San Miguel was convicted of the capital murder of Michael Phelan and
three others during the armed robbery of a Taco Bell restaurant in
On January 26, 1991 San Miguel and 17 year old friend, Jerome Green,
waited outside a Taco Bell restaurant that was closed and locked for
When an employee opened the door to take out the trash, the pair
went inside and forced the assistant manager, Michael John Phelan,
to wait for a time-lock safe to open.
Then they herded Phelan, employee Theresa Fraga, 16, and Theresa's
cousin, Frank Fraga, 23, into a walk-in freezer. Theresa Fraga was
also pregnant at the time.
The robbers noticed Son Trang Nyugen, 35,
a friend of the Fragas who was waiting to take them home, sitting in
a vehicle outside and also forced him into the freezer with the
San Miguel and Green then left the restaurant with the money. A few
minutes later, San Miguel decided to go back inside the restaurant
and the freezer where his hostages were.
In a confession to police, San Miguel said he "asked them to give
him a good reason why he shouldn't kill them", then shot them each
in the head at close range with a 9 mm pistol.
San Miguel was pulled
over in his car later that morning and police found bundles of money
in a Taco Bell sack and a pistol later determined to be the murder
Accomplice Jerome Green pled guilty and was sentenced to 50 years
imprisonment and is eligible for parole in 2004.
Texas Attorney General
JESSY CARLOS SAN MIGUEL SCHEDULED TO BE EXECUTED
AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn
offers the following information on Jessy Carlos San Miguel who is
scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m., Thursday, June 29th.
In January of 1991, Jessy Carlos San Miguel was convicted for the
capital murder of Michael Phelan. San Miguel shot Phelan and three
other people while robbing a Taco Bell in Irving. Michael Phelan was
shot twice, once in the back of the head.
The second victim, Son
Nguyen was shot in the shoulder. The bullet entered his neck and
exited near his nose. A third victim, Frank Fraga was shot twice in
the back of the head.
The final victim, Theresa Fraga, who was
pregnant, was also shot twice in the back of the head. The victims'
bodies were found in a walk in refrigerator at the Taco Bell. In
June 1991, a jury sentenced San Miguel to death.
When police arrested San Miguel during a traffic
stop early on the morning of Jan. 26, 1991, they found bundles of
money stuffed in a paper Taco Bell bag. Police also found two ski
masks, two pairs of gloves, and a nine millimeter automatic pistol
which was empty, except for one bullet.
The gun smelled like it had
been fired recently. The bullets found in the victim's bodies
matched the gun found in San Miguel's car. San Miguel's shoes and
shirt had human blood on them.
After his arrest, San Miguel gave a statement to
police, admitting that he robbed the Taco Bell and that he had
personally killed the four victims. Two days after giving that
statement, San Miguel gave another, similar confession to police.
COURT APPEALS TIMELINE
Automatic appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal
Appeals, which affirmed on May 26, 1993.
United States Supreme Court denied certiorari
review on March 21, 1994.
Oct. 7, 1996 - San Miguel filed an application
for state habeas corpus relief and an amended application on June
20, 1997. The trial court entered findings of fact and conclusions
of law recommending that habeas relief be denied. Adopting some
findings and rejecting others, the Court of Criminal Appeals denied
habeas relief based on the remaining findings and the Court's own
review on Nov. 5, 1997.
May 26, 1998 - San Miguel filed a petition for
habeas relief in federal district.
May 11, 1999 - District Court entered a final
judgement denying relief.
Feb. 2, 2000 - San Miguel's request for
permission to appeal was denied by the Fifth Circuit Court of
PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY
During the punishment phase, a student who went
to school with San Miguel testified that he was on crutches when San
Miguel threatened him with a knife and then later knocked him out
with a punch (breaking some teeth). San Miguel thought the student
had slighted San Miguel's girlfriend.
Another student testified about one night when he
went to a location where San Miguel and another student were
supposed to have a fight. When the other student did not show up,
the testifying student attempted to start a fight with San Miguel,
who then pulled out a pistol and shot him in the stomach.
A third student, Mitchell McDearman, was another
friend of San Miguel's in school and testified to seeing San Miguel
in 18 fights, mostly started by San Miguel. He was also a witness
when San Miguel shot the student in the stomach.
