The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has overturned the conviction of Manuel Velez, who was sentenced to death in Cameron County in 2008 for the murder of one-year-old Angel Gabriel Moreno. The baby was the child of Velez’s new girlfriend, Acela Moreno, who served five years of a ten-year sentence for her role in the baby’s death. Velez’s defense attorneys failed to present critical medical evidence of injuries that the baby had sustained in the weeks and months before his death – injuries that Velez could not have caused as he was working on a construction site in Tennessee at the time.
Last year, the court threw out his death sentence after determining that the jury heard misleading testimony from an expert witness regarding the circumstances of incarceration if Velez was sentenced to life in prison.
According to a lengthy feature article in Texas Monthly, (“Reasonable Doubt: The Manuel Velez Case,” first published on March 6, 2013), “On April 2, 2013, state district judge Elia Cornejo Lopez ordered that Manuel Velez receive a new trial. The Cameron County judge agreed with Velez’s appellate attorneys, who have argued that Velez received a woefully poor defense at his 2008 capital murder trial. … Lopez noted that the trial attorneys did not ‘adequately investigate and present evidence that Moreno had a history of abusing her children and that she admitted to striking Angel on the day in question.’”
The Brownsville Herald reports that “the court overturned Velez’s conviction because of ineffective assistance based on these facts” (“Appeals court throws out Velez’s capital murder conviction,” October 24, 2013).
The Cameron County District Attorney’s office is weighing its options in deciding how to proceed with the case.
Read more about the court’s ruling in the Brownsville Herald.
Learn the background story on this case from Texas Monthly.