Jurors Deliberate Rail Killer Case

Wednesday, May 17th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

HOUSTON (AP) — Jurors began deliberating the future of admitted serial killer Angel Maturino Resendiz today, a decision that may come down to which expert they believe as they try to determine whether he was insane when he killed a Houston physician.

Even the psychologists who declared him sane didn't doubt the 40-year-old Mexican drifter holds some bizarre beliefs, defense attorney Allen Tanner told jurors in his closing statements this morning.

Maturino Resendiz, charged with capital murder in the 1998 rape and slaying of Dr. Claudia Benton, claimed he was half-man, half-angel and believed his killings were meant to serve God's will.

``All four of them came in here and told you that this defendant was not faking or malingering anything he told them,'' Tanner said. ``He truly believed what he said.''

Maturino Resendiz faces either life in prison or lethal injection if found guilty. If found innocent by reason of insanity, he likely would be sent to a mental institution for an undetermined time, and could still face at least six other capital murder cases.

Attorneys acknowledged Maturino Resendiz is responsible for nine slayings three states but entered a plea of innocent by reason of insanity in Benton's slaying.

To meet the insanity defense, Tanner reminded jurors, all they must find is that Maturino Resendiz did not know his conduct was wrong.

``The defendant knew that what he was doing was illegal. He knew it was against the laws of society,'' Tanner said. ``But he knew in his own feelings that he was answering to a higher power, and he was doing the right thing.''

Prosecutor Lyn McLellan countered, saying there is no distinction between wrong and illegal.

``The real reason he did it is for power, domination, anger, sexual desire and to fulfill his needs,'' McLellan said, pointing to the string of rapes Maturino Resendiz committed throughout his two-year killing spree.

Both defense psychologist Larry Pollock and forensic psychiatrist Bruce Cohen concluded that acute mental illness rendered Maturino Resendiz unable to discern right from wrong when he stabbed Benton to death in her Houston home.

However, Houston jail psychiatrist Melissa Ferguson testified that Maturino Resendiz showed no signs of severe mental disease after his July 13 surrender. She said she later prescribed antipsychotic medicine for a depression-related psychosis he developed behind bars.

Court-appointed psychologist Ramon Laval interviewed Maturino Resendiz in April and concluded he was sane.

Maturino Resendiz did not testify at his trial, which started May 8.

Benton, 39, a Baylor College of Medicine physician who was researching a rare genetic disorder, was found stabbed and beaten to death in her home. She also had been raped, authorities said. She was home alone because her husband and twin daughters were out of state.

The defendant also is accused of killing five other people in Texas, two in Illinois and one in Kentucky from 1997 to 1999.