A fourth student testified that he was at a party
sitting next to San Miguel's wife and another girl when San Miguel
grabbed him, shook him, asked what he was doing messing around with
his wife, and threatened to kill him. When the student got home, he
found nine or 10 bullet holes in the wall of his bedroom.
A neighbor testified that he saw a truck similar
to San Miguel's drive by at the time of the shooting. An
investigating officer located San Miguel's truck and observed inside
a spent .22 long rifle shell of the same variety as spent shells
found near the student's house.
While talking to San Miguel and his
wife in their apartment, the officer observed a holster for a .22
long rifle pistol, an empty magazine for an M-16 or AR-15 assault
rifle, and ammunition for three or four different types of weapons,
including the type of ammunition used in the shooting of the house.
A fifth student, Adam Alvarez, was a friend of
San Miguel's in school and testified that he went with San Miguel
during the shooting of the house and that San Miguel and another
student fired shots into the house with an automatic rifle and a
He also talked about personally seeing San Miguel in nine
fights in high school. He testified that San Miguel started a lot of
the fights, that he enjoyed his reputation, and that no one picked
on him. San Miguel also admitted to him to breaking into houses,
mostly to steal weapons.
Finally, San Miguel told him that, "if he
ever got caught, he wanted to go down for something everybody knew
about or something big."
An Irving police officer testified that he
arrested San Miguel for unlawfully carrying a weapon in 1989, when
San Miguel was stopped for speeding and had a revolver with an eight-inch
barrel under his seat.
Another officer testified that in 1989 San Miguel
signed a statement confessing to stealing a BMW, using it for a
night, and then leaving it near his apartment.
Because San Miguel
got the keys to the car from a member of the complainant's household,
the charges were reduced to a misdemeanor and San Miguel received
An officer who arrested San Miguel for burglary
of a house, testified that he found a stolen shotgun and two pistols
in San Miguel's room upon his arrest. Several witnesses testified
that items found in San Miguel's apartment had been taken when their
homes were burglarized.
Another officer who pulled San Miguel over
for failure to maintain a single lane testified that he arrested San
Miguel on that occasion for possession of an illegally sawed off
An Irving officer, who was once called out to a
disturbance between two groups of males, arrested San Miguel for
possessing illegal brass knuckles. San Miguel was standing with
members of the Always Violent Boys gang.
A security guard at a
Mervyn's store where San Miguel worked testified that, after San
Miguel was caught improperly using his employee discount to purchase
items for third parties, San Miguel confessed to also stealing
between $800 and $1,000 in merchandise.
Though he signed a
promissory note to repay the store, he never paid any amount. Two
officers at the jail where San Miguel was held, testified to an
occasion when San Miguel refused to leave the recreation room and
return to his cell.
When the officers entered the room to get San
Miguel, he struck one officer in the mouth and continued to try to
hit them as they carried him back to his cell. One officer noted
another occasion when he was serving the inmates burritos and San
Miguel made the statement: "The only reason why I killed those
people is they couldn't make good Mexican food."
Jessy San Miguel was sentenced to die for the
January 26, 1991 murders of 28-year-old Michael John Phelan and
three other people, one pregnant, during a robbery at a Taco Bell
restaurant in Irving, Texas.
San Miguel and his accomplice, Jerome Green, a part-time employee of
the Taco Bell, forced Michael, the manager, and two employees into
the walk-in freezer after taking the cash from the store safe.
Theresa Fraga was 16 years old and several months pregnant. Her
cousin Frank Fraga was also an employee at the store. Also murdered
was Son Trang Nyugen, a friend of the Fragas. When the killers saw
Son sitting in a car outside the restaurant, he was forced into the
freezer with the other victims. All were shot at close range.
The killers were arrested leaving the scene of the murders. Six
members of the victims' families witnessed the execution but San
Miguel never acknowledged their presence.
Texas Execution Information
Jessy Carlos San Miguel, 28, was executed by
lethal injection on 29 June 2000, in Huntsville, Texas, for the
murder of four people in a fast-food restaurant.
In January 1991, Jessy San Miguel, then 19, and
Jerome Green, 17, waited outside a Taco Bell restaurant that had
been closed and locked for the night.
