By Jon Herskovitz
AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Texas is set to execute on Tuesday a man convicted of accepting $2,000 to murder a woman from the victim's husband and her brother-in-law, who were looking to collect $400,000 from life insurance policies they took out on her.
Roland Ruiz, 44, is scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection at the state's death chamber in Huntsville at 6 p.m. for the murder of Theresa Rodriguez, 29, in 1992 in the San Antonio area.
If the execution goes ahead, it would be the 541st in Texas, the most of any state since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
Lawyers for Ruiz have launched a last-minute appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, saying he previously received inadequate counsel and holding him on death row for a quarter century amounts to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
"The delay is attributable to no lapse in Mr. Ruiz’s diligence - instead, it is entirely attributable to the State’s failure to provide competent lawyers," they said in legal filings.
Attorneys for Texas said the appeal lacks merit because Ruiz has failed to show a reason why federal courts should step in. They added Ruiz was a member of a criminal gang and has a history of violent behavior.
Ruiz was 20 when he reached a contract murder deal with Michael Rodriguez, and his brother, Mark Rodriguez, who were looking to collect the life insurance money.
Ruiz shot Theresa Rodriguez once in the head with a .357 caliber handgun after she pulled into her home's garage, according to court papers, which added he confessed to the crime.
The two brothers were each given life sentences.
The father of the murder victim told the San Antonio Express-News the execution will not bring relief for the family.
"There’s never closure," Eddie Sanchez, Rodriguez’s father, was quoted as saying by the newspaper. "It’s not going to bring my daughter back."
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by James Dalgleish)