Thursday, June 28, 2007

Bexar County DA: Cantu Was Guilty

You may recall the case of Raymond Cantu, convicted of murder and put to death in 1993. His prosecution and conviction has since faced considerable scrutiny, and in response the Bexar County District Attorney's office launched an investigation. They report, unsurprisingly, that Cantu was in fact guilty of the crime for which he was put to death:

The report from District Attorney Susan Reed says prosecutors interviewed 50 people and gathered evidence from 35 agencies; in the end, their findings confirmed their initial doubts about the assertions that Cantu's execution was unjust.

The DA's report for the first time makes public a statement obtained from San Antonio resident and convicted felon Thomas Cooremans, 61. According to the report, Cooremans says Ruben confessed in detail to him when they were in jail together in 1985, both awaiting trials on different crimes.

According to the report, Cantu told Cooremans "he'd stolen two trucks from the same house ... and had gone back for a third. He said he'd gone in the house and saw a rifle, a 22, and had picked it up" and then cocked it.

When one of residents awoke and reached for something, Cantu said, "I shot that guy. (Expletive deleted)."

As to the statements made by others that Cantu didn't commit the murder?

The report also dissects the accounts from Moreno, David Garza, the convicted co-defendant who was Cantu's friend, and Eloy Gonzales, who years later attempted to provide an alibi for Cantu. It dismisses Garza and Gonzales as convicted felons with credibility problems.

As for that Coormans fellow:

Cooremans, whose chain of criminal convictions stretches back more than 20 years, gave his statement to a DA investigator on Aug. 23, 2006, when he again was in Bexar County Jail awaiting trial on his third DWI.

Huh. Wonder why he did that?

As to who they didn't talk to:

While the report relies on conversations with former prosecutors originally involved in the case in 1985, prosecutors didn't talk to the district attorney at the time of the case, Sam Millsap.

Millsap has apologized for Cantu's prosecution, saying it was a mistake to rest a death penalty conviction on only a single eyewitness.

Who else has credibility problems?:

The report suggests the private detective, Richard Reyna, manipulated Moreno, refusing to accept the witness' initial statement that Cantu was guilty and then plying him with cash after repeatedly telling him other witnesses were certain Cantu was innocent.

Reyna, a Conroe-based detective whose work on innocence claims has contributed to the release of seven death row inmates, said he has never faced such an attack.

Reyna said he believes DA Reed is biased because as a judge she set Cantu's execution date and can't deal with the real issue: That she was responsible for the death of an innocent man.

"She's shameless," he said.

Ms. Reed would like you and I to believe that the lone eyewitness, who later recanted his testimony, was actually telling the truth when he said he saw Cantu commit the crime. Why would he do such a thing? Here's an explanation from my earlier post on the Houston Chronicle story that first uncovered this sordid mess:

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.


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."

These people, all respectable attorneys, must also have credibility problems. Whereas Ms. Reed, the judge who set the date on which Cantu died and the now D.A. who oversaw this investigation, has none.

Fancy that.

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