Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Quote of the day...

...comes from Jim Marcus, director of Texas Defender Services, which represents people on death row during their appeals.

Speaking about the wrongful execution of Ruben Cantu, Marcus says: "When you have an airplane crash the FAA gets together and commits to an independent investigation to figure out where the failing was."

The Houston Chronicle is reporting that the district attorney of Bexar County, where Cantu was convicted and sentenced to death, has instructed her staff to gather up all of the county's files on Cantu. While she is stopping short of a formal investigation, she did tell the Chronicle she will examine the record in the case "to try to get my mind around it."

Rick Casey, a Chronicle columnist suggests in a column today that a posthumous pardon for Cantu might be appropriate. "The state of Georgia did that earlier this year in the case of a black woman executed for killing a white man in 1944," Casey writes. "The evidence supported her contention, unsuccessful in the racial atmosphere of that time, that it was self-defense."

That's the least we can do. And yet, it is probably more than Texas will do.

To read Casey's column, go here:

(Sorry. My hyperlink thingy doesn't seem to be working today.)

To read a comprehensive Houston Chronicle editorial, go here:

Meanwhile, I have to ask: Where is the San Antonio Express News' coverage of this sorry episode? It happened in their backyard but all I have seen so far in their paper is an Associated Press pickup of the Houston Chronicle series. Have I missed something -- or did they?

If anyone cares to send the newspaper a letter to the editor, you can email it to


Anonymous said...

I ran across another article about a person in Texas who may have been innocent and executed. His name was Cameron Willingham and he was executed in Texas in 2004. The article was in The Chicago Tribune.

I think whether you are for or against the death penalty, there is a developing consensus that the way it is administered in Texas puts innocent people at risk of execution.

Here is a link to send an email to the Texas Legislature and Governor Perry of Texas urging them to enact a moratorium on executions, before any more innocent people are executed.

Xanthippas said...

I read that same article. This is the very thing that to me justifies abolishing the death penalty. There is no justice where innocent men are put to death while men who are guilty go free.

bob said...

From death row, Cantu wrote letters to anti-death penalty groups, claiming innocence. He wrote that when he was arrested, he knew nothing about what was going on. At the police station, "a detective ... questioned me about a murder I knew nothing about," he wrote. Later, the detective "asked me to sign to pieces of paper, so I could be released. Being that I was practically illiterate at the time, I asked what were the pieces of paper and he told me they were my statements to what we talked about, so I signed them without having him read them to me."

I shudder at the thought of the State of Texas taking the life of an innocent person. To do so would be a tragic miscarriage of justice.

If you're not from Houston, you may not be aware that the Chronicle has a long history of selective reporting when it comes to the death penalty. A couple of years ago, they ran a front page piece about a young man who was to be executed late that evening. It was a long story -- during the first part they portrayed him (alongside a nice photo) like he was a choir boy who made a single but tragic error in judgement -- active in the community, on the Dean's list, etc... After 3 page turns, they finally told their readers about the choir boy's failed attempt to dig the bullet out of his rape victim's head with a pair of scissors. Those readers who could endure a forth page turn learned that the choir boy left his victim's violated and mutilated body in her home, which he then set on fire in an effort to cover his tracks.

Parts of the Chronicle's Cantu story simply do not make sense. The report of their "extensive" investigation does not adequately explain why neither of the two people who might have saved Cantu spoke up until prompted by the reporter.

It's easy to read something in a newspaper or blog and jump to a conclusion, especially when the writer intends to guide you there...

For example, you may have assumed that the quote at the beginning of this comment was from Ruben Cantu... If so, you are only half right -- the quote is actually from Domingo Cantu, who was executed in 1999 for the rape and murder of a 94 year old woman:

Police found Jones lying face down in a pool of blood, partially nude. She had multiple large head wounds. She also had injuries on her back which were consistent with being dragged over the fence that separated the two properties. She also had abrasions all over her head and face, bruises all over her body, sixteen broken ribs, and a broken sternum. Her vagina was also injured.

Cantu confessed to the crime. At his trial, he pleaded not guilty. Forensics technicians testified that a pubic hair recovered from Cantu's zipper belonged to Jones. Her blood was on Cantu's shirt and underwear. Also at his trial, a witness testified that hours before Jones's murder, Cantu assaulted her at a bus stop, tried to pull down her pants, and stole her purse. She identified Cantu as her assailant from the distinctive scorpion tattoo on his neck. Cantu confessed to this assault in court.

The day after the State of Texas put this monster to sleep, the Houston Chronicle faithfully reported the event -- on page 31. Their brief story described the execution in gory detail, but contained absolutely no information on the victim or the horrendous nature of the crime. The Chronicle did find room for this tidbit:

Cantu insisted he was innocent. On an Internet site dedicated to him, the half-Hispanic, half-Apache called himself "an American Indian warrior held hostage in my homeland."

I want the whole story on Ruben Cantu, not just what the Houston Chronicle chooses to print in their latest effort to sway public opinion on the death penalty.

If the goal of the Chronicle's investigation was to find facts, why not inform the San Antonio DA's office before the story hit the presses? Could there be some information there that the Chronicle didn't really want to know about? (If so, you can look forward to reading the details on page 32 in a couple of months -- maybe...)

Like I said up front, a state ending an innocent life is just plain wrong. But do we really know this is the case here? And if not, why???

If this newspaper produced a sensational death penalty story based on a selective investigation, then they have exploited the deaths of both the victim and the supposed perpetrator of the crime, regardless of guilt...

In plainer terms, the Houston Chronicle better hope they're right on this one, otherwise they're no better than grave robbers with a travel expense account.