Innocent Until Proven Dead: Will Texas Execute Another Innocent Man?
In Texas, it doesn't matter if you're innocent. They'll kill you anyway.
The Lone Star State solidified this disgraceful reputation in 2004 when it went ahead with the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham, despite a report from a top scientist disproving most of the evidence that sent Todd to death row.
Now, the state is again refusing to listen to innocence pleas from another man, and has set his execution date for October 27. Much like Willingham, Reginald Blanton says he has been accused and convicted of a crime he didn't commit. Unlike Willingham, Reggie's life can still be saved.
A Fateful Day
April 9, 2000 was a regular, lazy Sunday for Reggie. He was at his home in San Antonio when his twin brother Robert Blanton and Robert's girlfriend LaToya Mayberry dropped by. The couple wanted to go cruising around, and visit friends and family. Reggie agreed to join them.
One of the places the stopped that day was Carlos Garza's home. When they arrived at the Stepping Stone Apartments, LaToya, who was pregnant at the time, opted to wait in the air-conditioned car while Reggie and Robert went up to Carlos' apartment. They knocked on the door, but Carlos never answered. So the two brothers returned to the car and, along with LaToya, left to go visit other friends.
Later that day, someone would kick in Carlos' door and fire two bullets into him, fleeing the home as Carlos lay dying.
During their investigation of the crime, police initially heard a description from a woman who had been with Garza the day he was murdered. She told investigators that she had seen a man threaten Carlos's life that same day and described him as wearing a silver 2Pac necklace. Police searched for a man fitting the woman's description, but they were unable to turn up any leads and soon began searching for others to blame.
Creating a Case
Reggie, Robert and LaToya were no angels as far as the San Antonio police were concerned. The cops knew the brothers as the "Blanton Boys" and were aware that they had ties to gangs in the area. This gang affiliation makes kids like Reggie perfect scapegoats when someone turns up dead and there are no credible leads.
The act of pinning the Garza murder on Reggie began on April 11, when police responded to a domestic disturbance call at the trailer home where Robert and LaToya were staying. An officer arrived and attempted to detain LaToya. She resisted and was charged with assault on a public servant and failure to produce identification. When the officer ran a background check, he discovered she also had outstanding warrants, which meant LaToya was facing significant jail time.
At this point, another officer arrived, placed LaToya in his squad car and drove her across the street to a church parking lot, where they were met by a detective who was in the neighborhood investigating the Garza murder. The detective, aware of the disturbance, LaToya's arrest and her involvement with the "Blanton Boys," likely saw this as an opportunity to manipulate her and end his fruitless investigation. After the detective talked with the arresting officer for a few minutes, LaToya was taken to the homicide office for questioning.
According to sworn testimony by LaToya, the detective fed her information about how he thought Garza was murdered. He told her that eyewitnesses had already implicated her and Robert in the killing, and said if she didn't sign a statement against either Robert or Reggie, she would be charged with murder -- meaning she would give birth to her child in prison and, ultimately, lose custody.