McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

Police/Courts

December 4, 2012

Oklahoma death row inmate’s last words: 'I’m innocent'

McALESTER — Death row inmate George Ochoa, 38, was the sixth inmate to be executed this year in Oklahoma. His death sentence was carried out by prison officials this evening in the death chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary.

Department of Corrections Director Justin Jones told prison officials inside the execution chamber to proceed with the execution process. At 6:01 p.m., the blinds covering windows between the witness room and the death chamber were raised.

Ochoa raised his head from the death gurney briefly and looked into the witness room.

OSP Deputy Warden Art Lightle asked Ochoa if he had any last words.

“I’m innocent,” Ochoa said.

Ochoa spoke no other words other than those.

At 6:02 p.m. Lightle said, “Let the execution begin.”

After the lethal dose was administered to Ochoa, his eyes blinked multiple times. He chewed slightly on his lower lip. Then he lifted his head slightly. His head then came to rest back on the death gurney and his eyes closed.

By 6:06 p.m., color had drained from Ochoa’s face and at 6:07 p.m., the attending physician pronounced Ochoa’s time of death.

Witnessing the execution were two media representatives, 10 Department of Corrections officials and 19 members of the victims’ family. Twelve of those 19 were in the witness chamber and the remaining witnesses watched the execution via video tele-feed from one floor below the execution chamber.

Although there were five members of Ochoa’s family scheduled to witness his execution, none of those five were in the witness room when he was executed.

Ochoa requested for his last meal a large meat lover’s pizza and a large Coke, which was served to him at around noon Tuesday, according to prison officials.

“Ochoa was convicted and sentenced to death for the first-degree murders of Francisco Morales, 38, and wife, Maria Yanez, 35,” said Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt in an earlier press release. “According to the report, Morales suffered 12 gunshot wounds and Yanez suffered 11 gunshot wounds while in their bedroom ... The victim’s children were in the home at the time of the murders.”

According to court records, Morales and Yanez were shot and killed in their bedroom in the early morning hours of July 12, 1993. The sound of gunfire woke Yanez’s 14-year-old daughter, court records state, and she called 911 before looking out her bedroom door. “(She) saw two men,” court records state.

The young girl at first denied knowing the men, but eventually identified them as Ochoa and Osvaldo Torres, court records state. The young girl’s 11-year-old step-brother saw one of the men shoot his father, court records state.

Ochoa and Torres were arrested “a short distance from the homicide,” court records state. “A short time before the shootings, Torres and Ochoa parked their car at a friend’s house,” court records state. “A witness observed one of the men take a gun from the trunk of the car and put the gun in his pants.”

Both Torres and Ochoa were tried and sentenced to death for the murders.

“However, in 2004, former Gov. Brad Henry commuted Torres’ sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole,” Pruitt continues in his press release.

During his 2004 clemency hearing, Torres admitted that he had planned to burglarize Morales’ and Yanez’s home. “I never killed anyone. And I never knew George was going to kill anyone.”

Ochoa had been in custody with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections since April 1, 1996, less than two weeks after he was convicted in Oklahoma County of first degree murder.

Contact Rachel Petersen at rpetersen@mcalesternews.com.

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