HUNSTVILLE — Martin Robles was no stranger to violence when he and fellow members of a drug-dealing Corpus Christi street gang put on dark clothes and masks, burst into a home where rival gang members were sleeping and opened fire.
Robles had almost a dozen arrests as a juvenile and had been out of prison about a year after serving six years for a murder in Nueces County when he was 17. For the 2002 attack on the other gang, he was convicted of the double murder of a pair of 19-year-old men and wound up on Texas death row.
The 33-year-old was set to die this evening. The lethal injection would be the ninth this year in Texas, and at least five others are scheduled in the coming weeks.
Robles’ appeals were exhausted and no late attempts to put off the punishment were in the courts Tuesday, the Texas attorney general’s office said.
Prison records listed Robles as born in Nueces County and said he dropped out of school after eighth grade. According to court records, Robles belonged to a gang called the Raza Unida, or “RU,” that was feuding with another gang calling itself “La Cuarenta,” or “the Curare boys.”
A second man convicted and serving a life term for the shooting, Joe David Padron, said Robles picked him up and told him they were “going to take care of business” as they drove to the house where Jesus Omar Gonzalez and John Commisky were sleeping.
A witness testified that Robles had told Padron two RU members had been stabbed, a drive-by shooting had taken place at an RU gang member’s house and that “enough was enough.”
They climbed a fence outside the house in a neighborhood just west of downtown Corpus Christi about 5 a.m. on Nov. 12, 2002, and went in through a side or back door at the kitchen. Padron said a woman was asleep on a couch when they entered and that they looked around until they found Gonzalez and Commisky asleep in another room. Padron had an assault rifle and Robles a 9 mm pistol.
“They riddled them with bullets while they were asleep,” said James Salas, the Nueces County assistant district attorney who prosecuted Robles.
Autopsies showed Gonzalez was shot at least 15 times, mostly in the head. Commisky had at least 14 gunshot wounds, primarily in the back. Evidence showed the shots were fired from no more than 2½ feet away.
Another member of the rival gang, Tony Ortiz, also was in the house. He thought he too would be killed and ran to the sleeping woman, his grandmother. As the shooters left, he looked through a window and said he saw Padron and Robles taking off their masks and driving off in an SUV. Ortiz called 911.
At Robles’ trial, prosecutors warned jurors they would see disturbing tattoos on him. When the judge asked if Robles would prefer jurors see his tattoos in photos or in person, Robles said he’d disrobe in front of them. He began the trial’s punishment phase testimony by taking off his shirt to show, among his gang tattoos, one on his arm of a demon eating the brains of Christ.
“I told the jury, I don’t know what it means, but I know that’s evil and I know that’s what he represents,” Sales said. “And he didn’t put the shirt back on. He sat there with his muscle shirt on the rest of the trial and closing arguments.
“I guess he got what he wanted. He’s one of those guys when you look in the eyes you don’t really see anything behind them. I don’t think it fazed him at all.”
The in-person tattoo display, allowed by the judge over the objections of Robles’ lawyer, became an issue during early appeals of Robles’ conviction and death sentence. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said Robles’ choice of tattoos was “some evidence of his character.”
Prison records showed Robles began using marijuana and inhalants at age 10, acid and mushrooms at 14 and cocaine at 15. He acknowledged he was an alcoholic, joined a gang at 14 to carry out carjackings and drug running. He had at least 11 arrests as a juvenile. Sales said he was suspect in another homicide but authorities couldn’t assemble a case to merit charges.
Robles declined to speak with reporters as his execution neared.