When an employee opened the door to take out the
trash, the pair went inside and forced the assistant manager,
Michael John Phelan, 28, to wait for a time-lock safe to open. Then
they herded Phelan, employee Theresa Fraga, 16, and Theresa's cousin,
Frank Fraga, 23, into a walk-in freezer. Theresa Fraga was also
pregnant at the time.
The robbers noticed Son Trang Nyugen, 35, a friend of the Fragas who
was waiting to take them home, sitting in a vehicle outside and also
forced him into the freezer with the other victims.
San Miguel and
Green then left the restaurant with the money. A few minutes later,
San Miguel decided to go back inside the restaurant and the freezer
where his hostages were.
Police who took his confession said he "asked them to give him a
good reason why he shouldn't kill them", then shot them each in the
head at close range with a 9 mm pistol. Phelan and Nyugen were shot
once and the Fragas were each shot twice. San Miguel and Green were
stopped about a half a mile from the scene, on suspicion of drunk
In their car, police found the gun, two Taco Bell sacks stuffed with
$1,390, ski masks, and two pairs of gloves. They began looking for
Taco Bell restaurants in the area and found the four victims in the
The first officer on the scene fainted at the sight of the bodies.
There was so much blood on the floor, police used a squeegee to find
the spent cartridges. Green was a former part-time employee of that
restaurant. San Miguel had applied for a job there but was not hired.
San Miguel had a violent past. He had been
arrested nine times and had been accused of shooting a man. At the
time of the murders, he was free on bonds totaling $45,000 on four
charges of weapons violations and burglaries.
A jail officer
testified that San Miguel remarked before his conviction, "The only
reason why I killed those people is they couldn't make good Mexican
Although San Miguel confessed to all four murders,
he was only tried and convicted for killing Phelan. He and his
attorney contended he was unfairly convicted because of racial
Court records show that the prosecutor uttered a
sentence that included various turns of the phrase "run for the
border", a Taco Bell ad slogan. They also claim that San Miguel's
defense attorney made numerous allegedly biased statements.
Spokesmen for the state of Texas point out that
none of the alleged race-based statements were made by state-introduced
witnesses or expert witnesses, and claim that the state did nothing
wrong during the trial.
"The evidence is so obvious that I had a very
unfair trial," San Miguel said in a death row interview. "They did
not base their decisions on my history, on my individuality. It was
based on me being a Mexican." Of the murders, he said, "there is
nothing I could do to stop what happened. People react in the heat
of the moment . . . when something happens out of instinct, we just
do it. We don't do it out of intent, we don't do it on purpose, it
The Texas Board of Pardons and paroles rejected a
clemency request from San Miguel, by a vote of 18 to 0. The Supreme
Court rejected his final appeal, and Governor George W. Bush
declined to grant a temporary stay.
At his execution, San Miguel urged his family and
relatives to be strong and said he loved them. He did not
acknowledge the presence of the six members of his victims' families.
He was pronounced dead at 6:19 p.m. Jerome Green accepted a plea
bargain and was sentenced to 50 years in prison. He will be eligible
for parole in 2004.
San Miguel Put to Death for Taco Bell Holdup
By Michael Graczyk -
HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) - Convicted killer Jessy
Carlos San Miguel, a 10th grade dropout with a history of mayhem,
was executed Thursday evening for leaving four people dead after
robbing a Dallas-area Taco Bell nine years ago.
In a brief final statement, San Miguel urged
friends and relatives watching him die to be strong and said he
loved them. "It's going to be all right," he said. "Ironic, isn't it?"
he noted while his arms were outstretched on the death chamber
gurney. "I'm a cross. Y'all take care of each other. I'll be
watching over you." Asked by the warden if that was all he had to
say, San Miguel replied, "Yeah."
As the drugs began taking effect, he sputtered
and gasped. He was pronounced dead at 6:19 p.m., eight minutes after
the lethal doses began. Six members of his victims' families watched
him die, but he never acknowledged their presence.
"It was very disappointing," Mary Gomez, whose
daughter and nephew were killed at the restaurant, said after
watching San Miguel die. "He at least could have said: 'I'm sorry.'"
