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Oklahoma to execute inmate for 1993 home-invasion killings

By Steve Olafson

OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - A man convicted of killing a couple in their bed in 1993 was scheduled to be executed on Tuesday, despite claims by his attorney that he should be spared because he is insane.

Federal courts in Oklahoma and Denver refused on Monday to stop the execution of George Ochoa, 38. He and Osbaldo Torres were convicted of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Francisco Morales and Maria Yanez in Oklahoma City.

Ochoa would be the sixth person executed in Oklahoma in 2012 and the 41st in the United States this year if his lethal injection is carried out as scheduled at 6 p.m. CST (7 p.m. EST) at a state prison in McAlester.

U.S. District Judge David Russell of the Western District of Oklahoma and the U.S. 10th Circuit of Appeals in Denver denied last-minute claims that Ochoa's mental health had deteriorated so greatly that he should not be executed.

Ochoa's appeals have focused on his mental state since the 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that mentally incompetent people cannot be put to death. His attorney, James Hankins of Oklahoma City, has said in court documents that Ochoa has become so irrational that he can no longer communicate with him.

Authorities never determined a motive for the slayings, which occurred while three children were in the home.

Ochoa has maintained his innocence. Torres, a Mexican also convicted and sentenced to death, had his sentence commuted to life in prison without parole in 2004.

The ruling led the federal appeals court in Denver to order a new trial to determine Ochoa's mental competency at the time of the killings. A jury in 2005 decided he was not mentally retarded.

(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Bill Trott)

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