Houston - Bernardo Aban Tercero was born in Nicaragua, where he grew up and lived most of his childhood and youth. For more than ten years the economic and political problems of his country and the few job opportunities forced him to emigrate. For that reason and motivated for the convenience of having a secure employment he decided, like many, to enter the United States, the land where according to his plans, he would have a better future and a life full of hope and well-being. A future that never arrived or crystallized -- he faces death instead, the price that the authorities believe he must pay for his decisions and actions, which according to him, he should never have taken.
Tercero is currently incarcerated in the maximum-security prison in Livingston (Texas), a place where inmates sentenced to death are waiting for their execution. There, in the visiting room, wearing his white uniform, with his hands and feet shackled and accompanied by guards and wardens of the prison, Tercero went to the appointment with Semana News, to recount the circumstances that directed him towards the corridor of death, and to send a message that he expects to be heard by the authorities, lawyers and diplomats of his country. From the narrow cubicle covered in glass and reinforced by steel bars, where barely fits one chair, and using a phone, he told us his story. "Bad influences affected his behaviour, and at that age you don't think about the consequences," said the Nicaraguan. He refers to the misguided decision that had to be involved in a crime on March 31, 1997. "I came alone. Passed through Mexico, and by those countries of Central America I was very young," he said quickly, and then went on to describe the drama that he faced for having committed a crime. On that fateful day in March of 1997, Tercero attempted to rob a dry cleaner, a crime that he committed carrying a firearm. At establishment was a customer named Robert Keith Berger, 38 years old. Berger attempted to prevent the robbery and in the struggle with the Tercero, the weapon was fired claiming the life of the customer. In 2000, Tercero was sentenced to death, and since then waits his turn to be executed in the prison of Livingston. "I had no intention to kill anyone. I have extensive documentation to prove it" he said with obvious despair.
Tercero does not deny his crime, but said he does not deserve the death penalty for several reasons, including the fact that he was a minor at the time of the robbery and the fatal outcome. In accordance with Texas law there should not exist the possibility of the death penalty for a minor under 18 years old who committed a violent crime.
For Tercero already has spent more than ten years and several hearings and appeals to demonstrate his true age when he committed the crime and has not yet been able to achieve his objective of changing his death sentence, for life imprisonment in a maximum security prison. But things are not that easy, because of another wrong decision that Tercero took in the past, and that was to use the identity of his dead brother, who had the same name and was born 20 August 1976, three years before him. He explains that when he reached this country, he faced several barriers, including the impossibility of renting housing, and work. "I had difficulty to rent apartments, work and change checks because he was under age and that is why I had to get an ID (identification papers) with the name of my older brother," he said. The opportunity was provided at the time because both he and his brother were given the same name and were born August 20, but now, this is becoming the main obstacle to change the direction of his legal case and avoid death by execution by the laws of Texas. "If no one helps me my death will be inevitable," he said, distraught.
The dilemma of this immigrant allows you to reflect on the consequences having identity theft, a crime that affects millions of people in the United States, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), entity in charge of preventing fraud and scams consumers annually.
Identity theft causes damage legal, economic and moral for those who are affected, since your personal information (name, social security number, credit history) is used by third parties to commit crimes, access to services or obtain credit. And although the case of Tercero is presented from the perspective of the person who commits the crime, he does not cease to be dramatic, according to the experts. "Here there are several elements, because it is not only the crime of homicide, but the masquerade as another person," said attorney Carolina Ortuzar, immigration specialist, who also pointed out that the penalties or fines may vary depending on each case. "The sanctions depend on the documents that are falsified and the use to which they have been put," said the lawyer. In general terms, he added, use of a name that does not belongs to you is a fraud and there may or may not forgiveness. Ortuzar said that, to avoid the need to steal an identity, the people can perform contract work or to find other means to work, within their capabilities, in a legal way.
For Bernardo Tercero he can only hope that the legal authorities of Nicaragua should coordinate with the authorities of this country on his unproved statement of being under-age, and that made him pass for his deceased older brother in order to be able to work in this country. Tercero says he is driven to despair by the absence of consular assistance of his country, something that consul Samuel Trejos refutes, since someone has been visiting him in a frequent way and attending to him legally. “We have assisted him but it was not possible to have presented to the Court the papers (documents) of evidence of his claim. We could not obtain from his family the definitive proofs of the matter that he was under-age”, said Trejos, also saying that Tercero is the only Nicaraguan who today faces the death penalty in the United States.
Read more about Bernardo Aban Tercero's case here