The State of Texas is scheduled to execute Juan Castillo on Wednesday, May 16, 2018, despite the fact that significant evidence of false testimony has never been considered by the courts. It is the fourth execution date he has faced over the last year.
On Monday, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted against Castillo’s petition for clemency, and both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected his appeals.
Castillo was convicted of capital murder in Bexar County in 2005 for causing the death of Tommy Garcia, Jr. in the course of committing a robbery. According to the state, Castillo conspired with codefendants Debra Espinosa and Francisco Gonzales to rob Tommy Garcia, Jr.
DNA evidence places Francisco Gonzales at the scene. Espinosa called the police after Garcia was shot. No forensic or physical evidence connects Castillo to the crime. His conviction was based almost entirely on the testimony of these two codefendants whose involvement in the crime was not disputed. Neither Gonzales or Espinosa received the death penalty, however.
The only unbiased witness to provide direct evidence against Castillo – jailhouse informant Gerardo Gutierrez– recanted his testimony in 2013. No court has evaluated this evidence and the impact it would have had on Castillo’s conviction, even though it was the basis of the stay granted by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals last fall.
In a powerful opinion piece published by the San Antonio Express-News, Gregory Zlotnick, who serves as clemency counsel, observes that “Mr. Castillo’s experience with our judicial system has… been marked by unfair and arbitrary decisions.”
If his execution proceeds, Castillo will be the 6th person put to death in Texas this year and the 11th nationwide. Bexar County accounts for 44 executions in Texas since 1982.