wife, Angela Camacho. He was the father of Mary Jane Rubio.

Rubio’s motion in his habeas corpus filing seeking to have his conviction tossed, argued that the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office, then led by convicted felon Armando Villalobos, elicited false testimony, interfered with defense funding, prosecuted Rubio in bad faith, and engaged “in a pattern of tactical abuse that rendered Rubio’s trial fundamentally unfair.”

The motion largely targets Villalobos, who was the district attorney at the time.

Federal authorities later arrested Villalobos for a pay-to-play scheme that sent him to prison for 13 years for accepting more than $100,000 in bribes and kickbacks.

That scheme was ongoing during Rubio’s prosecution that resulted in his conviction and death sentence.

“Leading up to and during Rubio’s 2010 trial, the State engaged in a brazen and ongoing pattern of misconduct in violation of Rubio’s right to due process and equal protection,” the motion stated. “Most notably, elected District Attorney Armando Villalobos accepted bribes in exchange for lenient sentences in other cases while publicly and aggressively seeking death against Rubio to cover for Villalobos’s misdeeds.”

Rubio had requested to take a deposition of Villalobos, who was released from prison in late 2020.

The motion said that Villalobos took a public survey on whether pursuing the death penalty against Rubio was politically popular, which was not disclosed until after he was convicted and sentenced to death.

Armando Villalobos is seen leaving the federal courthouse in Brownsville in this undated file photo. (The Brownsville Herald file photo)

“Villalobos was unquestionably taking bribes around the time of Rubio’s trial—while interfering with Rubio’s defense funding and chasing publicity for the case,” the motion stated. “A deposition is necessary to establish that Villalobos’s misconducted rendered Rubio’s trial fundamentally unfair, that Villalobos used the public survey to prosecute Rubio, and that the CCDA’s motivation to seek death was influenced by Villalobos’s own illegal conduct.”

Rubio also requested to take a deposition of Charles Mattingly, who at the time was second in command of the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office.

“A deposition of Mattingly is necessary to establish that the CCDA knowingly interfered with defense funding and abused its subpoena power, violating Rubio’s right to due process,” the motion stated.

That motion also targeted Dr. Michael Welner, who testified as a rebuttal witness to Rubio’s insanity defense, telling jurors that Rubio was mentally well, which Rubio’s attorneys contend is blatantly false.

Rubio also challenges testimony from A.P. Merillat, who testified on prison violence and prison classifications.

“As he had done in other Texas death penalty cases, Merillat misled Rubio’s jury regarding significant components of TDCJ’s clarifications system, and also the extent to which he testified falsely in other cases,” the motion stated.

Those cases include Manuel Velez, who was sentenced to death in 2008. Velez’s conviction and death sentence were later vacated for numerous reasons, including new evidence that showed Velez likely did not commit the murder for which he was convicted.

He later avoided a new trial by pleading guilty to injury to a child.

Rubio, a Brownsville native, remains on Death Row at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas.

Camacho, 44, pleaded guilty to murder in 2005 and was sentenced to life in prison. She is serving her sentence at the Christina Melton Crain Unit in Gatesville, Texas.

She is eligible for parole on March 12, 2043.

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