San Miguel's lethal injection, the fifth of the
month in Texas and the 24th this year, attracted little of the
attention of a week ago when hundreds of demonstrators and media
descended on Huntsville for the execution of Gary Graham. Less than
two dozen death penalty opponents showed up outside the prison.
There was only one television crew.
Graham's claims that he was innocent and was
tried unfairly put under intense national scrutiny the support of
the death penalty by Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the presumptive
Republican presidential nominee. Unlike Graham, who was belligerent
with officers throughout his final hours, San Miguel was reported
docile as his punishment time approached and the U.S. Supreme Court
was delivered 11th-hour appeals.
He selected an extensive final meal
that included pizza, 10 quesadillas, five strips of grilled beef,
five strips of stir-fried beef, ice cream, double fudge chocolate
cake, broccoli, grapes and tea.
The carnage after San Miguel and an accomplice
left the suburban Irving Taco Bell before dawn Jan. 26, 1991 was so
overwhelming, the police officer who discovered the four bodies in
the walk-in freezer fainted.
And there was so much blood on the
floor, authorities had to use a squeegee to locate the spent
cartridges from the murder weapon. "It was just a cold-blooded,
methodical execution of four people," Toby Shook, an assistant
district attorney in Dallas County who prosecuted the case, said.
San Miguel and his attorneys contended he
unfairly was convicted because of racial stereotyping, that
prosecutors and his own court-appointed defense attorney cited
Mexican-American culture in their arguments to the jury that
sentenced him to death. "What troubles me is Gov. Bush continually
tells the media and the newspapers that he has always been fair,
that they have ways in the system to be ensured everybody has a fair
trial, but all that is not true," San Miguel said in a death row
San Miguel was convicted and condemned for
fatally shooting Michael Phelan, 28, the assistant manager at the
restaurant. The other victims included restaurant employees Theresa
Fraga, 16, of Irving, and her cousin, Frank Fraga, 23, of Dallas;
and a friend of Ms. Fraga's, Son Truong Nguyen, 35, of Mesquite.
Theresa Fraga was six months pregnant. Nguyen had been wounded while
serving in the Vietnamese army, then fled the war-torn country for
what he thought would be a life of safety in the United States.
Phelan and Nguyen were shot once in the head. The Fraga cousins were
shot twice in the head.
San Miguel and a companion, Jerome Mike Green,
were pulled over by Irving police who suspected them of drunken
driving. When the officers found a Taco Bell bag filled with $1,390,
two ski masks, a 9 mm pistol and two pairs of gloves, they began
checking the chain's restaurants in the area for a robbery.
The slaughter was discovered a few blocks away.
Green had worked part-time at the restaurant. San Miguel, records
showed, had applied for a job there but was not hired. At the time,
the 19-year-old San Miguel was free on bonds totaling $45,000 on
four charges of weapons violations and burglaries.
He confessed to
police that he robbed the store and shot the victims. He did not
testify at his trial. Green later pleaded guilty and received a 50-year
Evidence showed the pair planned the robbery for
a few weeks and waited outside the locked place during the overnight
hours until employees opened the door to take out the trash. Nguyen
was waiting outside to pick up Theresa Fraga from work when he was
herded into the cooler with the Fraga cousins while San Miguel
waited with Phelan for a time-lock safe to open.
According to Shook,
San Miguel said in his confession he left the restaurant and the
hostages in the cooler but went back inside "and asked them to give
him a good reason why he shouldn't kill them." "Then he started
shooting," the prosecutor said.
"It wasn't supposed to happen like this," San
Miguel said from death row. "There is nothing I could do to stop
what happened. People react in the heat of the moment, in the heat
of deep emotions. When something happens out of instinct, we just do
it. We don't do it out of intent. We don't do it on purpose. It just
According to court records, San Miguel told an
officer while in jail: "The only reason why I killed those people is
they couldn't make good Mexican food."
San Miguel was well known to police. He had been
arrested nine times and was accused at age 16 of shooting another
person. He also was linked to at least two drive-by shootings and a
number of burglaries. "He'd just kind of done it all," Shook said. "It
wasn't gang related. Testimony showed he was kind of his own gang.
He didn't need it. He did his own stuff."
Canadian Coalition to Abolish
the Death Penalty
Jessy Carlos San Miguel is scheduled to be put to
death on June 29, 2000 for his role in the 1991 robbery of a Taco
Bell restaurant in Irving, Texas in which four people were killed.
