Saturday, November 19, 2005


Funny. We were just talking about the death penalty before coming across this piece from the Houston Chronicle.

The lede from the Chronicle's story:
Texas executed its fifth teenage offender at 22 minutes after midnight on Aug. 24, 1993, after his last request for bubble gum had been refused and his final claim of innocence had been forever silenced.

Ruben Cantu, 17 at the time of his crime, had no previous convictions, but a San Antonio prosecutor had branded him a violent thief, gang member and murderer who ruthlessly shot one victim nine times with a rifle before emptying at least nine more rounds into the only eyewitness — a man who barely survived to testify.

Four days after a Bexar County jury delivered its verdict, Cantu wrote this letter to the residents of San Antonio: "My name is Ruben M. Cantu and I am only 18 years old. I got to the 9th grade and I have been framed in a capital murder case."

A dozen years after his execution, a Houston Chronicle investigation suggests that Cantu, a former special-ed student who grew up in a tough neighborhood on the south side of San Antonio, was likely telling the truth.

Cantu's long-silent co-defendant, David Garza, just 15 when the two boys allegedly committed a murder-robbery together, has signed a sworn affidavit saying he allowed his friend to be falsely accused, though Cantu wasn't with him the night of the killing.

And the lone eyewitness, the man who survived the shooting, has recanted. He told the Chronicle he's sure that the person who shot him was not Cantu, but he felt pressured by police to identify the boy as the killer. Juan Moreno, an illegal immigrant at the time of the shooting, said his damning in-court identification was based on his fear of authorities and police interest in Cantu.

Cantu "was innocent. It was a case of an innocent person being killed," Moreno said.

These men, whose lives are united by nothing more than a single act of violence on Nov. 8, 1984, both claim that Texas executed the wrong man. Both believe they could have saved Cantu if they had had the courage to tell the truth before he died at 26.

Presented with these statements, as well as information from hundreds of pages of court and police documents gathered by the Chronicle that cast doubt on the case, key players in Cantu's death -- including the judge, prosecutor, head juror and defense attorney -- now acknowledge that his conviction seems to have been built on omissions and lies.

"We did the best we could with the information we had, but with a little extra work, a little extra effort, maybe we'd have gotten the right information," said Miriam Ward, forewoman of the jury that convicted Cantu. "The bottom line is, an innocent person was put to death for it. We all have our finger in that."
Reason enough to abolish the death penalty? No. There are already plenty of reasons to ban executions in the United States. Ruben Cantu's case just makes it more obvious.


Anonymous said...

Was Bush the governor at the time?

Anonymous said...

The execution occured before George W. Bush was elected governor.
The governor of Texas in 1993 was Ann Richards.

Ron Davis said...

Thanks, Anon. Seems many Democrats -- Bill Clinton and Ann Richards are two that come to mind -- believe they have to execute convicted murderers to look "tough on crime." Clinton even flew back to Arkansas in the middle of his 1992 campaign for the execution of Ricky Rector. You know, the guy who was so profoundly brain-damaged, he saved part of his last meal for after the execution. Disgusting.