The Houston Chronicle has published a two-part investigative series examining the question, “Did Texas Execute an Innocent Man?” Ruben Cantu was 17 when he supposedly shot Pedro Gomez to death on Nov. 8, 1984. The first part of the series, published on Sunday, reads in part:
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.
Sam D. Millsap Jr., the former Bexar County district attorney who made the decision to charge Cantu with capital murder, says he never should have sought the death penalty in a case based on the testimony of an eyewitness who identified Cantu only after police officers showed him Cantu’s photo three separate times.
“It’s so questionable. There are so many places where it could break
down,” said Millsap, now in private practice. “We have a system that permits people to be convicted based on evidence that could be wrong because it’s mistaken or because it’s corrupt.”
Part two of the Houston Chronicle series focuses on Ruben’s co-defendant David Garza.