In the wake of the recent United States Supreme
Court action in the case of Victor Hugo Saldaño, Mr. San Miguel has
filed a Petition in the District Court of Dallas County, Texas,
asking the court to vacate his death sentence on the grounds that
his death sentence was based in part of his Mexican heritage.
Texas a defendant cannot be sentenced to death unless the jury finds
that he would be a danger in the future. At Mr. San Miguel's
sentencing trial, his own lawyer blamed his violent and aggressive
behavior as a teenager on his Mexican ethnicity. Also, the
prosecutor appealed to the jury's prejudice and fear of illegal
immigrants from Mexico.
On June 5, 2000, the United States Supreme Court
granted certiorari and vacated the 1991 death sentence of Victor
Hugo Saldaño, of Collins County, remanded his case to the Texas
Court of Criminal Appeals, his death sentence because Dr. Walter
Quijano, a clinical psychlogist testified for the state that the
risk that person will commit acts of of violence is greater for
black and hispanic prisoners.
Dr. Quijano based his testimony that
on evidence that blacks and Hispanics are over-represented in the
criminal justice system.
In pleadings filed with the United States
Supreme Court, the State of Texas "confessed error, acknowledging
that, "the infusion of race as a factor for the jury to weigh in
making its determination violated [Saldaño's] constitutional right
to be sentenced without regard to the color of his skin."
On behalf of the State of Texas, the Attorney
General said that "[b]ecause the use of race in Saldaño's sentencing
seriously undermined the fairness, integrity, or public reputation
of the judicial process, Texas confesses error and agrees that
Saldaño is entitled to a new sentencing hearing."
General explained that importance of a racially unbiased judicial
process is so great that the State will not hide behind procedural
technicalities and that the death sentence should be reversed even
though Saldaon’s lawyer did not object to the testimony and there
was other evidence to support the death sentence.
In addition to Saldaño, the State has identified
six other cases in Dr. Quijano gave similar testimony. The State has
indicated that it will not oppose requests for similar relief in
those cases should those litigants seek to supplement their pending
applications for review. Without qualification, the Attorney General
noted that "it is inappropriate to allow race to be considered as a
factor in our criminal justice system."
Although Dr. Quijano did not testify in Mr. San
Miguel's trial, race was considered as a factor in determining "future
dangerousness," so that Mr. San Miguel should be included in the
group of cases being re-considered. Like the jury that sentenced
Victor Saldaño to death, the San Miguel jury was impermissibly
allowed and encouraged to consider race as a factor in sentencing
San Miguel to death.
During Mr. San Miguel's trial racist stereotypes
of "macho" Mexican-Americans who "cross that border...and commit
crimes" were invoked by both the defense counsel and the prosecutor.
The petition filed last week on behalf of Mr. San Miguel charges
that these overtly racist statements encouraged jurors to consider
race in sentencing.
At the time of the offense for which he was
sentenced to death, Jessy San Miguel was only 19 years old. As early
as junior high, Jessy was involved in frequent altercations with
other students. Jessy's family background, his long term exposure to
domestic violence and history of childhood abuse potentially
provided an individualized, mitigating explanation for this behavior.
However, when the state introduced testimony
concerning Mr. San Miguel's combative attitude and his fights with
other students during junior high and high school, defense counsel
characterized them as merely a product of Mr. San Miguel's Mexican-American
heritage. Mr. San Miguel is scheduled to be executed on the twenty-eighth
anniversary of the release of the United States Supreme Court's
opinion in Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972) which called a
temporary halt to the imposition of the death penalty in the United
States until procedures could be put in place to insure that the
ultimate punishment was administered fairly and without regard to
arbitrary factors such as race.
Should the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals refuse
to stop Mr. San Miguel's execution, he calls upon Mr. Bush and Mr.
Cornyn to confess error as they did in Mr. Saldaño's case, and agree
to a new sentencing hearing free from racial bias.
A petition for
clemency is pending before the Governor and the Board of Pardons and
Paroles. Excerpts from the transcript of Mr. San Miguels trial are
attached. A copy of the petition filed on habeas of Mr. San Miguel
can be obtain from his attorneys.