The Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday rejected Raul Cortez’s second challenge to his death sentence for murdering Austin York, announced Collin County Criminal District Attorney Greg Willis.
Rosa Barbosa, Mark Barbosa and Matt Self were murdered during the same incident.
The trial testimony showed that Cortez murdered 17-year-old Austin York on March 12, 2004, after Austin and his friends – Mark and Matt – came in on Cortez and two other men burglarizing the house of Mark’s aunt, Rosa, where Mark lived. The investigation went cold after multiple initial suspects were eliminated. The case broke when Cortez’s accomplice – Eddie Williams – contacted police in June of 2007, admitted his participation in the crime, and implicated Cortez. Ballistics and DNA evidence at trial corroborated Williams’ testimony that Cortez committed the crimes. Testimony in the punishment phase showed that Cortez was a member of a violent street-gang in his hometown of Chicago, Ill.
Cortez’s current challenge to his conviction consisted chiefly of claims that his trial lawyers were ineffective. The trial court heard testimony from Cortez’s three trial lawyers and other witnesses in a three-day hearing in April 2012. After the hearing, the trial court considered other filings from the parties and recommended the claims be denied. The Court of Criminal Appeals adopted that recommendation Wednesday. A prior appeal of the conviction was rejected in 2011.
Assistant Criminal District Attorneys Katharine K. Decker and Gail Leyko represented the State in this phase of the litigation and were assisted by District Attorney Investigator J.D. Spielman. Senior District Judge Webb Biard presided over the trial and the hearing.