During his General Audience, Pope Francis greeted an Argentine couple, whose son sits behind bars as a death row inmate in Texas. After 17 years behind bars, and exhausting legal options, their hoping Pope Francis can save their son's life.
"I believe it's important because he's a Pope that takes interest in the problems of the world. And he has a lot of influence because the world listens to him.”
A Texas court convicted Victor Saldaño of killing another man in 1995. His trial resulted in a death sentence. But in 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court struck it down, saying the testimony against Saldaño was tainted by racial discrimination.
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"By any international standard, that would have been enough to set Saldaño free. Instead, he faces a new trial.”
The second trial ended like the first, a jury sentenced Saldaño to the death penalty. At that point, after seven years on death row, his family and lawyer argued he developed mental health problems, and that he should be released.
The state of Texas has shown little signs of changing its mind. A lawsuit filed against the U.S. government at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights is also stalled. With the Catholic Church's vocal opposition to the death penalty, they turned to Pope Francis.
"I hope, truthfully, that he asks for clemency on behalf of my son, so that he's not given the death sentence.”
Saldaño's mother said the Pope did not commit to anything when she brought up her request. But with his constant emphasis on mercy, she's hopeful he'll take action.
Giving her additional hope is that fact that Texas hasn't scheduled Saldaño's execution. But after 17 years, it's not much comfort. Until, and if, the Pope intervenes, she says she keeps her bags ready, to go her son's side, at a moment's notice.