Sunday, November 20, 2005

New Evidence: Man Executed 12 Years Ago Was Innocent

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An apparently innocent 17-year old Cantu in 1984

Ruben Cantu was only 17 in 1984 when he was accused of murdering one man and nearly killing a second man in Texas. During the trial his fate was sealed when the only eyewitness (the man who survived) identified him as the killer and his co-defendent chose not to tell prosecutors that Cantu had not been with him the night of the killing.

In 1993, at the age of 26, Cantu, who always had claimed he was innocent, was executed.

Recently both the eyewitness and the co-defendent signed affidavits swearing that Cantu had been wrongly charged, convicted and executed.

The eyewitness (who was an illegal immigrant) said he had been pressured by police to identify Cantu and the shooter.

The co-defendent did not say why he failed to waive prosecutors away from Cantu. Perhaps it was because he might then have been charged with the murder? Or that he had been threatened by the real killer not to reveal anything to the police?

In any case, I was struck by the story for this reason: If either of these two men had done the right thing during the trial, Cantu would be alive today. Whether pressured by police or not....whether threatened by the real murderer or not....they were the ones who held Cantu's life in their hands.

So, what does the eyewitness to the shooting, who knowingly falsely identified Cantu as the killer, say?

You've got a 17-year-old who went to his grave for something he did not do. Texas murdered an innocent person.
Yes, my friend, but you led him to the slaughter. You kissed him on the cheek. You and the co-defendent collected the 30 pieces of silver and it has taken you 21 years to come to the same conclusion that took Judas Iscariot only hours.

The news report did not make any reference to a Potter's Field.

Note: Although I do not consider the "death penalty" to be inherently immoral, this story illustrates one of the reasons I oppose its use in our legal system. I believe it should be abolished because it is frequently applied unjustly.